Speaking up and speaking out

A room full of strangers at a networking event or presenting at a meeting can be a fun and exhilarating experience for an extrovert and quite the opposite for an introvert.

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How do we present the very best of ourselves when we're nervous? Knowingly or unknowingly, we heap pressure on ourselves when we want to make a good impression. You could be about to walk into a room full of strangers with whom you need to network and build working relationships; you might be stepping on to stage to speak at a conference or perhaps you have to hold a very difficult conversation with someone. That pressure often manifests in nerves. So how do we harness these feelings and turn them to our advantage to make sure we communicate successfully? 

If we can identify what happens to us when we’re nervous, we can work out the best techniques to apply to help us feel more secure and confident. Take posture as a good example of how our body language can affect the way we speak. The instinct in a scary situation is to curl up and protect yourself, to make yourself small and less visible. This takes away your ability to open your lungs and breathe properly. And breathing is key to speaking with clarity and confidence. Adopting a power pose before going into your meeting will make you open up your body, your lungs and your mind, giving you a moment of calm and quiet in which you can regulate your breathing, shake out your nerves and let the adrenalin pump you up and give you the confidence to go out and speak up.

Last year, I ran a one-hour workshop as part of the programme of Internet Librarian International. For those unfamiliar with the conference, many of the delegates do not have English as a first language, and this can be an additional barrier to comfortable networking. My approach was if we think of public speaking or networking as performance, we can naturally assume it takes practice to perfect it, to get it right. And that means there are tools with which we structure that practice. In a small, quiet room, we discussed the barriers to speaking up and speaking out; how to plan strategies and use tricks to overcome them; looked at the non-verbal side of things – and we practised some techniques.  

The participants must have found it helpful, because we were invited to run the workshop again this year. So, at ILI2017 my colleague Neil Currams [https://www.tfpl.com/about-us/the-recruitment-team/] will be sharing his tips and tricks to help delegates overcome their own barriers to speaking up and speaking out.

I won’t be able to attend, unfortunately. After almost 16 years (first at CILIP and for the last 11 years at Sue Hill), I’m going to be leaving libraries and recruitment. I’ll be sad to be leaving such a wonderfully supportive and encouraging community, but I do so with fantastic memories and knowing what a tremendous privilege it has been to have been trusted to help people with their careers. I will be speaking up and speaking out in a whole new sector, proving just how transferable library and information skills are. 


Suzanne is Manager at Sue Hill and TFPL - for now at least!  Her colleague Neil will be presenting his workshop at Internet Librarian International 2017