So, I delivered a speech to some of the
Peer Support Workers from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS FoundationTrust (CNTW) and decided to upload videos of clips of my twenty-minute speech
to social media. I received a lovely response and was sent a few private
messages asking more about the bits that you don’t see – the behind-the-scenes
parts of giving a speech, so I thought it’d make for a good blog post…
I think that
my first real speech was for a Time To Change event named Story Camp in 2015
(you can read about it here)
– and it was requested after I had volunteered at one of their events in 2014 (which
you can also read about here).
With it being
my first opportunity to do something like that, I obviously had a lot of nerves
and fear at the thought of standing before a ton of complete strangers and
talking about my mental illness and other experiences that most people would
deem ‘personal’ and ‘private.’
I think that the fact my first speech had been requested could have had a negative impact on me and cause me stress if I felt as though there was pressure on me to do it. But actually, it really helped me in providing motivation to do it because I felt sort-of obliged. As though if Time To Change (a big organisation centred around challenging mental health stigma) could go through the process it would have taken to choose me, the least I could do was take them up on their offer!
There was also
the concern of how it would look to others if I were to decline the offer and would
it mean Time To Change wouldn’t consider me for any other opportunities?
So, I said yes
and before I knew it, I was facing a huge number of strangers from the stage of
a lecture theatre in London! Fortunately, there was a podium that I could
balance my iPad on it. I had jotted down talking points on the ‘notes’ function
and my hands were shaking so much from my nervousness that I thought without
the podium, I’d have dropped the iPad.
I think that
the biggest thing I’d like to have changed about that speech, would be that my
nerves had me so worried that I’d forget to say something or would lose my
train of thought, that I ended up reading, word-for-word, from the notes on my
iPad and that meant little to no eye contact with the audience. Which is
usually an important and appealing factor in making a speech.
on it being your idea:
first speech be a request, meant that for quite a long time I didn’t realise it
could be something you put yourself forward for. That you could suggest it…
thoughts on the idea of this were mixed. I mean, part of me wondered why anyone
would suggest something so bold. I thought that it could sound sort of arrogant
to make a suggestion along the lines of you considering yourself worthy and
deserving of an opportunity such as giving a speech for an important
organisation or at an important event.
Why I respect
those who make the suggestion:
though, I learnt that using your initiative – especially in creating
opportunities for yourself – can actually be a really admirable skill. And I
think, as the years in my blogging career have gone by, I’ve grown more and
more fond of this quality. I’ve come to realise that if I want I’m NOT
Disordered to increase it’s readership, then I should go out there and make it
happen. For me, putting a suggestion like this to an organisation or someone
linked to a particular event, is an incredibly powerful move and those who do
this, should be respected and appreciated rather than – as I used to – deemed arrogant
or pushy. I mean, my attitude now is probably the exact opposite in that I
wonder if those who sit on their behinds and wait for opportunities to fall into
their laps are either lacking in confidence, have made a conscious decision to
do so, or are being a bit cocky.
The fear of
I guess that one
drawback and hesitation some people may have around this, is the worry that
they’ll put themselves out there and be dismissed or met with a negative
response. But in being the person to put the idea forward, I have definitely
developed my confidence for future suggestions. I feel that with each
suggestion, I’ve learnt something different or discovered something that is
helpful or something which I shouldn’t do again! And so long as you’re
learning, it isn’t a mistake – no matter how negative the reply.
on coping with a negative response:
1. Re-read the suggestion you had sent to
them and re-evaluate everything about it
2. Know that it might not have been about
3. Try to accept that perhaps that
opportunity wasn’t meant to be
4. Use the philosophy: ‘if one door
closes, another one opens’
5. Start looking for another opportunity!
can help in making the decision:
calling my Mum at the Story Camp event I gave my first speech at, and I was sort
of hiding in a corner of a room that was packed with people talking as though
they all knew one another, and I almost cried, repeating over and over again
that I didn’t think I could go through with it. My Mum was – as usual –
amazingly supportive and helpful in reassuring me that I had the strength to do
it and she encouraged me to take this very rare opportunity.
