#upfront conversation with Santianna Stath

I’d like to introduce Santianna Stath, we first met on the morning of TedX Dundee before we went on stage together. Here’s what she has to say about her #upfront experience and her relationship with public speaking…

My name is Santianna, I’m an architecture student at the University of Dundee, and I’m all for anything that contributes to making the world a better place.

Studying architecture requires a surprisingly varied skill set. We can separate an architectural project in two parts. The studio part and the review. The studio is where the ‘magic’ happens; research, design, interesting conversations in a climate of inspiration and fresh ideas. The review however is just as important. After studying for two years, I truly believe that the ability to deliver an idea is equally as important as the idea itself.

I’ve always had a passion for dancing and acting. It was my way to cheer the people around me when I had free time. I come from Greece and the educational system puts a lot of pressure on those with high goals thereby not allowing for extra curriculum activities. When I started studying in Scotland, I was surprised at the importance placed in the well being and happiness of the students. I was beginning to feel free to combine all my passions.

I thought that I could use my dancing knowledge and my acting skills as part of my architecture review, so that I could conquer my fear of public speaking. I knew how to stand and move in front of people, and I could act confidently as I presented my ideas. All this seemed great in theory.

However, when the time came for an actual review, my theory collapsed in the worst way I could imagine.

“My posture was confident, I knew what I wanted to say, I had reasons for why my design is the way it is and yet, there was a point when I couldn’t say a single word. The experience was horrifying.”

Looking at my professor’s eyes as they were wondered if I didn’t know what to say or if I couldn’t find the words in English made things even worse. I still get a bit panicked when I recall that moment of silence. Thankfully someone else commented on something and I continued talking for a bit more until I could stop and listen to feedback.

Review after review, I would organise my presentation in better ways so that it would be as easy as possible for me to present. I managed to reach a pretty good level by the end of the second year. But this initial fear was still in me. Maybe not as intense as in the beginning, but I knew I was missing something. I realised that I could easily lose my words when I made eye contact, because instinctively I would wonder about what they’re thinking. I managed to reach a pretty good level by the end of the second year. But this initial fear was still in me.

“When I read about upfront, I asked Lauren if I could join her comfortable couch. It sounded so safe but bold at the same time”

I consider being on stage, of a TedX talk as a really high-pressure situation, because of all these intellectual people looking at you, each one of them having their own unique opinions and many reasons for having them. In my head it’s like having an architectural review, but on a much bigger scale. As a result, my fears and my nerves would be of a bigger scale too.

“I couldn’t imagine a more uncomfortable situation to put myself in, but this time, I wouldn’t have to do the talk. I would be greatly uncomfortable but at the same time safe”

The experience of being upfront was unique. It was a roller coaster of emotions. Firstly nerves followed by a bit of panic, followed by rapid pulse… but then, after a deep breath, everything was less dramatic. It was funny for me. As a person who enjoys dramatic arts, I was surprised with how much I enjoy the complete lack of drama. While observing Lauren talking I realised that…

“Public speaking is not about acting confident, but having core confidence about what you’re talking about. Passion and honesty could beat nerves.”

That suddenly made sense. I realised that the only thing that was making me nervous was me. And then I took another deep breath and I smiled. Was I over it? I didn’t know, but I couldn’t wait to put my new gained mindset to the test.

I never had a problem standing up for my beliefs with friends and family. But I would always be talking about things that were someone else’s accomplishments that I was inspired by. When it came to my personal ideas I would be more sensitive. If I could draw how I was feeling, I would draw me holding my brain and heart together on my palms and people judging them with a strict look on their face. I would appear shy, close and insecure, but not anymore.

I am currently back in Greece for the summer break, and I’m traveling around as much as possible, meeting new people and when given the chance I share my beliefs along with a lot of positive energy.

“ I’m more and more surprised with how people accept and embrace what I say, thanks to my new gained confidence that being #upfront helped me find”

Seeing me being true to what I say, they feel free to express themselves too. It’s almost contagious and also a wonderful feeling to share, having a great conversation, regardless if the participants agree with each other or not.

I’d recommend #upfront to anyone and I can confidently say it changed me for the better! You can read about the experiences of Derek and Mina who were also on stage with me.