Our Manchester ‘Cultgroup’ (Richard, Khwan, Susan, Miri, Miriam and me) had presented in the 18th Cultnet seminar at Durham University. I found it was very beneficial to hear other researchers’ studies in the same field as well as receive wonderful insights from them. Below, I would like to share some of my reflections of learning from this supportive environment.
It was an exciting experience for me to practice thinking towards the audience. My audiences were a group of academician interested in the intercultural studies. Many of them were very experienced researchers who are keen on listening to the inter-related ideas in the field, but might not so much on a descriptive, sequential report of a student’s personal study. So I chose to only present 3 main features of my study:
- An interesting context (i.e. students as culturally-unique individuals, and as active-thinking agents in the internationalised UK HE)
- An interesting theoretical lens (i.e. mindfulness)
- An interesting method (i.e. visual narratives or creative-arts)
Khwan also gave me an advice that it’s better to say that these 3 features are interesting to me for the reasons that I will explain later in the presentation; and then, be open to hope the audience may also find them to be interesting. From her suggestion, I learnt to articulate my study with a passionate subjective-voice as well as with respect to the audience.
Anxiety ‘taming’ was another thing that I had been trying to learn in the Cultnet experience. First, I want to say that, unlike some naturally bold public-speakers, I usually feel nervous when I need to present in front of people, especially a group of experienced professors. Such emotional experience might sound familiar to many of you – which could be quite disturbing when you try to deliver a good talk in public. So I would like to share several points of my personal experiences that how I have .. at least, ATTEMPTED to tame my anxious feelings before and during the presentation.
- Understanding Anxiety 1: what am I anxious and nervous about?
- Disappointing myself: forgetting the words that I need to say?
- Disappointing others: standing alone in front of a group of intensive ‘inspection gaze’?
- Disappointing the Mancunian ‘Cultgroup’ who has been very supportive to me?
- … Drama: getting fainted on the stage with a bleeding nose caused by high-pressure? 🙂
- Accepting Anxiety:
When anxiety is inside of me, it’s very difficult to either clear it out or control it. But I find it might be easier to try to accept it after understanding what I am nervous about. When I accept it, it is not in a conflict relation with me but becomes a part of me.. (a part of me which makes me feel awful though). But such alteration of the relation may help one feel a bit less intense because you are no longer fighting against your emotion but trying to understand it. So what’s next?
- Understanding Anxiety 2: what could anxiety bring to me in the current situation?
- Physical Health? No.
- Psychological well-being? No.
- A good impression? No. I sometimes remind myself what I think and feel when I saw a speaker over-stressed…
- A good quality of presentation? No. Anxiety will only ruin my work, no matter how good or interesting the content is supposed to be.
Ok. We know it’s bad and useless to be nervous, so what?
What I do is to keep telling myself that I’m spending my energy on a very useless and temporary thing – being nervous. I feel that, when I consciously remind myself of this awareness, I start to be a bit calm every time.
- Surrounding Dynamics:
The intrapersonal emotion-taming might only work to certain extent. So I sometimes also borrow ‘power’ from the external resources:
- Supportive voices: reading supportive messages from friends? Reminding supportive advices from colleagues and supervisors?
- Distractive sources: listening to other presenters’ insightful talks to distract myself from the temporary emotions? Also, don’t forget to appreciate small but lovable things available through my eyes?
- ‘Casual’ mediation: focus on my breath and empty the mind…
The last important learning-experience that I want share is to talk slowly and clearly because ‘your ideas are worth being heard’. Teaching, or presenting, is a delivery of communication. If my students or audiences cannot clearly hear and understand what I say, there is, then, no use of saying it. This is what I understood from Richard’s advice + many times of reminding myself to speak sloooooowwwly. I tried to consciously self-monitor my speed of utterance so that I could hopefully leave some clearer footprints in the audiences’ minds.