Challenge yourself – a tale of two talks

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In the last month, I’ve had a couple of public-speaking outings, one as a panel member for the launch of the latest research from The Leadership Council on Global Talent in the UK, and the other a talk to the Association for Business Psychology. Of the two, I should have been more anxious about the panel discussion, largely because the rest of the panel and most of the audience can best be described as both ‘great’ and ‘good’.

But as it happened, it was the talk to the psychologists that I became more pre-occupied with. In the planning, I spoke to the person responsible for organising these things, and explained the kind of topics I would cover…storytelling, building empathy, exerting influence, injecting personality into communication – all the stuff we work on with our clients every day. I’m not one to be affected by nerves, but as I began to think in a bit more detail about the subject matter I wanted to cover, and I started to feel a little uneasy.    

My concern stemmed from the simple truth that many (perhaps all) of the assumptions upon which our work is based, have at their heart a psychological principle.  And while I am comfortable talking about how these principles show up in real-world applications, I not so comfortable when it comes to the more deep-rooted psychology.  The best I could equate it to was feeling like a chef being asked to talk to a bunch of farmers about how to cook their food. They may see it as enlightening, or alternatively as the complete bastardisation of what they work so hard to produce.

So I did what I would advise a client to do: try to be charming and confident, but share the concern, which I did. I could feel the room warm up immediately, and before I knew it an truly stimulating and engaging hour of talking and discussion was over. The psychologists really connected with the subject matter, and asked fantastically thought-provoking questions about what we do and our approach.

It was one of the most rewarding talks I’ve done this year, and so if in 2017 you find yourself being asked to talk to experts with more than a passing interest in your field, I encourage you to go for it.  I guarantee you’ll learn something, and it might just be about yourself!