A very awkward subject
I recently gave my first ever public talk at a local young professionals networking event. Needless to say, I forgot to introduce myself and missed out half of the content I planned to talk about… so it went pretty much perfectly.
The talk I planned not only included my name — and a brief back story to my first ever fully paid design job as a “young professional” — but also highlighted how, over the last few years, I’ve been embracing the social aspect of social media whilst being ever-so-slightly socially awkward.
The awkward subject referred to in the title is me!
For the first half of my career I was more than happy to hide away behind my screen, shut away in the studio, just working away in my own little design bubble.
I can’t pinpoint exactly when or what created that moment of change but it was the realisation that I would never be able to fully understand the needs of my clients if I couldn’t listen to them first-hand to hear what it is they want and engage with them face-to-face to determine what it is they actually need.
I’ve always been confident enough in my own abilities, without wanting to sound big-headed, my work has always been “pretty OK”. It was more about not being confident around other people.
As it turned out, I had to tackle this in two ways. The first was to do the one thing that most men find so very difficult to do… and that is to actually ask for help! I spoke with my colleagues and discussed how I wanted to be more involved in the client side of things. Realising that it would also benefit the business if I were able to attend more client meetings and gain a greater understanding of the clients needs and the creative brief meant that they fully supported this professional development.
Running alongside this of course would be my personal development, which for someone who previously struggled to be coherent in any form of social situation, would be a bit more of a challenge.
I knew that the only real way to overcome these insecurities was to face them full on and take a leap well and truly out of my comfort zone.
This leap took me far further than I thought it would. First to London, then Manchester, Birmingham for the fantastic Glug events and even as far as Barcelona for OFFFest, which was absolutely out of this world! All of these locations have one thing in common, they were all venues to creative talks and conferences featuring guest speakers I’d either recognised on Twitter, etc, or from their work that had caught my attention shown online or in the real world. Not only did I get to hear insightful advice from creatives I admire and respect. But more importantly for me, I had the perfect opportunity to speak and socialise with random strangers who had no preconceptions of who I was, meaning I could try to project my best self.
Not pretend to be someone I wasn’t, just a less nervous and more confident version of me.
Thankfully, these were not all complete strangers. I‘m always keen to reach out to other attendees via Twitter beforehand, which does help with striking up that initial conversation, but doesn’t always help to alleviate the nervousness quite so much. Nevertheless, I knew this was something I was just going to have to overcome.
The more events I went to, the easier I found it to speak to people. Often making friends who then introduced me to others, that’s how socialising works I guess. But like everything we do as creatives, the more you practice the better you get. I just practised harder at being me!
Which leads me full circle to giving my own talk, the ultimate step towards conquering my insecurities and helping me to build my self-confidence in social situations and simply believing in myself.
Not sure how often I’ll be practising my public speaking but I’m sure you’ll catch me attending a few more events in the near future, so if you do spot me be sure to say hello and I’ll be sure to be my best self.