Category Archives: Professional Development

Conquering My Fear of Public Speaking

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Presentation for graduate students on digital reputation at the Beyond Academic conference at UCSB. [photo courtesy of Don Lubach]

Do you have a fear of public speaking? Do you get anxious and nervous days and even weeks before you’re to speak? I certainly was for most of my life. When I was in elementary school, I pretended to be sick during the days of oral book reports. Throughout high school I dreaded speaking in front of the class and one of the most painful three months or so of my life was when I was informed I had to speak at our graduation ceremony in front of a couple of thousands of people because I was the class Salutatorian. The prospect of doing the speech terrified me. Instead of enjoying the graduation ceremony and the months leading up to it, I was very anxious. In college, I had similar experiences. I still remember one particular year how terrified I was days leading up to when I had to speak in front of about 800 or so people at our campus, in front of parents and friends, at our annual show for the Filipino-American student organization.

Throughout my professional career, I felt hampered by my fear of public speaking until I decided to make a conscious effort to finally conquer it about three years ago. I felt as I had some good perspectives/ideas to share but I did not have the confidence to share them. Using the steps I share below, I’ve been able to enjoy public speaking and I now look forward to them. In the last four years, I have spoken and presented in several public settings on my campus and even at a couple of professional conferences. I always dreamed of being a “keynote speaker” or doing a webinar but I never thought I would have the opportunity because of my fear. I honestly would not have imagined being able to speak comfortably in front of many people but by conquering my fear of public speaking, I have been able to realize some dreams, present with colleagues I respect, and meet new folks and develop relationships with them.

Here are some of what I did which hopefully could help you too:

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Guest presenter at a marketing course when my I couldn’t use my PowerPoint slides. It became an even better session as it became a dialogue/conversation with the class.

1) Think about the root(s) of your fear and how to overcome them. When I finally started to deeply think about what made me nervous about public speaking through the years, it always came back to the idea that as one whose first language is Ilokano (a Filipino dialect), I was scared of being made fun of because I may “FOB” (fresh off the boat) accent. I was eleven when I immigrated to the US with my family, and I remember being made fun of by other kids because of how I spoke. That impacted me psychologically and it contributed to the anxiety I felt before I spoke in public. The other fear that I had was that when I’m nervous, I had (and still do)  the tendency to speak very fast. So, the possibility of “Fobbing” and speaking really fast, especially the first couple of sentences of my speech, really terrified me. However, as I thought about my past speeches, it dawned on me that once I started speaking, I was actually okay! Once I got going, I felt comfortable. it was the first couple of sentences that really scared me. Given this knowledge, I purposely practice my introductory statements to be really slow and deliberate because I realized that if I could get through my first couple of sentences fine, I’m good with the rest of the speech or even a whole hour or two workshop. This step has saved me from days and even weeks of anxiety.

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Panelist on student affairs career development at our campus.

2) Get experience public speaking. I really made it a point to seek out opportunities to speak. When asked to do workshops on mobile, social media, and web development or about my personal experiences as a first generation minority student, I accepted them even as terrified as I was. These are areas I have expertise and comfortable talking about so the content was not a problem for me. The more I spoke about these topics, the easier the experience became for me. What really helped in my initial effort to conquer my fear is that I asked a couple of my colleagues who are very good public speakers to join me for my workshops. By doing that, I felt less vulnerable and I gained the experience in the process. They became my crutches until I was ready to do events on my own. The more I spoke, the more comfortable I became.

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Keynote speaker for an outreach program for Filipino-American high school students.

