PUBLIC SPEAKING PAIN

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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DRUNK AND DISORDERLY

What is it about weddings that bring out the drunkenness in people? Is it the free booze mentality? Or is it that people are so happy for the bride and groom that they overindulge? Whatever the reason, drunk people are hilarious to watch and makes any event that little bit more interesting.

We had my brother’s Vietnamese tea ceremony last Sunday. It was basically a Vietnamese engagement party and formed part one of my brother’s two-part wedding celebrations. Next week will be the civil ceremony and reception.

How was the tea ceremony? It went off like a rocket. Let me give you a rundown of the day.

At 6 am that morning, I had a makeup and hair lady come to my home to turn me from an ugly duckling to a Swan Princess. Unfortunately, she missed the brief and instead of making me look like Elle McPherson on runway day, I resembled a drag queen. Not that there’s anything wrong with drag makeup! It’s just the dramatic look didn’t quite fit with the daytime event.

Anyhow, my husband and daughter took great pleasure in teasing me, comparing my look to that of a clown. Not nice, right?

“Oh you know I’m just teasing you. You look beautiful!” said my backpedalling husband when he saw my angry face. Or at least what looked like anger under the cake of foundation on my face.

“Mummy, you really do look terrible. You look like a panda or a clown.” My eight-year-old daughter’s bluntness was not refreshing in the least.

It didn’t matter what anyone thought as there was little that could have been done about the makeup. At least the Ao Dai fitted and that was already half my battle won.

The tea ceremony started at the bride-to-be’s family home at 10:30 am. While introductions were being performed, my four-year-old son decided it was a good time to complain about being hungry, not just once but repeatedly. Luckily he wasn’t the only child being disruptive. To their credit, it was hard to stand in one spot for 30 minutes while oldies rambled in a nonsensical language.

My dad reluctantly gave up the role of cameraman to his brother but was unhappy with his camera abilities and made a fuss about angles and shots. My dad had to be reminded several times like a child to behave and to keep his focus on the role of father-of-the-groom and not a cameraman. Let me tell you, it wasn’t an easy task for those around him.

After our obligatory feast at the bride-to-be’s family home, the party of people travelled to my parent’s home for the second part of the tea ceremony.

It was at my parent’s house that I had to do a small speech. Part of the tradition involves the bride-to-be and groom-to-be offering tea to their elders and receiving well wishes and a gift in return. As public speaking isn’t my forte, I was worried about giving a good speech that would encompass how I felt. My brother is eight years younger than me and growing up, I was more of a mother figure than sister to him. And so, the moment meant a lot to me. Thankfully, I was able to get the words out in a coherent manner despite heckling from someone to speak louder and the billions of cameras and phones shoved my way.

With the official part of the tea offerings done, people let loose. My husband, children and I went upstairs, away from the noise and crowd, and the alcohol-fuelled ruckus. Being a part of the immediate family meant that we couldn’t leave early. We spent time upstairs with other families until it was socially acceptable to leave.

The only downside of leaving was missing the part where my aunty chucked her guts after challenging my brother to a vodka slamming contest. Apparently, she was out after six shots. And by out, I mean she passed out on a couch where she laid for several hours after the party ended. She wasn’t the only aunt passed out on a couch either.

There were lots of boozy, half-drunk people everywhere but we left before any of any real fun started. It’s a shame because I’d have captured those moments for your viewing pleasure. Anyhow, this post was just an update on how the tea ceremony went.

Part two of the wedding celebrations will be next week. How long do you reckon a hangover lasts when you’re in your sixties?

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MIDLIFE CRISIS OR VANITY

How do you know when you’re going through a midlife crisis? What about an early midlife crisis? Are there tell-tale signs of this phenomenon?

My limited understanding of a midlife crisis is that people reach an age where they question their life achievements, feel a loss of self-confidence and identity, and become aware of their mortality. There’s a common perception that this translates to an obsession with recovering youth, impulsivity and rash decision making, and acts as an impetus for changes with career and partners.

I don’t know how much of this is true but I have found myself more concerned with my appearance of late. In particular, I’ve begun obsessing over my grey hairs and frown lines. It’s become noticeable to the point that my family joke the mirror has become my best friend.

I wonder if I am going through something. It wasn’t too long ago that I quit my job/career and had an existential crisis. Last month, I got my eyelashes chemically permed and nails done. This week, I purchased an expensive wallet and bag I didn’t really need and immediately felt buyer’s remorse. I’m on a fad diet to lose excess weight that hasn’t budged for decades. Does all this point towards a midlife crisis?

Two weeks ago, I got sick of seeing grey hairs and decided to get my hair foilyaged. What’s that? I had no idea myself until I asked the hair colourist to make my hair look like a photo I downloaded from the internet. It’s where colour is painted on the hair using the balayage technique then covered with foils for heating. Balayage is a technique of hand painting highlights to make them look natural, like your hair has been sun-kissed. And it’s bloody expensive!

My mind was awfully conflicted with the decision to spend an exorbitant amount of money on myself. You know how we have a conscience that helps guide us to make good choices? Well, mine was acting a bit Jekyll and Hyde that day.

Good Conscience: “Why are you doing this? Is it really necessary?”
Bad Conscience: “Of course you need it! Have you seen the grey hairs on your head lately? Lady, you’re starting to look OLD!”
Good Conscience: “It doesn’t matter! Who cares? Your husband loves your grey hairs and all. Plus it’s a sign of wisdom NOT old age. Own it woman! It’s a rite of passage.”
Bad Conscience: “Come on, let’s not kid ourselves here. You care. Grey hairs make you even more insecure than what you already are. Just do it. It’s just money. You deserve this.”
Good Conscience: “Look inside you, it’s what counts. Inner beauty never fades. You don’t need this, just walk away.”
Bad Conscience: “Okay, let’s make this simple. You’ve sat down, you’re gowned up, you’ve started the process. Do you really want to leave? No, I didn’t think so. Deep down, you’re just as vain as the next person.”

The Bad Conscience obviously won out and I went through with the process. The whole time I had ‘I’m going through a midlife crisis!’ singsonging on repeat in my mind.

Exactly how much did it cost me? Enough that I wondered whether they’d take a kidney donation for payment. It set me back $450 and almost four hours of bum-to-chair action. Talk about taking a hit to the back pocket!

The cost didn’t end at the hair salon, though. To keep up my balayage hair, I have to do a weekly purple shampoo and conditioner to stop the bleached hair from turning orange and hair bonding treatment to stop hair breakage. I also need moisturising hair oil to combat the dryness from the bleaching. All these products aren’t cheap. And in three months, I’ll need to return to the hair salon for toning so I won’t have brassy orange hair!

This is what it looks like now. Was it worth the money and effort? Maybe. It has given me a boost in self-confidence.

Bad Conscience: “You’re not going through a midlife crisis. You’re just vain!”
Good Conscience: “Shut it! You look good, midlife crisis or not.”

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