My Mum’s help
and support were pretty monumental in my final decision to do the speech and I’m
so grateful to have had her support because delivering that speech has both
directly and indirectly led to so many more opportunities and amazing
I think when
you’re having to make a decision about something – anything – speaking to family
and friends can be really beneficial. It’s usually helpful – in general – to talk
to someone who is sort of external to the entire situation because it usually
means they can give a balanced response. Kind of impartial. They can look at it
from a step back and that might enable them to be better positioned at being
able to really recognise just how many benefits and drawbacks there might be
for you and what the gravity of those should mean for your eventual decision.
important to self-soothe and distract during the decision-making process:
We all know
that making a decision about pretty much anything and everything, can be a harsh
process for your mind and body. Trying to evaluate something, trying to come to
a conclusion on something difficult; can – in my opinion – very understandably;
become stressful, confusing, and overwhelming. These are usually thoughts and
feelings that a person needs help and support with when experienced any/all of
In the psychiatric
hospital I was in for two and a half years, it specialised in Personality
Disorders and a recommended treatment for someone with that diagnosis is
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). In undergoing this Therapy, I was taught
so many incredibly useful and helpful coping skills that have gone on to prove
beneficial during stressful and hectic situations.
Two of these
skills that I seem to use the most are actually also really helpful during the
decision-making process, distraction and self-soothing. The first; distraction,
is mostly perfect if you find yourself ruminating over the decision and really panicking
as you constantly flip through your options and the possible consequences of
each decision. I usually distract by watching Netflix, blogging, or reading.
Though it’s obviously important that you utilise this coping skill in a
balanced way and without allowing it to turn into procrastination or avoidance.
probably one of my all-time favourite skills from DBT and it’s very basically
about providing your mind and body with something soothing. For your body,
something comforting like a blanket, pyjamas, fluffy bed socks, being in the
warmth, or just generally spending time at home can be reassuring. The tactile
comfort is a very pleasant and grounding quality which can really calm you when
feeling stressed with having to make a decision.
Five tips for
making the decision:
1. Weigh things up – complete the
2. Talk it through with friends and family
3. Use self-soothing techniques to de-stress
during the process
4. Ask any questions of the organisation
and others involved in the opportunity
5. Engage in distracting activities to
give your head a break
research can be important in drafting/creating your speech:
decision has been made to make the speech, I’d say that the first real step
should be to conduct some research on a number of different components that
could be involved in your speech. I mean, you could find out more about the
host of the event you’ll speak at, more about the actual event if it isn’t the
first of its kind, about the topic you’ll be speaking about, and about others
who have either given speeches at the event before, or those who have spoken
about the same topic you will be.
There’s a few
reasons research is important. The first, is that it will help ensure that there
won’t be a whole lot of repeats of things that have already been spoken about
either at this event, or in a way that those listening to you will have heard
before. Your speech should really be original, unique, and different in order
for it to be memorable, to increase the likeliness of receiving positive
feedback, and to result in other opportunities. If you were to repeat things,
it might come across as though you haven’t put much thought into your speech
and that could give the impression of disinterest and a lack of passion.
Another way research
can be important for your speech is that to feel that you are aware of a lot of
the facts, statistics, experiences etc around the topic you’ll be speaking
about, can really boost your confidence. It can provide reassurance if you are
able to recognise that you have a decent amount of knowledge and education in
something you’ll be talking about to others. It’s a comfort to know that if
there was someone who disagreed with anything you talked about; you would have
evidence to ‘back up’ your thoughts. And in a world where almost anything becomes
controversial when voiced online or somewhere in the media, that comfort can be
a powerful feeling.
a research worksheet below to illustrate and provide example of the information
and effort I think you should put into any research done prior to the speech.
importance of creating goals for your speech:
Prior to considering
the order or format of a speech, I think it proves helpful to consider goals
for your speech – the things that you’re really passionate about voicing and
the impact you hope they have.