3) Develop a niche area (or areas) you can feel comfortable speaking and understand your natural style. As mentioned above, there are topics I feel comfortable talking about and the more I had the opportunity speak about them, the better I got in my presentation styles, delivery, and content. I look back at my first few PowerPoint presentations and I cringe at the amount of text I had per slide! I was using the slides as my crutches because I did not feel comfortable talking without reading what’s on the slides. Nowadays, I’ve come to rely more on the slides to augment/enhance my points through visuals and short text snippets. The slides are now intended for the audience rather than for me. There was actually one time when I was a guest speaker for a marketing course and I had my PowerPoint presentation ready but because the instructor could not login to the computer, I spoke for about an hour without slides. It was actually one of my best presentations because it was conversational and free-flowing. With regards to style, I came to realize that I felt most comfortable and effective when I walked around and not behind a podium. I feel most comfortable when I felt as if the presentation was a conversation and not a monologue. I’ve developed a cadence in how I speak and how I move around when speaking. Engaging with the audience has become one of my habits when speaking.

There are additional steps I’ve learned along the process of conquering public speaking, but three advice above have been the most helpful for me. Try them out and go share your ideas to the world!

 

My Professional Reading List 2015

thumbAnother year of professional growth and learning. As a significant of my time went to my MBA (IT Mgmt Specialization) course work in 2015, I was not able to devote as many hours to reading about other topics I enjoy such as higher education and student affairs. Nevertheless, I still managed to enjoy reading the books below. As it was with my professional reading lists of 2013  and in 2014, the majority of the books below are kindle books I read through my iphone and ipad. The beauty of mobile learning. Please feel free to ask me for any recommendations.

Business & Productivity

Change and Innovation

Higher Education / Student Affairs

Information Technology

Management/Leadership

Technology

 

 

My Knowledge System – A Visual Diagram

Learning is fun, isn’t it? It should be. One can learn from anyone, anywhere, and in many ways. Technology has made it so much easier to learn and connect with folks around the world. Through technology with the combination of web, mobile, cloud, social media, and other communication tools, one can pursue self-directed learning. One must also be curious, have a growth mentality, and be committed to improving oneself. Earlier today, I was thinking all the different ways I’ve used to learn about student affairs, technology, and about personal development. I used a mobile app called Mindly to do a visual diagram of the sources and activities I’ve done in recent years for formal and informal learning. The diagram is as you see below. Click on the image to view a bigger version of the diagram. If you’re to map yours knowledge system, what would it look like?

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Cohort-Based IT Leadership/Management Program for Higher Ed

This post contains some of the ideas I will be proposing to our HR department as an officially endorsed training program to address two issues I see present on our campus IT community. These two issues are 1) lack of a cohesive community among the different IT units (and leadership), and 2) needed training on IT leadership and management knowledge and skills. As it is, our campus has a decentralized IT environment and there are minimal opportunities for planning and communication among the IT leadership themselves as well as between the IT leaders and the campus business leaders. As for community building, there aren’t too many opportunities for IT folks to get to know each other as there are only two campus-wide IT events: once-a-year holiday party and a summer beach party. With regards to training, it’s very common for technically adept staff to be placed into management positions without management and leadership training. It is not really a surprise when these staff struggle in their new roles. Even with previous management experience, the campus bureaucracy can be daunting and confusing for those new to the campus.

The idea behind  a cohort-based program is to promote community building among the participants, a selected group of campus IT managers with varying degrees of experience and levels of positions.  The community-building process happens as they complete a set of  training curriculum on areas related to IT leadership/management. In addition, a mentorship component could also be part of the program that pairs up more experienced with new IT managers and/or IT managers with senior campus executives.

Personally, I’ve experienced the benefits of a cohort-based and mentorship program through my participation in our Division of Student Affairs’ Management Development Group (for mid-level SA managers), a campus-wide program called GauchoU, and through a new professionals program within the Division of Student Affairs called Foundations.

I envision the curriculum to be a mix of formal training and monthly discussions on IT leadership/management topics.  A schedule could be something like this:

* Two day institute that could include the following topics:

  • Introduction to campus organizational structure and politics
  • Budgeting
  • Introduction to HR processes (hiring, on-boarding, performance-evaluations, etc)
  • Policies (Security, PCI, FERPA, HIPAA, etc)

* Monthly sessions (discussions/training) that could include, but not limited to the following:

  • IT Project Management
  • Employee Engagement
  • Technology Trends (security, cloud, infrastructure, etc)
  • Career Development
  • Leadership/Communication Styles
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Change Management

Beyond community building and leadership/management training is the benefit of cheaper cost of training for the campus. By bringing trainers and having the training done on campus to a pool of participants the campus can save a significant amount of money spent on travel and accommodations.

