An #upfront conversation with Immy Kaur
Immy Kaur is passionate about new models of organising, bringing diverse, passionate and talented people together, creating unlikely collaborations and local change based on global innovations, networks and knowledge. She is one of the founders of the infamous Impact Hub Birmingham and when she isn’t doing Hub or building the city’s biggest TEDx community, she loves good coffee, great coffee shops, a lot of laughing and a bit of social media.
Immy and I caught up at Ouishare – the day after she delivered a solo talk and spoke as part of a panel… here’s what she has to say about public speaking, confidence and the journey she’s on with both.
I have a love hate relationship with public speaking, primarily because I know how important it is for the work we are doing. Five or six years ago the type of demographic that I represent didn’t have a voice in Birmingham, so I feel that pressure. I feel incredibly nervous whenever I need to speak. My instinct is to always question if I really have to do it, but I always end up doing it.
I do get imposter syndrome often too. Even though I’ve had to retrain my brain to understand that the best work happens through trying and testing and being iterative, I still struggle with my perfectionism.
The good news is that every time I talk is gets easier and clearer in my head. What helps me do it? The short answer is my family and friends. My team at the hub are super supportive and always encouraging me and pushing me in different ways to say yes. From Daniel helping me with my slides, to Andy advising me to buy great trousers, or Chris who is supporting from the live stream, they all contribute to me feeling confident. I’m grateful to have Indy has a brain partner; he helps me with the content and this boosts my confidence. The aftermath matters too. No matter how I feel when it’s over, the messages that come from family and friends support me to feel validated.
I’ve always been a nervous person. Whilst growing up I played hockey and regularly sat exams and I always did well, yet I would remain a nervous wreck. I’ve had people try to coach me through this but it comes down to how much I care – right now I’m nervous because I really care about the work my team and I are doing.
The nerves come when I’m on big stages. That’s when the overthinking kicks in. Being a women from an ethnic minority group, I used to be young person nobody listened to. Now I know that me being on a stage is a really good way to bring this to the fore and to force people to ask questions.
I’ve never thought about wanting to be a speaker. I want to do good work. I believe if you work on stuff you care about and then the rest comes. It’s so much easier to talk when you are talking about something you’ve done. Over the years the content I talk about has changed dramatically.
My advice would be start with talking about what you are passionate about. Choose small safe spaces where you can talk and tell stories and get feedback from people you trust. Don’t worry too much about that; instead focus on learning how to talk about what you care about.
The lack of diversity on stages is such a big problem that we have to be really intentionally with how we tackle it. I think #upfront is doing exactly that! I’m really curious to see the impact it has.
I commit to being #upfront over the next year, and if you’d like to talk to someone about your story, or you’d like some feedback on your talk ideas, send our team an email at email@example.com with the subject line #upfront and we will get in touch.