For me, having
a goal can be prove to be an excellent motivation when faced with nerves,
anxiety, and a general reluctance to follow through with the speech. I mean, it’s
kind of like with my new book (being released April 20th 2021!) and
how much time and effort I put into it, yet it’s turned out that I’ll earn 11p
from each copy. I just keep in mind that I didn’t write it to earn a living
from it, I wrote it to help people and to encourage others to have a more
positive view on blogging and social media and to try to utilise it in a
healthy way for themselves to benefit as much as I have. And I guess having
goals in giving a speech is sort of the same, in that if I discover an obstacle
around the speech, I feel more empowered and capable of facing it because I
have a sense of purpose in doing so.
From the beginning
of I’m NOT Disordered, I’ve always had the intentions of using my blogging to be
of some sort of benefit to others. Initially, this was around improving my
friends and family’s knowledge of mental health and my experiences in the hope
that it might enable them to provide a more understanding level of support for
me. That when those people are trying to help me it might make me think ‘they
do know what they’re talking about because I’ve told them everything.’
Then, as the
blog’s popularity grew, my goals changed too as I began hearing that my words were
reassuring others who have gone through similar things, that they aren’t alone;
and that in seeing my recovery, they also realise there’s hope for them too.
This lovely response (though I definitely don’t think it’s ‘lovely’ that
someone is going through, or has gone through, that) has created a new goal for
me because I’ve started blogging more for myself now too. So my other goals are
about relieving stress and enabling myself to process thoughts and feelings through
goal in delivering speeches is to encourage others to find the courage to also
speak out about their own experiences and to know that in doing so, they could
help others as well as finding it beneficial for their own mental health. And this
goal, usually helps spur me on if I find myself becoming reluctant or overly
anxious about doing the speech.
speech have an order to it?
majority of speeches – particularly the most formal ones, usually have a basic format
of beginning with an introduction, stating a number of points, and then finishing
with some kind of conclusion.
pretty good at the introduction part; I usually just stick to the basics of my
name and then the role I play in whatever way is appropriate for the context of
the speech. For example, if I’m speaking at an NHS event then I’ll mention that
I used to be a service user and that I was a psychiatric inpatient for over two
years; but if I’m talking about social media and blogging, I’ll mention my blog’s
statistics and a little bit of its history.
Going into the
speech and beginning to discuss the actual content, I usually have one key difficulty.
I lose my train of thought, but from initial instances of the loss of the point
I was trying to make, I’ve learnt ways to cover this up and to reduce the
embarrassment this usually causes! If I feel myself getting distracted or starting
to make a detour, I repeat something I’ve already said to detract the audience’s
attention and use the opportunity to re-group and to gather my thoughts.
though, I think that even after over six years of speeches, I’m lacking in the
art of being able to effectively conclude one! I think that I just seem to get
to the end of what I want to say and I’m so eager to (in most cases) sit back down,
that I wrap it up with: “and that’s it!”
majority of speeches tend to wrap up with a round of questions. It provides
your audience/listeners with the opportunity to both check something they find
questionable or are wondering if they’ve misunderstood it and ask you to go
into something in more detail or talk about something you hadn’t covered but
which they thought relevant. Being able to leave an event or even just after listening
to a speech with the notion that your curiosity has been settled to some
degree, can be rewarding. As though your time spent listening to the person,
was well spent.
write it or type it?
An aspect that
could probably be deemed as fairly trivial; but which I think is important, is
the decision – after determining a format for your speech – on how you’ll go
about planning the speech. I mean, the question says type or write but that
still opens the door for a whole range of different aspects…
I usually write
my speeches in a notebook – whichever notebook I’m using at that time – and practice
(something I’ll talk about soon) from that. I feel like writing it out, is like
a draft of it and I get the feeling that I can cross bits out or add notes in
more creative ways than if I’d been solely using technology. Another plus is
that paper and pen can’t exactly break in the way technology can and that means
there’s so much less risk of losing my work.
