An UPFRONT conversation with Laura Sowman
Laura Sowman is a Project Coordinator at Foolproof, an experience design agency in London. When she’s not at work, she can be found organising her bookshelves at home or watching the All Blacks win at a pub.
Three years ago, she attended an UPFRONT confidence workshop that shaped her outlook on public speaking.
We spoke to Laura about the courage to be vulnerable, her goals of one day speaking on a TEDx stage, and her belief that confidence can change lives. Here’s her story.
What does confidence mean to you?
Recognising your own worth and value, and not needing validation from others to be sure of it. Being comfortable saying “I don’t know, let’s find out.” Accepting you’ll make mistakes and knowing that’s okay.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered?
I recently decided to deliver a presentation about the importance of designing services with LGBTQ+ people in mind to my colleagues. Not only was I nervous about speaking in front of a big group of people, but this is a subject which is close to my heart, and deeply personal.
I had to find the courage to be vulnerable and say things some people might be challenged by.
How did you overcome these challenges?
I found that my determination to change things outweighed my fear, eventually. I might find it challenging to stand up and speak to a crowd, but I find it even more difficult to stay quiet.
I ended up really enjoying the experience. I made sure I prepared thoroughly and practiced with people beforehand, and not just in front of the mirror. I went on to give the same presentation at another agency shortly afterwards, and I found having a friend in the audience really helped. If I felt overwhelmed or nervous, I was able to make eye contact with them.
What are some things you have on the horizon for building or challenging your confidence?
I have a lot to say, so I want to work on practicing all the ways I can get my message out to the world. I’d like to practice public speaking as much as possible. My goal is to speak to an audience of over 50 people and keep going until I’m on a TEDx stage! I’m also planning on taking singing lessons to get out of my comfort zone.
Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Don’t shy away from feeling good, happy or successful. Check your writing and your speaking, are you undermining yourself? Try not to next time. Start small if you need to. Speak up in the next meeting you’re in, then present something to a smaller group of colleagues, and work up from there. Don’t wait for perfect before you share with the world.
Find a way to get UPFRONT into your place of work. I took part in an #UPFRONT workshop around three years ago now and I’m still benefiting from it all these years later; it was truly life changing.
We spent some time learning practical things, such as breathing exercises and performance posture, as well as some great group confidence building activities. I still have the post it notes from one exercise we did! At the end of the workshop, we applied the things we learned by speaking for three minutes about something we care about. I decided to talk about trans rights. That day planted a seed, as I’ve since expanded those three minutes to 45, broadened the topic to designing services with the LGBTQ+ community in mind, and presented it to two different audiences.
Why do you think organisations like UPFRONT are important?
The world is in a bit of a state. We need new voices and diverse voices, and confident voices tend to be the ones we hear.
The work UPFRONT does is helping people who may have previously stayed quiet and who might not have felt what they have to say is important. Who knows what those people could go on to achieve?
They might apply to speak at a conference, or maybe they’ll stand in an election. Confidence can change lives; it’s certainly changing mine.
Thank you Laura for sharing your story with us. If you’d like to learn more about her experience, follow her on LinkedIn.
UPFRONT is on a mission to change confidence. Our tailored workshops and programs for businesses are meant to help build more confident, stage-ready organizations. See us in action here!