Everything I’ve been doing recently has 1 thing in common; I’ve stepped above and beyond my comfort zone in order to achieve things which I never thought I could. In November last year, a couple of days before the 2 year anniversary of my Mum’s death, I gave a speech to over 700 people at a conference in the Olympic Park in Stratford. Even just writing that sentence, I still can’t quite believe it, but it most definitely happened, and it was all because I took a big leap. When I had my big realisation back in September that I should be getting involved in the youth sector again, I spent an afternoon researching different organisations and how I could get involved.
One of the things I came across was a conference called Creative Collisions, which was on the lookout for young people to enter their competition for the chance to address the entire conference. You had to submit a two minute video on one of the four key topics the conference was going to focus on, and then they would choose the best ones to speak at the event. As someone who is quite socially awkward, and lacking in self confidence (well I was back then anyway…) the thought of filming myself and uploading it to the internet pretty much filled me with dread. However I knew what an amazing opportunity it would be to speak at the conference, and so I fought my fears and entered.
Some weeks later, after all but forgetting about it, I received an email to tell me that I had been picked! I was totally overwhelmed to know that someone had heard what I had to say and connected with it, and not only that, they wanted me to share it with a lot more people! I got to work on writing my speech, I had a 10-15 minute time slot to fill, and there could potentially be 1000 people listening, To say it was daunting is an understatement, but I was also incredibly excited, so I drafted, and redrafted, and edited my speech countless times. However in those few weeks before the big day, I had a lot happening.
A couple of weeks before the conference I graduated; several of my friends came to see me, and were my cheering squad on what was a really amazing, but also difficult day for me. The fact that I made it through everything that life has thrown at me, and got to walk across the stage in the magnificent painted hall was a really big moment for me, but I couldn’t help missing my Mum a lot through the day. My friends were absolutely brilliant, sticking with me all day, treating me to presents, drinks, and food, and generally making sure I had a great day. The next day I heard back from an interview for a Christmas Temp job in Boots to say that they wanted to hire me, which was my first proper job after uni, and my first ever job in retail. The week after that was my 23rd birthday, just 3 days before the conference. With all of this happening, I didn’t feel as prepared as I thought I should have been when 6th November rolled around.
The morning started off with a traffic jam, and me catching a taxi to the tube station to save time (but spend money I didn’t really have). I arrived at the Olympic Park flustered and later than planned, but luckily I still had time before I was due on stage. I was taken to the ‘green room’ to do a little preparation with Hilary from The Speaker’s Trust, who went through a couple of exercises with me before turning to my speech. Hands shaking, and clutching the tattered piece of paper which contained everything I wanted to say, I began. I stopped several times, stumbling over words, or missing things out accidentally. Hilary pointed out that actually, when I was talking from the heart, not reading from the sheet, I was a lot more confident. So I did something which I feel is becoming my ‘style’ with speeches. I put down the piece of paper, in a notebook which I gave to someone else, and I went to get mic-ed up.
If you’ve never given a speech to a large audience, it’s difficult to explain the sheer rush of adrenaline you get from standing up on stage, and having hundreds of people clap and cheer for you. I stood up at the podium (yes, they had a proper podium with a microphone and everything) and shared my story, and my views that we need to encourage and support young people to develop ‘soft skills’ like resilience, self confidence, and generally positive mental well-being. The response I received was astounding. First of all, Rick Edwards of BBC Free Speech, who was presenting the session I spoke in, got the whole auditorium to sing happy birthday to me, which was perhaps one of the most surreal moments of my life. Then about fifteen people approached me at the end of the session to talk to me, share their stories, or simply let me know that they enjoyed my speech. When I eventually checked my phone, I think I had over 30 notifications from people tweeting me. For the rest of the day I was absolutely buzzing, my confidence was boosted a hundred times over.
None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t made that leap, done the thing that scared me, and sent in my video. I am determined to carry everything I learned from the experience with me as I move forward, and continue to do things that make me proud of my achievements. I don’t think we talk enough about our achievements, or celebrate them, but that’s a post for another day!
What one thing can you do today that scares you, but that ultimately is a step in the direction of your goals or dreams? Thought of it? Now go do it!
Have a fantastic day