Sunday, July 4, 2010

Final Reflection on Last Speech

Selecting a Topic

It was challenging for me to come up with a final persuasive topic that I felt passionate about. By nature, I don’t know that I’m a persuader, at least not in a direct way. Mindfulness as a practice was at the forefront of my mind and that is what I submitted as my topic. As we spoke more as a class about the elements of persuasion, I started feeling like I needed to change my topic and the instructor said that was fine. I needed a topic that was tangible—accessible to my audience. Stress jumped into my mind, my mom, me, humans. Yes, stress would be my point of entry.

I decided that I would use Monroe’s Motivational Sequence as my organizational structure: I would have an attention step, present my need and evidence, provide a satisfaction step and incorporate the visualization step, and finally an action step. I would persuade my audience that prolonged chronic stress (distress) is detrimental to our health and our lives. I had 6 to 8 minutes to work with, which isn’t a whole lot of time, so I had to really pinpoint what I would say and how I would make it stick. I did use PowerPoint for this presentation (my first time actually using it). My presentation was simple. I included an introductory slide of two very stressed out people; the next slide was a facts slide; followed by a relaxation ~ stress management techniques slide. I followed this slide up with a 2.48 minute animated meditation YouTube video. It felt appropriate for my audience and the video was done very nicely, I thought. I invited the audience to try to just be, but to also be aware of their bodies and their breath. I heard some laughter because it’s the type of video that is light and serious and, I feel, really does a great job of portraying the process. At the end, I said that the great thing about our breath is that it is accessible to us anywhere, while doing anything, as a way to bring us back to center and to calm us down, and I pointed out how many of us had already done this during some of our speeches—and that all the better if we include this as a practice. My final message was really for them to care for themselves and to try to find relaxation techniques that work for them and to incorporate these into their daily lives.

What made my day the following day was when I struck up a conversation with a sort-of shy and reserved classmate. I asked her if she was ready for her presentation. She was nervous. I told her she would do fine. Breathe. She then said, she really appreciated the handout I provided at the end of my presentation on “belly breathing.” Again an accessible way to bring diaphragmatic breathing to the audience because of how it was presented from the book, Stress Free for Good: 10 Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness. She said her whole family experienced a lot of stress and she made copies for all of them and for friends. And then another classmate on the last day said she enjoyed my presentation and did some “belly breathing” before her presentation.


I spent a lot of time preparing to ease the nerves that I felt. I felt like quitting. I was practicing my stress management techniques. In order to get into the connection I had with the topic, I knew I had to make a reference to my mother, but not make it too long that I would go over the allotted time. When I read aloud at home, I started crying. Great, I thought, I might not be able to include this part. If I cut it, it would make the topic feel dry, without passion. I cut what I would say down to three sentences, which I penciled onto my note card, so it was a last minute decision that I could choose to present or not, depending on how I felt up there. I practiced aloud so many times, no tears. I could do it. It was going to work out.

Presentation Day

I put my name on the board to be the 5th presenter. We watched several great presentations. While the presenter before me received feedback, I went up to setup my laptop, plugging it into the audio/visual cable. I was all set to go, but then the instructor decided we would take a 15 minutes break.

Ready with my PowerPoint, note cards in hand, I began reading, as I looked out to the audience. When I reached my last sentence before I stated the sentences about my mother, I took a long pause. I was choking up. I began crying without tears. I took a few good deep breaths and continued with a strained voice. I almost thought I would have to sit down, but I pushed on. When I got my last sentence out, my next note card was on facts. I was able to regain my composure somewhat and I pushed my voice. The next note card was my own words, not about my mother, but the emotion came back because I was in those words. I brought my hand to my belly and breathed, so that I could get the last bit out, but again strained. Next slide: Techniques. Ah, relief. A steady voice, a comfortable voice and the image beside the bullet points—calm water and rocks. This led into my video, which was a wonderful pause. For my closing, the emotion flooded back and I couldn’t stretch my voice as loud as I would have liked, and I barely got those last words out. A huge sigh of relief. It was done. I had done the best that I could and had no idea that I would be up there allowing my emotions to take over—but allowing was not even an option. It was beyond my control. Ironically, I didn’t feel embarrassed, like I might have in the past. It felt alright. The instructor pointed out to all of us that it was because off all of them, creating such a safe environment, that I was comfortable enough to share this personal story.

This was one of the most challenging and amazing courses I have taken. I was inspired and touched by the instructor and every single person in that classroom. It was almost sad to see the class come to a close when we all shared so much with each other, but now I know that I am indeed coming out of my shell in bits and pieces, first with my words on the page, and now I’ve proven to myself that I can push myself to go beyond that. This was just a small step. I’m getting more comfortable sharing parts of me in conversation, which is good, since as I’ve written before, most of my life I’ve been a closed book. I’ve heard too many little comments from bosses and teachers, that now I need to listen—that I do have something to share. It’s not easy shedding old ‘scripts.’ It’s not easy developing self-esteem and acknowledging our own strengths, but this is the road I am on—the road of self-esteem and self-acknowledgment, no more negative self-talk. I hope to keep moving forward and keep being brave when it’s comfortable. I feel wonderful and alive.

Thank you again to all of you for your support, encouragement, and good vibes.


Vincent said...

This is very impressive and moving, Rebb. I think the best part of it is the synergy between your topic and your performance. Stress was the topic, but your performance revealed something else, a counterpoint to stress: being real in the situation. I should imagine you attracted a great deal of empathy and rapt attention, making a difference to your listeners to a level that went beyond the topic.

And I think that in your presentation you would have bridged a gap between speaker and listeners, to reach a realization that "we're all in this together". In these course situations where everyone has to present to everyone else, it is all too easy to see it as a matter of comparing one's performance with that of the others, fearful of making a fool of oneself and so on. You may have helped everyone transcend all that.

keiko amano said...


I wish I were there, but as I read I felt as though I were there. You certainly created tension to keep me reading on.

When I learned that you were the fifth speaker, and the next was your turn, the instructor called for a 15 minute break! It's a great tension and a temporary release there. And I felt you got a kind of emotional advantage. I sensed that you were eager to finish your speech, but yet you could use a bit of relaxing time. And I could tell that you put into great effort into your preparation that during the break, rather than worrying about your speech, you were helping other classmate. And by supporting others, you seemed energized, and that led to your final speech. It sounded to me that your speech was a great success, and you have no regret.

I'm applauding!

Rebb said...

Thank you very much, Vincent. Your observations reveal something to me that I did not immediately see. I thank you for that. It was quite an experience, one where I was able to get out of my way. I will probably be processing it for a long time and it will definitely help move me forward just in knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to do. It feels good. Thank you, as always, for mirroring what I do not always see.

Rebb said...

Thank you, Keiko. That’s great that you picked up the tension. I didn’t intentionally do that, but when I relived the moment, the tension must have slipped in because, boy did I feel the wait. I breathed and breathed and sat there instead of walking around. Yes, in the end, I think it was a positive experience all around, definitely no regrets.

Thank you for your applauds!