A fear of Public Speaking… – By Joanna Farnsworth

Never have I been prouder to be a Surveyor than in the last few weeks; I have had amazing opportunities to attend awards, represent the RICS and the most incredible opportunity of Chairing the recent CPD conference in Cambridge.

In the last few weeks Her Majesty the Queen has visited the RICS, meeting many Surveyors at all levels and across the disciplines. We have celebrated the achievements of our Women of the Future finalists and winners along with our Young Surveyors of the Year. The RICS CPD conferences and local updates have been in full swing whilst our governing council met in Hong Kong.

Our profession presents us with opportunities at every turn if we choose to take them; be it speaking in schools, to the public, in meetings, or at conferences. Our voices are important, we represent and promote our profession and inspire those around us. But most of us are not seasoned professionals used to speaking in public and it can be daunting.

When I spoke at the conference and despite being very well prepared, presented and supported I admit that I was absolutely terrified. Whilst my usual approach to fear is don’t think about it, just do it, faced with 300+ surveyors and some technical malfunctions my nerves threatened to get the better of me but…

  • Breathing helped – easier said than done but as I slowed my breath I became calmer.
  • Keeping my notes on the lectern meant that nobody saw my hands shaking. I didn’t suffer the added embarrassment of dropping anything.
  • Research – knowing as much as I could about the speakers and subjects was re-assuring.
  • Visualising myself as a successful speaker before and during the day boosted my confidence.
  • Knowing what I wanted to say (almost verbatim) meant that I could talk naturally and only needed to look at my notes (which were bullet points) for prompts.
  • Talking V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y meant that what could have been blurted out very quickly was delivered clearly, concisely and with consideration.
  • Pausing for 3 seconds after every point gave the audience time to take in what I had said and allowed me to maintain my pace.
  • Speaking to as many members of the audience before and in-between sessions allowed me to build a rapport with and gauge the needs of the audience.

Things I could have done better

  • Eaten Breakfast – a mini pastry does not count when you have a 4 hour session ahead
  • Power pose* – Only remembering to do this when you are on stage is not helpful and I definitely would not recommend breaking into full pose mid presentation, it could look a little odd.Amy Cuddy
  • Found five minutes quiet time for myself to reflect and compose at points during the day.
  • Not drunk so much of the caffeinated coffee on offer (as substitute to eating breakfast).
  • Not focused on the flaws as much, the audience would not have known what I was or wasn’t going to say and so by adding in or missing a few things out really didn’t matter.

… but actually not an awful lot else, because I should really give myself a break here and not overanalyze every detail. I did it, I am not going to pretend it was easy but would I do it again … Yes! Will it be easy … No! Will it be easier … Hopefully.

Touching on some of the other underlying issues here that affect me, perhaps some of these may resonate?

  • Impostor Syndrome – I often ask myself … Who am I, ‘just’ a Contractor’s QS, to be sat here or on this occasion speaking in front of this room full of expert’s and professionals?

What would I say to someone else making this statement…

So firstly we are all humans, it doesn’t matter if you are the CEO or the cloakroom attendant we are all worthy. Secondly, you have been a Surveyor for X amount of years, surely if you didn’t know your stuff you wouldn’t have made it this far? Add to that some of you may have passed your APC and gained MRICS status – That is not something that is handed out lightly, so my friend you need to stop doubting yourself and embrace your position.

The first time someone pointed out to me that I may have ‘Imposter Syndrome’ I dismissed it with a casual remark ‘They haven’t found me out yet!’ but I frequently have to remind myself to take my own advice reminding myself of the above as my inner critic frequently asks me ‘who do you think you are?’

Inner Critic – As Surveyors we are analysts, we measure, we monitor, we dissect and look for defects – it is our job. But when we start overly criticising ourselves we can really undermine our confidence and stifle our potential. It is not good for our wellbeing and how much does it really serve us?

There are many factors and underlying beliefs that influence our responses in certain situations but we are never alone. There are many sources of support, help and advice to help us through and embrace the opportunities presented.


Further Sources

Lionheart – providing support and training.

*power pose – Amy Cuddy TED talk


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