‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone’. Such a wise phrase that you can magically experience the moment you overcome your fears and meet a challenge that seemed unthinkable before!
Last April, I was given the opportunity to step forward, out of my personal comfort zone. My dear friend and colleague Isil Boy invited me to give a talk about my digital storybook ‘Dylan& Lydia at the Fortune Teller’s’ at a great conference in Istanbul, Turkey. (#Educational Technology Summit ’15)
At first, I was delighted! On second thought, I panicked! It was a really busy period for me at school and I had little time to prepare. On top of that, I would have to speak in public before colleagues for the very first time!
For some unknown reason, I’ve always dreaded public speaking. As a child, I used to be so shy that I even avoided being photographed! I would feel very uneasy when I had to deliver a poem in front of an audience at school celebrations. I still remember my mum helping me memorize the words and rehearse with me until the last minute!
Of course, over years my studies abroad along with my job have helped me face this feeling of stage freight to a great extent. Yet, when it comes to speaking at conferences, you can’t help but have some butterflies in your stomach…
In this case, hard work and positive thinking were my only means to make my stress work to my advantage! Although, I was really nervous before the speech, the moment I started speaking, I felt an unexpected euphoria. I was genuinely happy and proud to be sharing my experience of making an educational App with other teachers! Seeing the smiling faces of my dear friends Dimitris Primalis and Hanaa Jaber in the audience encouraged me to go through with this too!
ETZ 2015 was a very successful event with a big variety of speakers and interesting talks. Two weeks later, I also had the unique chance to co- present with my sister and co-author of the App, Marina, at the 22nd TESOL Macedonia- Thrace Northern Greece. Once again, we both felt very welcome at this teacher- friendly and well- organized conference.
You can download a pdf version of my presentation slides from the box widget on the right bar of the blog. Additionally, if you wish to use Dylan& Lydia in class during the next school year, make sure to download the Handbook I’ve written for teachers. It includes supplementary, photocopiable ELT activities, games, DIY crafts and recipes that your students will enjoy!
At this point, I’d also like to share with you some personal thoughts regarding public speaking and the reluctance many of us feel to find ourselves in the spotlight. I do know many remarkable colleagues who are held back from presenting at conferences because of their fear of exposure.
Judging from my experience as a public speaker, this fear is kind of foolish. If you rationalize it, you’ll realize that as teachers, we expose ourselves to our students on a daily basis. Students can often be a much tougher and judgmental audience than our colleagues. Who hasn’t had to deal with completely unmotivated, sleepy or naughty groups of students?
Speaking before colleagues has so many pros! For starters, this type of audience is there by choice! As teachers, we are all in the same boat. We share similar anxieties and problems so learning from each other and picking up new ideas are absolutely vital!
For those thinking to themselves:
-‘I fear criticism’:
-Well, no one can actually escape this no matter what. Of course, constructive criticism is always welcome and absolutely necessary! However, nasty comments and people with negative energy are part of the process too. Accept that not everyone will like you or what you’re saying and that’s ok! If you have something to share, go ahead and do it. You’ll be the first to benefit from the experience and feel awesome when you hear that a colleague has found your ideas relevant and useful!
‘There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing’ -Aristotle
– ‘How can my presentation be successful?’
– For me, the key to success is practise. ‘Practise makes perfect.’ It takes a lot of time, effort and self- correction to improve and feel confident as a speaker. It’s really important to know what you are about to say very well. Watching other renowned speakers in action can also do wonders! Copy the things you like and create a style of your own. Below is a list of inspiring videos for you to watch:
- Ken Wilson’s amazing workshop: ‘Motivating the Unmotivated’ http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/motivating-unmotivated
- Isabel Allende’s passionate speech on‘ How to live passionately no matter your age.’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ifMRNag2XU
- Tim Rylands’ inspiring TED talk: ‘Bringing magic in the classroom’ ’https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aux_3KLxjkQ
- The presentation secrets of Steve Jobs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlebroNM_ww
-‘What if I lose my words or make a mistake?’
– Shanthi’s super survival tactics are here to help you deal with ‘emergencies’ when presenting in English. Plus, don’t forget that mistakes are part of being human!
Finally, if you’re thinking about presenting at an upcoming conference but are still hesitant, you may find this quote useful:
‘Opportunities don’t often come along. So when they do, you have to grab them’. -Audrey Hepburn
For me, this has surprisingly been a very enjoyable and self- liberating experience. Many thanks to all the people who helped make this a memorable experience!
That’s all for now! Here’s to those opportunities that help us grow and truly discover ourselves!