Would you have a campus-wide IT leadership/management training program on your campus? Anything you’d add to the curriculum?

 

Six Ways to Build Confidence In the Workplace

I believe that as a manager/leader, one of our most important responsibilities is to build leaders and to build productive colleagues by providing them the environment to think for themselves and grow. The confidence to pursue ideas and actions beyond their comfort zones is a big part of this process towards leadership and towards our co-workers’ ability to do their job as well. I also believe having an environment where a person can confidently do their jobs is part of having an engaged staff. Engagement to me means a staff feels maximum personal satisfaction with the work they do and secondly, they are also contributing to organization to the best of their willingness and ability. From experience, here are some ways we can build the confidence of others:

  1. Communicate goals clearly but leave room for staff to find ways to accomplish them. Basically, do not micro-manage, especially when working with talented and creative folks. Unless we work in an environment where it doesn’t require much thinking, providing our co-workers room to explore ideas and come up with their own ways to accomplishing goals you’ve given them is the way to go. However, those goals and expectations must be clearly communicated to save those assigned with the tasks from having to spend emotional energy and wasted time and effort.
  2. Allow room for “failure” as it’s part of the learning/growth process. The world is changing rapidly and we encounter new experiences/ideas everyday and we may not necessarily know how to always respond to them in the right ways. Personally, the biggest moments of growth I’ve experienced have been through my mistakes. These mistakes encouraged me to re-evaluate my approach and certainly, these mistakes helped me improve the quality of my work. Luckily, I had bosses in the past who understood that making mistakes is all part of the learning process and so while they helped me understand how to eliminate those mistakes, they also did not admonish me to a point I stopped trying new ideas. Don’t rob your co-workers with these opportunities to grow by not allowing them to make mistakes.
  3. Set higher expectations and standards beyond their comfort zones and abilities. This requires that you are intimately familiar with your co-workers’ skills, knowledge, and interests. Understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses and challenge them to further utilize their strengths and improve their weaknesses. You may encounter some resistance as this will require more work from them and they may not understand why you are challenging them, but growth isn’t always comfortable.
  4. Praise in public and criticize in private. How demoralizing is it to have your ideas interrupted by your boss in public settings because he/she just happens to believe their ways are better and do it in a way you look incompetent. There are situations when a manager does need to intervene because the information is incorrect. But even then, there’s a diplomatic method to pointing out the error and/or to suggest different ideas. This point relates to point 1 above in that as leaders.managers, we need to be clear about our expectations and goals. If our colleagues don’t understand what they are, they may share their own ideas that are contrary to what we have in mind. In these cases of confusion, it’s best to speak with your colleagues behind closed doors and clarify your expectations as well as to understand their perspectives so you are both on the same page. As I wrote on this blog post, as a manager, your words matter. You can use them to “praise or curse” your colleagues.
  5. Lead via influence, not command and control. Treat your colleagues as human beings and not machines or resources. Build relationships with them so they feel they matter. While ordering your colleagues to perform tasks may yield short-term results, the command and control approach can result in a work force that will not go above and beyond what is expected of them. This type of approach could also lead to unhappy employees and worse, lead to emotional and physical ailments. However, by leading through influence, you can build a work environment that is more positive and more sustainable in the long run. You have a workforce that will go above and beyond what is asked from them because they feel a sense of autonomy, growth, and a sense that they are respected.
  6. Model confidence. As a leader/manager, your co-workers watch your actions and your words. You play the role of the victim/complainer and soon, they will adapt your attitudes and behaviors. Work is not always ideal and we are all presented with challenges from time to time. While I’m not suggesting that we always look and feel invincible, it is important that we display the attitude of solution seekers and optimism, even in the lowest moments.

What other methods have you used to build the confidence of your colleagues?