#upfront conversation with Derek Harper

I’d like to introduce Derek Harper,  Community Network Developer for the Eden Project delivering the Big Lunch Programme. Derek and I have been twitter buddies for long time and he’s always been a consistent voice of support for me and my work so it was such a pleasure to invite Derek to share my stage at TedX Dundee. Here’s what he has to say about his #upfront experience…

“Being on the #upfront sofa, in the glare of the lights with over hundred pairs of eyes looking in my direction gave me a taste of what it feels like to do a ‘real’ talk that really matters.”

Facing square to the audience meant there was no hiding place. I sat there, with the others, with the cameras looking at and judging me. Well that’s what I’d thought, but in truth, people listened to Lauren give her talk. I didn’t know where to look and the pressure seemed to build as we could see the clock timer ticking down. Near the end I was wishing it would speed up or Lauren would stop talking so I could exit swiftly from all the eyes, I knew the majority weren’t looking at me, but it felt like they were. Despite my fear during, I am so glad I took part in #upfront. Sitting on the #upfront sofa has given me an idea of what it would feel like to be on stage during a filmed talk. I know I’ll take that knowledge with me as I continue to learn how to cope with the anxiety I face when it comes to my talks in the future.

I wanted to be #upfront to overcome my anxiety about public speaking. My anxiety is brought on by my shyness, I dislike being looked at and am always being judged in my mind on how I speak and how I look. My voice quivers and my heart races. But I need to do more public speaking for my new job. My boss has tasked me with ten speaking engagements in the next six months. I wanted to overcome my shyness and body consciousness in order to become a comfortable and powerful public speaker.

“I felt part of the whole process and it was great that Lauren was eager to hear our ideas, insights and feedback throughout. A fantastic learning experience overall”

I liked that we were briefed before and after the event. Hopefully, it will make conferences accessible to a wide variety of people and voices with stories to tell and share. I’m excited to work with #upfront at events I’m organising for my work. It’s time to disrupt the conference model and shift the focus from individuals speakers to all those who participant, creating an immersive, interactive dialogue.

I find I talk best in front of others about a subject I’m passionate about, so I try and find opportunities to talk to different people or groups to build up experience and feedback as to what works in terms of people understanding and engaging. I watch online talks by people I admire to glean some sense of speaking style, stage presence and how they use their personality. I read all the time as a depth of knowledge helps build my argument and critical understanding of it. When I find myself at workshops and conferences I try to speak up on my subject, add to the discourse and ask relevant questions, this has helped my confidence and my ability to speak with authority.

At my work we’ve just developed our ‘Vision and Goal’ brief and I’m preparing my core presentation around this and looking out for potential speaking engagements, starting small and building up to larger ones. Firstly I want to establish my voice, style and the language that fits my personality. To build confidence I will engage with our participants and do small talks with them in groups of 10/12 to get feedback on the brief as well as my performance.

“A big goal would be to speak at a Tedx, hopefully early next year.”

“You learn by doing” and being #upfront on stage with others was a big step towards talking on my own. Even when there was a glitch in the tech of the presentation it was good to see how Lauren handled that and smoothly got through it.

#upfront is a great idea as I know many people that want to share their story but have stage fright, I’m excited to see whats next.