What is the Speak Up programme actually like?
Anne Jeffery, NHS Quality Improvement Practitioner, who recently took part in our Speak Up programme talks to us about why she signed up and what benefits she took away.
Q: Why did you take part in the Speak Up course?
A: I recently failed a practical speaking element for another course I was participating in to become a trainer and I realised I needed more input from expert trainers to elevate me to a more professional level of speaking. I needed a challenge and some motivation! I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The group element was integral and it was great to feel like I wasn’t struggling to overcome my confidence issues on my own. The group support and feedback in the live sessions and in the WhatsApp group was kind but constructive and it was great to meet and experience how everyone has different challenges, and actually felt really positive to be able to help each other out – this personally gave me confidence that I could do some things that others struggled with!
Q: What is it really like being on a virtual programme as compared to other courses where you attend in-person sessions?
A: Even though you’re in a virtual setting with video link, you feel like you are very much with the other participants and coaches. Once you get over the first moments of joining the new group (like you would in any other setting) we were all made to feel very at ease. By the end of the programme, I would call every single one a friend and am now still in touch with them and know they will be there if I ever need to reach out in the future. I actually found the video sessions slightly less threatening than being in a room with people, as you could step back and assess things from a distance. You could also listen again to the recordings (which I did many times!) to remind me of what I learned, how I looked and the feedback I received.
Q: In terms of the practical aspects of the course, how much time did you need to devote to the course to practice and record presentations in between sessions?
A: After each 90 minute weekly session I factored in time to re-write my notes so that I could consolidate what I had just learned. I loved the worksheets which kept me on point and which acted as a good prompt and reminder of what we’d learned. In terms of practising and recording presentations, you can really spend as much or as little time as you like on this. I spent between 30 minutes and 2 hours on each one depending how busy I was that week – the more time you have to prepare and practice, the more you will get out of the experience. It surprised me how long it took to plan a 3 minute presentation which was, in itself, a big learning point for me!
Q: Women are notoriously known for not investing in their own career development in the same way as men do. How valuable did you find the programme and was it worth the investment in yourself?
A: This programme was invaluable. For me, in purely financial terms, if I hadn’t done it I would have wasted the £4,000 I had already invested in the other ‘train the trainer’ programme. Having failed the practical speaking element of the other course, I would also have lost my self-confidence and I really doubt that I would have passed it the second time around. If I hadn’t done it, I really feel like I would have gone into a negative spiral and who knows what that would have done for my health and well-being!
Q: What were your top 3 takeaways?
I loved the media interview – I thought ‘wow - I can do this now’! That wasn’t that hard. I actually found videoing myself doing a presentation harder than the media interview. I know now that if I ever get asked to do a media interview or even sell myself to potential clients or stakeholders, I will have practised getting my key points across and will feel far more comfortable and at ease.
The constructive feedback I received was done with kindness, from both the coaches and the other women.
Even though watching yourself back on screen can be embarrassing, seeing my pre-recorded videos during the weekly sessions really helped me to get over feeling self-conscious. I now know what my tics are and what to avoid doing in the future.
Q: What have you done as a result of the course?
A: I went back and passed the practical element of the ‘train the trainer’ course that I had previously failed. I really don’t think I would have achieved this had I not done this course. I would have been a nervous wreck. I managed to utilise the tools and techniques and it gave me confidence to know that I could do it.
Q: If someone is considering doing Speak Up but isn’t sure about how valuable it will be, what would your message to them be?
A: If you don’t do this course, you may never know what a great speaker you can really be. Having acquired a kit bag of tools that you can take with you wherever you go and the knowledge of the support network you have gained, gives you an additional layer of confidence. Imagine being able to easily get your message out in a way that will land with your audience and make them think and act differently as a result. Just go for it!