~ 4 Minute Read
If there is anything that terrifies me that isn’t a tangible creature or object like a spider or a needle, it’s public speaking. Not even specifically public speaking, but speaking my own material in front of others. If you gave me a book that was written from someone else and you asked me to read it in front of an auditorium, no problem at all. But when it’s something coming from my own mind, such as a story I wrote, or a speech topic we had to perform in school; I would panic.
Year after year in school, us nervous wrecks that hated speeches always complained and always got the same answer for why we had to do it: “it will get easier with time”. My first speech was in grade 5 and we’ve done them every year since. The discomfort I had all the way back then when I was sharing my speech on Beanie Babies, shaking and stammering, is the same discomfort I have to this day. I don’t really know what it is because I like sharing my blog posts and other creativity; but in that moment, I get to hide behind a screen. I think it might just be seeing the audience react, in real time, to everything I’m saying. As an introvert, you get really good at reading people’s facial expressions and recognizing cues of boredom, disagreement, confusion, and all types of negative unspoken feedback. Though even if none of them are present, there’s a constant state of worry that they will be.
Now, I’m 24 years old and am working in a creative industry that’s all about sharing online (in my comfort zone): Graphic Design. I had a past coworker reach out to me when she saw some of my work and asked if I wanted to be a part of her WISE Development Program at SFU. She informed me that I would be teaching a workshop all about Graphic Design for the Web. While this offer completely terrified me, I was also really flattered. SFU is a high-level university here and this workshop was hosted for an excellent program called Young Women in Business. In the YWiB Chapter, they have founded a new program called WISE (Women Investing in Skills and Experience) and these ladies were the event organizers. The mission of WISE is to: “Provide opportunities for personal development by allowing members to learn and enhance at least one tangible skill in every workshop series.” (About WISE) With all this information, I knew I would regret declining the offer. This will be a great addition to my resume, count as a new first for me – (first time teaching a university level workshop), and overall something I know I’ll be proud of once it’s over. So, I said yes.
The event details were shared online and requesting applicants. The ladies at WISE had to close down the application early as there were more entries coming in than expected. I had about 2 months to prepare for this and procrastinated like crazy. I sat down in a meeting with Jessica Nguyen in September to go over the curriculum and what they expected of me. After that, I didn’t want to dwell on it too much as the stress of thinking about it would’ve deteriorated me. So, I didn’t think of it again until mid-October. October is a busy month for me. A lot of the people I’m closest too (friends and family) have birthdays, it’s Thanksgiving, and also Halloween weekend. I ended up rushing a couple weeks beforehand to get my sh*t together and use as much time as I could fit in to plan what I needed.
Suddenly, the day was here. It was a Saturday morning, I packed up all my materials I needed and drove to SFU an hour early. When I got there, I sat in my car for about half an hour going over my introduction and what I was going to say to these students. The thing is, you don’t know what the audience will be like. Since it’s a workshop that they voluntarily applied for you would hope they would be receptive to it – but you never really know. This program had 4 workshops total, each weekend before and I was the last one to wrap it up. Oh, the pressure.
I texted Jessica and met up with her inside of the classroom. Then, a big sigh of relief. What I was picturing in my head was a large class of students, auditorium-style, looking down on me from above like I was a damn Annalise Keating. I thought it would be me having to stand and present, stumble on my lines, and forget to change the presentation slide. Instead, it was a small intimate classroom of about 18 students, a projector, and a table for me to sit at. Phew.
I won’t recap the entire day but I’m so happy that I took part in this. The very beginning there were some Wi-Fi issues which caused my presentation on website graphics to become me showing them a website I made without any of the images loading. Pretty much, me trying to speak about visual design without any visuals. After about 15 minutes of me stammering and talking out of my butt about design. (I couldn’t even tell you what I was saying as it was all just a blur) – everything started to work again.
From that point on, it started to go much more smoothly. When we wrote out a schedule for how I will approach the day, I was nervous some of the list items would go by much quicker. Instead, I realized that I’m there to support, walk around and help them solve any problems that come up. With everyone being so new to the subject matter, it really made me feel useful and confirmed that I do have something to offer. After teaching them a little bit in Photoshop and a little bit in Illustrator, I gave them an assignment to do on their own. I asked them to create a website banner for Blend Bubble Tea, announcing their holiday drink release. It’s very cool to see some of their work and see that people who have never even opened Photoshop before can now actually design a banner image.
At the end of the class, Jessica and the other coordinators presented me with a bouquet of flowers which was really sweet. I even had a few students come up to me at the end letting me know I was their favourite out of all of the workshop presenters. Which was in that moment everything I could ever want to hear. They were all so lovely and thanked me for teaching them. Even in my pre-conceived worry that they didn’t absorb any of the information, they re-assured me that they did.
After stressing about this for so long, I’m very happy that I was able to complete it and that people were so appreciative for it. It made me feel like a true professional. It’s a weird thought that only last year I was sitting in a classroom learning, and this year I’m standing in front of a class teaching.
I want to thank Jessica again for reaching out to me and providing me with this opportunity. I’m so happy to take part in both YWiB and WISE as they are both amazing and meaningful programs with some wonderful goals they are reaching toward. To participate and support them in any way feels really great. A big, warm thank you to them for having me.
The students that came to my class are still submitting their website banner submissions but I thought it would be fun to share a couple of them:
Done by: Cameron Lust
Done by: Kate LeBlond