Yesterday I finished the first week of my face-to-face classes to become an adult educator. It was a tough week of learning and trying to absorb new information, and doing things outside of my comfort zone.
The class was small with about twelve students of differing ages and backgrounds being taught by a knowledgeable trainer. Everyone had similar challenges in balancing studies with life commitments, and so they were supportive and helpful with one another. It was a great atmosphere to be a part of.
Despite some experience with public speaking in previous jobs and volunteering in classrooms, I get nervous standing in front of a group and talking.
It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to children or adults, I’ll still react the same. It could be a bunch of staring lizards and I suspect I’d still get the shaky hands, tremor in the voice and sweating.
On the first day of classes, we had to do introductions. Say your name, why you’re there and what you want to improve on. If you wanted to elaborate further, you could talk about a hobby. There were talking prompts on the board. Sounds easy right? You’re talking about subject matter that you’re an expert on…you.
There’s just something about having the focus of your peers and standing in front of a room that automatically has my pulse racing and my hands wringing. I got through it but internally berated my performance, dissecting it to pieces. I wondered how others felt despite everyone seeming to sail through their introductions.
The next few days, the trainer got us doing one on one, small group and class activities. There were fun learning tasks, short quick “energisers” (quick games to refresh during the arvo slump), and public speaking tasks.
It was rather clever how the trainer worked on building group rapport to create a supportive and comfortable environment for us to do talks. Initially, the trainer got us to do micro public speaking tasks, increasing the time and complexity as the days went on.
By the last day, we had to give a lesson to last twenty minutes that involved a resource of some kind and ideally involved class participation.
I used a PowerPoint presentation on customer service and looked at some of the worst scenarios I’ve experienced. One example involved a customer double parking his Mercedes-Benz in front of the pharmacy and demanding I did his prescription quickly because he didn’t want a ticket. That was used to explain the entitled customer.
After each slide, I tried getting audience participation by asking them their ideas of how I chose to respond in each of the scenarios, using multiple choices as options. It generated some interaction but nowhere to the extent of other people’s talks.
I also got a couple of people up to role-play a scenario but that didn’t work too well. I think I needed to work on my lesson plan and found better ways of generating fun, practical and engaging activities. What I learnt from watching other people do their presentations was that I needed to make my delivery more engaging.
I knew that I’d be more critical of myself, and how I thought I performed wouldn’t necessarily be accurate, so I asked the trainer for her feedback.
Hand tremors, sweaty armpits and hands, shaky voice, racing pulse and jitters aside, I needed to know how I “presented” to others.
The trainer opted for the sandwich method. You know, one good comment on either side of a constructive comment.
“You’re really professional and presentation was great. You could smile more. You look stern, a bit serious. You could inject a bit of humour to lighten the talk. Otherwise, it was good.”
I need to work on my delivery. The problem is, I’m pretty sure smiling isn’t possible when I’m in fight, flight or freeze mode. As for humour, does laughing at your own jokes count?
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