My first year speaking at Congress

Last year I stood up to speak about the European Referendum at the RCN Congress but it was too late. Due to the large number of speakers and the time allocated for the debate, Stuart Mackenzie had to close the queue and ask members to return to their sits. And so I did. Sue Woodward, Chair of the Neuroscience Forum and with whom I was sitting next to told me “If you want to speak you need to have your speech prepared and you have to go for it as soon as the queues open”. These words stuck with me and I made sure I had learned my lesson.

Sunday, while on the train to Liverpool and 20 minutes before my arrival I looked up the debates for that afternoon. Education and development was a matter for discussion and so I prepared my speech. I had less than 1 hour to find my hotel, check in, reach the conference arena and register (as my RCN pack hadn’t arrive on time) before the start of the debate.

After arriving at the main hall and sitting down just as the debate was starting, I found myself standing up again when the queues opened. I have to say that for a split of a second I considered not doing it but how could I forget Sue’s words the year before “just go for it”? I stood in the queue waiting to be called with my sympathetic nervous system activated. Breathing exercises were definitely not helping so I decided a different approach: imagine them naked! When I was called to the stage, it was not only the most agonising and long walk (actually it’s just 5 seconds) I have ever done but also the most funny because in my mind all I was thinking was “imagine them naked!”.

Ismalia de Sousa, Neuroscience Forum, EU trained nurse, 1st time speaking“. While the audience applauded a first time speaker and I was indeed imagining everyone naked, there was no walking away so I had to carry on. At the end, it felt great to hear the audience applauding and the feedback I had over the next couple of days with my first speech and my letter to Mrs May. So for those who have never been up in that stage but would like to or want to I have a three pieces of advice:

  1. Find something you are passionate about 
  2. Prepare your speech (whether it’s written in paper or in your mind)
  3. Go for it without hesitation and… naked-audience

P.S.: I apologise to those who did not know that Portugal won the Eurovision song contest up until Sunday!

 © Ismalia de Sousa, 2017

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