I've engaged myself in a number of quite interesting activities lately, mostly out of curiosity, but also out of an urge to challenge myself to do things that I'm not very comfortable with. Like mingling with people and speaking in public. I always have social anxiety issues, though I know some people refuse to believe that when I told them. But it is what it is, and I'm not lying. Which is why I feel quite proud of myself for being able to do some of these things in the past couple of weeks.
Activity 1: Performing Your Research Workshop (which feels more like Acting 101 to me)
I signed up for this session hosted by Cambridge University Public Engagement, because I thought it would give me some insights on how different media/platforms can be used to disseminate research. I expected the session to be about how people use performances like theatres, artistic shows, storytelling, poetry recitation, or musical performances to convey research findings - maybe something similar to what Simone Eringfeld does. But it turned out to be more like a workshop for effective communication, which teaches you about eloquence, voice projection, posture, breathing, and stuffs like that.
It wasn't what I expected, but I wasn't disappointed either. The instructor was a professional actress and a storyteller, so the tips and advice were very practical and useful, especially for someone like me who struggles with stage-fright and speaking in public. I like the tips on effective breathing that can help me calm down when I'm nervous. I also like the exercises on improving articulation. One of my favourites was trying to explain something to someone in a minute and then asking that person to tell me how many chunks of information they heard. That practice certainly opened my eyes to the importance of being able to explain something clearly, and in an organised manner. I know I struggle with this a lot, but this workshop helped me realise that there is something that I can do about it. Another fun and easy practice that I really like was saying tongue-twisters in different emotions (e.g., I had to say "She sells seashells by the seashore" happily, or sadly, or angrily, or disgustedly - and my friend would have to guess what emotions I was trying to convey). The tongue-twisters helped with improving my articulation (I tend to stutter when I'm nervous), and I found including the "emotions" element (which are totally not related to the tongue-twisters at all!) somewhat improved my confidence to speak. I didn't know how/why it happened, but it did.
Activity 2: Speaking to MPhil Students
I volunteered to be in a panel to speak to a group of MPhil students about my experience of writing my master's thesis. I regretted the second I texted the president of FERSA to tell her that I agreed to sign up. But I did it anyway. So, yeah.
Luckily, I did it with three other people (four including the moderator), so I was comforted by the knowledge that even if I messed up there were other people who could help save the day. And these people were absolutely awesome, I learned so much just listening to their insights and experiences.
At the end of the day, I'm glad that I volunteered. And didn't chicken out. And stayed in the room till it was over without passing out. I know I totally went out of my comfort zone that day, and I'm very proud of myself for doing that. I was able to practise speaking in public, to take live questions from the audience, and to think on my feet. In the process, I also got to know some new people, and to make some new friends. If my sharing managed to help even just one person, that's a huge bonus.
Activity 3: Volunteering for Kaleidoscope 2022
So I will be presenting at the Kaleidoscope 2022 conference, which will be held fully online on the 26th-27th of May. My closest friends would say, "What's so unusual about you speaking in a conference? You do that all the time. That's not going out of your comfort zone, that is your comfort zone!" I know, I know. People might find this very hard to believe, but I don't actually feel comfortable doing this. No matter how many hundreds of times I've done it, it always feels like going out of my comfort zone. I don't know why I keep doing it though. But I do feel like I'm getting better at it over time, which I think is evidence of the truth behind the cliched "practice makes perfect."
I also think it's worth sharing that I did think about nominating myself as the chair of Kaleidoscope 2023, but decided against it exactly one minute before the nomination window closed. So yeah, I chickened out. I wasn't able to muster enough courage to step out of the safe space of being a mere participant yet. Admittedly, I felt a bit sad about it the following morning, when I woke up.
Then I remembered an email from the current Kaleidoscope chair, inviting people to sign up as volunteers to host sessions for this year's conference. I thought, why not? If I want to be an effective chair, I need to learn the inner workings of it first, right? So I shot an email to the committee and told them that I'm happy to be on board. They said yes.
And that made me a happy and super-proud introvert.
To be continued
So that's it for now. I'll continue with Part 2 in the next post.
Soli Deo Gloria. ~ccj, Cambridge, 7th May 2022, 13:33