An #upfront conversation with Elizabeth Verhetsel

Elizabeth was #upfront at The Service Design Network Global Conference and shared the stage with Paula Bello. Here’s what she has to say about the experience…

I am one of the two founders of a small service design agency in Belgium, focussing on social innovation: Twisted Studio. I wanted to be #upfront as I am one of those type of people who would never volunteer to speak at an event, especially not when I know there will be a large crowd. I know I need to learn to do that though because service design is not known among our potential clients (non-profit), so we need to go out and tell our story.

“Being #upfront was fun. At first, I felt like an imposter. Once on the stage, I felt more like a rebel, turning the system upside down.”

It was both uncomfortable (which is why I definitely needed to do this) and a good kick (which is why I love it). I speak in front of groups every once and a while, but usually the audience is no more than fifty people. I am happy to have had this #upfront experience in front of hundreds of people and cameras. Now I know what it feels like and realise it’s not that awful.

An audience is generally friendly in our line of work. They seemed empathic towards our cause and clapped loudly for us. It is great to sense this. #upfront allows you to experience this more than when I’d be the speaker myself, as you can tell that the audience is intrigued by you sitting on stage and as people come up to you to talk about #upfront afterwards.

#upfront has the potential to improve the diversity in speakers. It might lead to less boasting on stage too. Conferences are often filled with speakers that speak at lots of events, which leads to audiences who have heard it all before. Of course, if you allow just anyone to speak at your conference, you could end up with people who are not good at bringing a story. That’s why I like that #upfront invests in training people and easing them into the experience. It makes it more likely that the unusual suspects volunteer to one day speak and are well prepared to do it.

“The people who are comfortable on a stage are not necessarily the ones with the best story. ”

My advice to anyone reading who wants to build their confidence is join one of the #upfront workshops to learn about using your voice, posture and improvising in unexpected situations. Take any opportunity to be on a stage, do #upfront, as it is definitely practice that makes perfect (and takes away the nerves). Nerves are a good thing, it keeps you sharp. And above all: breathe!

I have now added myself as a speaker on a website of workshops for entrepreneurs. Who knows what it may lead to! Thanks #upfront, I admire you for thinking of this great idea and implementing it in this very professional and dedicated way!