Presentations Are Easy(ish)

Mandy presenting Aç Kürk to fellow Turkish language students, teachers, and school administrators

 

Getting Over It

When I presented a poem at the school holiday party in December, I was nervous. Too nervous. I practiced my poem, over and over, and I thought I had it. But the day of the event, I could hardly breathe. My chest felt hot and prickly. My back was completely restricted, every muscle strained–for hours–as I waited on pins and needles for my turn.

I was afraid no one would hear me in the raucous party. How could I command attention? I was afraid to say the words I had so carefully prepared. I love this piece by Rumi, his famous Seven Pieces of Advice. He’s called “The Mevlana” (The Teacher) for a reason. Very wise.

I felt Rumi’s advices were important, and they are, but maybe I felt too emotional about them.

Finally, when I spoke, my palms were as wet as kitchen dishcloths. My legs were as unsteady as a marionette dolls’. My hands shook like they stood in front of a fan.

As soon as I finished, I couldn’t even remember what I had said, or how it had gone. My body melted into a warm pool. I spent the rest of the day in a stupor, overwhelmed with relief. 

It seemed like a waste of energy to be so exhausted from nerves. I decided I needed more practice in public speaking. It had been a while.

So I’ve said yes to subsequent opportunities to present in front of groups. Recently, I actually prodded an opportunity to present.

My teacher invited other classes, and a few administrators, and we had a share day in the Turkish language department. My teacher and I spent weeks translating a story. As soon as the translation ended, and the practicing began, I nearly bailed.

I couldn’t believe what I’d gotten myself into. Remembering all those words??? And it was, like, 12 minutes long! Too long. Trying to get all those words out IN TURKISH without continuously falling all over myself?!? It felt overwhelming. I doubted whether I should join the event.

I took a day, and collected myself. I determined to practice, and get better.  So I relaxed, and had fun with it.

I practiced. And I delivered. I did it.

My delivery was far from perfect. In retrospect, I’d tweak a lot. I would have brought a podium for my notes. I would have practiced in the same room I’d deliver in. I would have practiced the whole story more. I would have read the story in front of my kids, or someone who makes me nervous. Plus, as I watch the video, I think I sounded better in rehearsal. Many mispronunciations I knew bette.

But I was okay. The main thing was doing it. And I enjoyed doing it. It felt good. Plus I did other things in life. This was just one part.

This presentation I only spent a little energy being nervous. Most of my energy was spent translating, practicing, and connecting with my fellow students and the school staff. Afterwards, I continued a very productive day, a happy day.

That’s exactly how I like it: productive and connective. And happy!

Other folks presented too, and I hope the exercise was useful and meaningful for them. I think it was. It’s good to get together, and share.

There’s More to It

Perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but somewhere in my darkest, most self-doubting core, it did: among the students, I was the only girl, I was the only civilian, and I was the only volunteer. Everyone else was male, in the military, and vastly more professionally accomplished than me.

They had rank. They had to be there. I fought the urge to feel “little.” I was a student. I was every bit a student. I reminded myself: the journey is always mine.

We each showed up, we put different things into it, at our various levels, from our various perspectives, we got out of it what we needed, we shared our presentations, we supported each other, and we connected. Our classes intersected. It was a good thing. Apparently, I do have a voice. (Even though I’m a volunteer).

I wanted practice public speaking, and suddenly we had several classes and administrators coming together for presentations. Add a few cookies and hot tea (courtesy of my teacher), and there was a crowd. Voila!

Here’s what I learned, that I want to keep reminding myself: ask for what you want! Bonus: It may be good for everybody!

You can read The Hungry Coat by Demi–IN ENGLISH–and I highly recommend it!

My actual presentation lasted about 17 minutes. I pared it down to a 2-minute video to share with you (conveniently editing out the worst of my many mess-ups, cause today we’re celebrating the highlights!):

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