Well, I am not usually one to toot my own horn but I think this may be relevant to others.
Today I received an Honorable Mention for my Clinical Research Presentation at the Wayne State School of Medicine Medical Student Research Symposium. This may not be an award that most celebrate, but for me it is really important.
I have never been one for presentations. Throughout high school and undergrad I would work very hard to avoid presentations, even changing classes because one of the requirements was a presentation. I have even offered to write essays in exchange for not having to give a 5-10 minute presentation. Public speaking was not something I enjoyed, to put it mildly.
About a year and a half ago I decided that I needed to push myself and I submitted abstracts to conferences that would require I gave presentations, not just posters, but also 30 minute powerpoint presentations where I had to stand in front of room of people and speak and then answer their questions. I have always despised public speaking, and frankly, I sucked at it. As soon as I get up in front of room of people I forget everything I want to say and develop an inability to stand still (during my practice presentations, my partner has described me as looking like an angry swan, and another time I apparently looked like I was warming up for a very rigorous ballet performance).
All of this meant that at the beginning the only way I could give a presentation was by having in scripted in front of me. I know this is not the way it is supposed to be done, but it was the only way I could get through it. I would practice for hours with my poor partner having to hear the exact same words over and over in an attempt to make it seem less scripted and more professional, but when I got up in front of people I would frequently revert back to my script because my mind would go blank.
This presentation was the first presentation I gave without a “script”. I still practiced multiple times before hand, and I had a couple of notes. I was so nervous I barely ate that day or slept the night before. But I made it through! I said what I wanted to say, stood relatively still, and answered the questions from the audience coherently.
Receiving an honorable mention shows that my hard work (and suffering!) is paying off. I am getting better at giving presentations, and while I am still way more nervous that is reasonable, I must be getting better at actually giving the presentation. This blog post is not so much a self-congratulatory post as it is a message for the many other people out there who I know struggle with public speaking.
Even if you feel like nothing is changing and you are not getting better, you are, and people notice that.