Disrupting the Norm by Stepping out of your Comfort Zone

Disrupting the Norm by Stepping out of your Comfort Zone

Last August I was introduced via a friend to a new business contact. At the time I thought I was going to bag myself a free ticket to an HR event in Jersey… little did I know where that introduction was going to end!

I never actually made it to the event in Jersey, however, a month or so later, I found myself invited to be part of the Guernsey version of that same event. I initially thought I would just get involved in some organisational capacity, or as a sponsor for my work… I would never have thought that I was going to end up as one of the speakers.

The idea was floated, in what I thought was jest - surely no one would be interested in what I had to say?! However, after a long time (and I mean a long time) of procrastinating and some gentle encouragement I agreed to it, and that is when I thought, “Aaaarrggghhhh, what have I done?!”

The event was DisruptHR St Peter Port. DisruptHR is an information exchange designed to energise, inform and empower people in the HR field. It is an event where 14 speakers are allowed 5 minutes presentation time each, with slide rotations every 15 seconds.

My first hurdle to conquer was coming up with a topic which was not just your run of the mill, standard HR subject; it had to be ‘disruptive’. Everything I thought of, I thought everyone will know about that and I’ll just be teaching my peers how to suck eggs, so to speak.

I kept thinking, “Who would want to hear about that?” and “Is what I have to say ‘disruptive’ enough?” Again, a lot more procrastinating went on before the final subject was agreed.

This led me to think about why we procrastinate. Well, people often procrastinate because they are afraid of failing at the task that they need to complete. To add to my uncertainty, I also had a bad case of impostor syndrome kicking in, which I had never even heard of before experiencing it myself. Imposter syndrome occurs when you doubt your accomplishments and you fear being exposed as a ‘fraud’ amongst ‘the real deal’ peers, friends or colleagues. My brain kept suggesting that I wasn’t ‘qualified’ to take the stage and air my meaning amongst my peers.

On reflection, I put this all down to the fact that I was massively stepping out of my comfort zone. Whilst I am usually confident, comfortable and used to speaking in a business meeting set up or in small group general discussing set up, even leading yoga classes; I had not stood up and formally presented to a room of people including my professional peers since my school days (which is way too far back to remember now…!)

The crazy thing is, I knew deep down that I would be fine. I knew that as long as I prepared and practised, everything would be OK, but this did not stop the fear from creeping in. Also, in the back of my mind, I was generally worried I would end up totally messing it up on the night, falling over and totally embarrassing myself.

Having now gone through it, I appreciate these are all normal feelings which can empower you through the situation if managed correctly – well, that is the theory anyway.

Once the subject was sorted, the next task was to put what I was going to say down on paper, so I could start getting a feel for it. I was lucky to have some very good content to use as a starting point from my colleagues (thank you, Fiona!).

The content was in place, slides were coming together; all that was needed now was to keep running through it, making tweaks and practising. Those who know me well, know that I am an organised person and like to be well prepared for anything.

When the rehearsal day came, it was my first run through in front of actual people. Up until that moment I had either been practising in my head, to an empty room, or to my cat at home… cats aren’t judgey right, so they are the best audience!

I would like to tell you that when the rehearsal came, I could stand there without any notes and rally off what I was going to say in a calm manner. Of course, this was not the case; I held on tightly to my notes like some kind of security blanket, I spoke too quickly (although I am naturally a fast talker). However, what did work well was rehearsing in front of people and getting some good constructive feedback to work with.

And then of course, the DisruptHR event itself. The day arrived; this was when the fretting and worrying came in at a whole new level. This was now actually happening and there was no backing out… “Why, oh why did I sign up to this?!”, I kept thinking. I was not scheduled until the second half of the event, so I got to sit and enjoy the first lot of speakers. When the interval came, that was it - within the next hour it would over and done with. A quick couple of run-throughs during the interval, and it was time to line up with the other speakers; ready to take our allotted slot.

And then it came and went in a flash; I did only have 5 minutes to deliver my talk after all, so what was all that stressing about? I managed to not mess anything up, I didn’t fall over or embarrass myself or my company. I am not going to lie - once I was back off stage, hiding in the back of the auditorium, I was somewhat delighted to have got it over and done with successfully!

I have to say though, I would not have survived this without the support of my colleagues, my friends, and my family at home. I would like to thank the other speakers, who on the night not only all had to go through the same thing in their own way, but were also all extremely supportive and encouraging of those of us having our first go at public speaking (I wasn’t the only person doing this for the first time!), and also a big thank you to the DisruptHR organisers for the marvellous opportunity.

If you are interested in what I talked about, do not fret; the whole thing was filmed and it will be available on the DisruptHR site very shortly.

So… was stepping out of my comfort zone worth it? Now, I can say totally yes! Not only did it challenge me, but I also learnt a lot about myself. I know I will continue to procrastinate over stuff and I am sure there will be a time when imposter syndrome kicks in again, but I now have this experience to look back on and remember that it actually turned out OK in the end.

And today, here I am with one speaking event under my belt and another lined up for later this year… take that, Comfort Zone, and watch this space!

#disrupthr #stepoutofyourcomfortzone #challengeyourself #guernseylife #workinguernsey #leapfrogjobs #humanresouces #outsourcehr #outsourcepayroll