Updated: Mar 29
Public speaking is not my natural habitat. In fact, it's about as far out of my comfort zone as I can possibly find myself.
Why? Because, at heart, I'm an introvert. This may come as something of a surprise to people who only know me through my social media presence.
I've worked in #PR and communications for close to two decades now. During that time I've ridden the wave of the social media explosion, as an early adopter of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
I quickly recognised that, for someone like me who rejoices and finds great strength in the written word, social media would allow me to share my voice, my passions and my views globally. And all without having to stand up in front of a crowd of people.
Until I was asked to speak to a live audience of my peers about my personal journey of living and working with purpose, that is.
My immediate instinct was to decline the invitation. It wasn't for me. Yet, despite my personal reservations and fears, that's exactly what I agreed to do at the start of 2023, when approached to be a guest speaker for one of the Glove Factory Studio's Rooster Talks.
My rationale for saying yes was two-fold. One, it's an environment that I know well (the Glove Factory has been home to Second Mountain ever since we turned 2). And two, I knew that the time had come to bite the bullet and overcome my reluctance. It was inevitable; something I'd been putting off for close to two years, in fact, ever since I published a highly personal article that changed everything for me.
"the best career choice I never made"
16th April 2020 is a date that I'll never forget, for all the wrong reasons.
16th April 2021 is a date that I'll never forget, for all the right reasons.
On the first date, in the spring of 2020, I found myself, alongside the rest of the world, living in a state of uncertainty, fear and Government-imposed lockdown as the coronavirus rapidly spread across the globe. It was a terrifying and unsettling time for so many of us - and right in the midst of it, I was suddenly, unexpectedly, unemployed for the first time in my career.
One year on, in the spring of 2021, I pressed 'Publish' on an article that I had spent many, many months wrestling with. Not the words - they came easily - but whether I had the confidence to share my story: the good, the bad and the ugly.
For the last year, I'd intentionally kept quiet about what had happened to me, out of feelings of hurt, shame and anger. Would I be putting myself in a vulnerable position, and one that I wasn't ready to cope with, by sharing my story publicly?
The article in question: Redundancy - The best career choice I never made.
Within hours of its publication, I'd received hundreds of comments, texts, emails and DMs from people both inside and outside of my network. I was invited to be a guest onto several international podcast shows. I was contacted by media titles for further comment. All of the messages that came my way were resoundingly positive.
It was clear that my personal story - and one that, I now know, so many others can relate to - had struck a chord. In a very strong way.
sharing IS CARING (and powerful)
It's become crystal clear to me, over the course of the last two years, that there is great power in sharing our personal stories with the world - in particular, the lessons that we can learn along the way as we all struggle to climb our individual mountains in this life.
Before I stepped up to begin my talk, I was nervous. Incredibly so. Much like with the aforementioned redundancy article, I questioned: What would people think of me? Would my story resonate with others? Could I deliver it in person, without any reliance on the written word, my safety net for so many years?
Judging by the feedback received, the answer to all of those questions seems to be yes.
For close to an hour, I spoke about my journey of living and working with purpose. What my life was like pre-pandemic. How my priorities in life were completely out of balance. Why I believed I was incapable of changing things for the better. And where my focus now lies.
I was blown away by the response, both at the end of the talk and on social media afterwards. An outpouring of warmth and kindness was shown towards me. I will always be immensely appreciative of this - my first ever public speaking gig went down better than I could have possibly imagined. But above all, there was the sense that my story had proved to be cathartic and beneficial for many others in the room on that day.
Sharing my personal story seemingly brought together a community of like-minded individuals, many of whom had faced their own personal struggles. Hopefully, emboldened by the journey that I shared, some of those in the audience that day will now have more confidence to bring their authentic selves and lived experiences to the benefit of others.
Being brave enough to speak up and out with your personal story - of why you do what you do, what drives you forward, and the legacy you hope to leave behind in this world - can have a profound impact on your network, even if you don't fully realise it at the time.
Through both my first (and undoubtedly now, not my last) public speaking experience, and the incredible conversations that I've been so blessed to have with some truly inspiring guests on the #GoodJourneysPod over the last year, I am reminded, time and again, that each and every one of us has a powerful story to tell, one that needs to be shared with the world.