Then, as the
date of the speech nears, and I feel as though the speech is more concrete and
final, I type it into a ‘note’ on my iPhone or iPad. I usually do this because
I’m very aware of how easy it would be to forget to take a notebook to the
speech location, whereas I’m so much more likely to have my phone or iPad with
I also think
it looks a bit more professional and prepared to have a technological device in
front of you and not a tatty notebook where people can see, and judge, your
or not to practice?
another part of making a speech that is quite an individual aspect and is
usually reliant upon the situation and not just your preferences. I mean, it’s
not just about not feeling that practicing it won’t be beneficial – it’s also
about occasions where there might not be time to practice.
When I first
began making speeches, I was of the impression that you should always practice beforehand.
I honestly that was part of the obligatory process. And actually, it ended up
putting me off speaking a few times because I didn’t like the idea of
practicing. For me, it actually amped up my nerves and anxiety because it felt like
more pressure and as though it was another opportunity to completely mess
things up. I mean, what if my practice went badly? Would I end up with even
less confidence and courage? Would I be reluctant? Would be left thinking that
if it could go wrong in front of the mirror or to my Mum, then what chance
would I have of succeeding in front of an actual crowd?!
After a few
speeches though, I feel that I’ve sort of learnt and got into a groove now
where I know that practicing doesn’t help me. I also now know that preparing
isn’t the same as practicing; because I definitely believe preparation – particularly
in terms of research as I talked about earlier – is important and it’s
something I always do prior to a speech. I think that going into a speech
feeling prepared and confident in your knowledge of the topic you’ll be
speaking about, can be much more useful than doing it over and over again.
the drawback of practicing that if you do and you feel like you’ve really
nailed it, it could give you high expectations for the speech you give when you’re
actually in front of everyone.
In all recent
speeches (namely one with the CNTW Board of Directors and one with their Peer Support
Workers), I’ve kind of winged it and haven’t practiced putting my very rough notes
into actual sentences. I’ve found that way much less stressful because when I used
to practice I was always left with one of two thoughts; either: ‘what if it isn’t
as good?’ or ‘what if I can’t even nail it in the practice?’
So, I found
just doing it with only my research and notes as preparation, actually boosted
my confidence because it gave me no real expectations; no pressure in thinking;
‘this is what I got wrong in my practice, so I know to do it right now!’
to build your confidence:
1. Dress in something that you’re
comfortable in, but which is still appropriate
2. Have an interest and passion in the content
of your speech
3. Reach out to others involved in the
speech for moral support
4. Practice – or don’t practice – depending
on your decision in the previous part!
5. Find a motivation to power through the
A decision you’ll
need to make in actually delivering the speech will be whether to read the
speech word-for-word or have your notes or sentences and just allow yourself to
go with the flow and elaborate on parts you feel should be focused on more.
Initially, I read
directly from wherever I’d put the speech – iPad, laptop, notebook… But then
there have been occasions where I’ve been very grateful that I hadn’t memorised
– and wasn’t reading from – a speech because I hadn’t completely understood the
context of the speech in terms of the event and the role of those attending and
had to actually edit and modify my speech accordingly!
Now that my
confidence has grown in giving speeches, I’ve found it so much easier to just have
notes in front of me and decide what to discuss in more detail and what to
leave out completely.
What to do
with positive feedback:
1. Keep a record of it where possible
2. Use it as motivation to continue
improving – don’t rest on your laurels
3. Use it as a confidence boost for any other
4. Always show gratitude no matter how
many times you’ve heard the comment
5. Remember it and the power it had when
providing feedback for others
What to do
with negative feedback:
1. Remind yourself that it is purely one
person’s thoughts and feelings
2. Ensure that it is constructive criticism
3. Fight the embarrassment and talk it
through with loved ones
4. Try to remain thankful
5. Learn from it!
what I’ve learnt…
I’ve learnt about speeches:
1. Shy bairns get nowt – if you want to give
the speech then make the first move
2. Each scenario should be treated independently
with your decisions able to change
3. It’s ok to be nervous – or to feel
however you feel around the speech
4. Find inspiration
5. It’s ok to decide not to practice your
speech before delivering it
Now, I hope
you like the below video of some clips from my speech to the Cumbria,
Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust Peer Support Workers.