Most of the time, being #1 is Spectacular. Glorious. Prideful. Everyone wants to be a winner; #1, right? Not when your county is ranked #1 in the state for infant mortality rates. It’s a grim statistic our county is not proud of at all. However, the Infant Mortality Network is coordinating stakeholders including medical professionals, community members, parents, and mental health workers to change that fact. Since September is Infant Mortality Awareness Month, the network holds a summit in the community to promote awareness and help provide solutions to change the trajectory.
Back in the spring, our NICU director invited George and me to speak at the Infant Mortality summit kick-off event at the hospital, specifically sharing what actions we took during a high risk pregnancy to help the babies thrive. I consider myself to be an introvert, and I think most people who know me well would agree. My husband, children and career help me overcome some of my social anxieties, but I am arguably shy by nature. I knew speaking at this event this would mean conquering my fear of public speaking. There would be a large crowd filled with processionals who know far more than I do regarding prenatal care. But, because this cause is close to my heart I agreed without hesitation. Even though said professionals are the experts, I believe George and I were able to give a fresh perspective as parents.
In preparation for the big event, I wrote a blog post outlining points I wanted to share. The night prior to our presentation, George and I did a few practice runs to check timing and help with fluidity. It brought me back to my graduate school days when I was required to do 20-30 minute academic presentations, which were absolutely agonizing to me. An infamous professor intimidated me as he sat in the back of the room furiously tallying when students used filler words such as “like”, “um”, and “hmm”, and deducted points from their grade based on how many filler words were used. While I detested those presentations, Dr. Vitro taught me how to do a presentation, and do it well. I learned that filler words are unnecessary and instead I pause and make eye contact with various people in the audience, making sure to connect with different people in different places. For this presentation, I went back to what I learned in graduate school, and it worked. I felt as if the audience was engaged by what I had to say and it wasn’t dreadful after all. Also, I realized that speaking in public is not terribly challenging when you are talking about something you know well and are passionate about because the words simply flow. Even when I saw the crowd staring back at me waiting to hear the words spill out, I felt calmness about the situation.
What causes are close to your heart? Could you speak about them in public?