"Being able to present in a convincing, engaging and inspiring manner is important for developing almost any career and is certainly important in health and safety. Speaking in front of a large audience has the bi-product of developing confidence too."
And this was exactly the opportunity being offered to six women by the Women in Health and Safety Committee at #SHExpo. Entries were sought to deliver a 3-minute soapbox piece in the Keynote Theatre on any health and safety related topic: something we felt passionate about and on which we wanted the audience to take action.
The need to tell "The Whole Story"
I had already been asked to tell my brother's story on the last of the 3-day event. But, the call for Soapbox Challenge entries came to mind a couple of days after I'd got over the exhaustion of the week of International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD). And I had a bee in my bonnet.
All too often around IWMD annually, I hear people refer to the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) annual fatality statistic when they are recounting the work-related death toll. The last reported year, this stood at 137 loved ones who left for work, never to return home.
But, my involvement with the Hazards Campaign and FACK has switched me on to The Whole Story, and that is what I desperately wanted to talk about.
So, even though I was in my pyjamas, make-up had been scraped off, hair was wild, and I was sporting a snotty beak, I committed my thoughts to a one minute video, and hit send.
Much to my surprise, I was one of the six women who were successful!
Presentation Skills Training with Maryam Pasha
In addition to presenting on day 2 of #SHExpo, the opportunity also included a 2-hour coaching session with the inspirational Maryam Pasha, Director and Curator at TedXLondon. With a background in psychology and human rights, she specialises in teaching people to tell stories in a compelling way.
Maryam challenged us to make people curious so they wanted to know more; to summarise our talk in one sentence; to set out how we wanted people to think, feel and act on hearing us; and to be clear on why people should care. She also wanted us to think about the stories we could tell in order to take people on a journey. No mean feat in a 3-minute window.
We could either take them on that journey using an elevator pitch with 4 elements:
1. Attention 2. Problem 3. Solution 4. You
Or the alternative was the inspiring pitch, with 3 elements:
1. Why - what is the motivation or vision 2. How - actions to realise the why, how the purpose can be fulfilled 3. What - the result you seek.
I'll leave you to watch the video to determine if I did the inspiring pitch justice.
Inspirational Women Share the Keynote Theatre Stage
The call for entries said a variety of topics would be chosen and so it proved.
- Rebecca Purchase set out why safety professionals need to act with integrity;
- I set out The Whole Story of work-related fatalities.
- Hollie Ridley explored the fact that too much emphasis is often placed on human error;
- Lisa Chambers discussed hazard and near miss reporting and the importance of improving feedback;
- Laura Aucott challenged the audience with the statement that women create their own glass ceiling; and
- Katy Tompkins spoke of the need to ask and explain the why in relation to rules.
Everyone spoke confidently and passionately about their topic, with none of the pre-event nerves evident once the stage had been taken. Thanks go to Laura's colleague who recorded all of the presentations which can be found on YouTube: Women in Health and Safety - soap box challenge - all 6 speeches
The SHExpo Director stated that this is a format they may look to repeat in future years with other groups, for example, young health and safety professionals, and we were all in agreement this would be a cracking idea.
The support we received via Maryam's coaching was one thing, but we also provided encouragement to one another in the lead up, and on the day itself. And so this initiative proved a brilliant one from the Women in Health and Safety Committee.
Women in Health and Safety
If you're not a member of the Women in Health and Safety Group on LinkedIn, you need to get yourself in there. They've already been incredibly active, running events the length and breadth of the UK, and activity levels seem set to increase further, with a new Committee unveiled at the Expo, headed up by Judith Grant of Mace.
Mentor and mentee opportunities were provided in a session that followed the Soapbox Challenge, which a couple of us became engaged in. More mentors are required though, so should you be interested in volunteering to take on such a role - be you male or female - please contact Heather Beach of The Healthy Work Company, outgoing Chair.
Each member of the Committee has pledged to host an event in the year ahead, so there will be plenty to keep us engaged.
Lessons Learned from this Opportunity
And so, for me, what are the two key lessons learned from this opportunity?
Press the damn button
First up it's to press the damn button. I joined the Content Marketing Academy at the start of the year having attended and been utterly inspired by the CMA Kick-Off event which was held at the start of 2018 in the city where my brother died.
I was gutted not to be able to make the CMA Live event held in my home city in June, but I was telling my brother's story north of London. I followed the event on social media though, and one of the speakers was Brian Fanzo who had the key message that when it came to video, people should stop over-thinking and should "press the damn button".
It worked for me in my entry to the Soapbox Challenge, and it's something I hope to do more of in the year ahead in order to educate and influence.
Continue Telling Compelling Stories...By Design
I also feel that Maryam Pasha's coaching session has given me fresh focus when putting together presentations. I've been developing presentations that struck a chord, but perhaps more by accident than design. Implementing the array of top tips we got can only help strengthen my delivery.
And I'd also be interested in
- any other resources you recommend for developing presentation skills;
- tools and techniques you use to positive effect; or
- examples of videos which you feel show a speaker at the top of their game.
Because, as this blog began..."Being able to present in a convincing, engaging and inspiring manner...is certainly important in health and safety", particularly when you want to inspire people to action.
And so, one last question: Are you now telling The Whole Story...?
Louise is a popular health and safety workplace speaker who, through telling her brother Michael's story, helps organisations reinforce their safety message. To find out more, view this short video.