Last week I facilitated a workshop on behalf of my institution all on my own. And, I didn’t die.
Let me back up. I have no problem speaking in front of people. Public speaking is a top fear for much of humanity, but it’s not been something I struggle with. I can speak in front of small groups or large audiences without too much anxiety. Not only can I speak in front of groups, I can speak in front of groups of teenagers. That in itself will make most people run. Youth ministers and teachers unite!
Give me a room of teenagers, a Bible and I’m good to go. Now, it may not always turn out spectacularly, but I’ll do my best to keep them engaged and make sure they leave with some new insight about themselves, God or the world. I have fourteen years of experience with this – I can do it without preparing or planning ahead (although, let’s be honest, that’s not my style.)
So you see, speaking in front of a group really isn’t a big deal for me. Mostly.
A couple months ago my supervisor told me about a request to present a workshop at a conference in Dallas. Neither she nor the director were available so they wondered if I would be interested. Of course, I jumped on the opportunity. I made it clear that I’d need help with preparing and all, but sure, I’d love to do it.
That was in January, the workshop wasn’t until April. Plenty of time!
We had a big event at the beginning of March, so I figured I’d start working on this after that. A week passed and still I hadn’t started.
Here’s the thing about me: I need to be prepared. In college I’d write papers a week before they were do to make sure I had plenty of time to edit and revise them. In seminary, sometimes it was more than a week before the due date. I work ahead. I’m prepared. I do not like going into presentations or assignments unprepared.
I felt very unprepared. I was working on the outline and PowerPoint just days before I had to leave. That is not my style. Plus, this workshop was about data. I’m not a data person. It had charts and percentages and research. These are not comfortable topics for me. I like feelings and ideas and experiences. Data, when explained correctly, can be quite interesting. And, that is true of the data I was presenting. But, I’m not comfortable with it. I’ve been in this job 8.5 months. That’s not long enough (for me) to feel like I know what I’m talking about.
As the days got closer to the conference, my anxiety started to increase. My husband didn’t understand: “you do this kind of thing all the time, why are you worried?”
Why? WHY? I’ll tell you why! I have no idea what I’m talking about and if anyone dares to ask me a question about any of this data I’ll fall apart! That’s why!
He reminded me that I don’t have to know all the answers and I probably know more than I think I know. And, even if it all falls apart, I won’t die.
So, when my colleagues wished me well, I reminded myself, “I won’t die.” When I got to the conference and saw my name and picture in the materials, I reminded myself, “I won’t die.” When I woke up that morning and hauled all the papers that I probably wouldn’t need but made me feel better to have just in case, I reminded myself, “I won’t die.” When I set up my computer and people started walking in the room, I reminded myself, “I won’t die.”
Then it started. And it wasn’t so bad. My presentation was shorter than I expected, but I know how to fill time. I know how to get them talking with each other and I know how to listen to their responses and relate it back to the topic. I know how to facilitate a group and I know how to have one-on-one conversations about our work with those interested in learning more.
There were a few questions and I was able to answer them. No one stormed out or told me I was awful at my job. Everyone looked engaged and there were even a few ah-ha moments. Overall I’d say it went quite well for my first time.
And, most importantly, I didn’t die.