EnterpriseWOMEN success story: the uncomfortable force of public speaking

Warm stage spotlight shines in dark background

And here I am. I feel immobile, scrutinised, vulnerable, powerless, awkward and naked. My knees are trembling. My hands are sweating. My heart is pounding. My breath is shortening. My head is spinning. My core is shaking. I cannot focus and I fake smiling. 

What are they thinking? Where am I supposed to look? What am I supposed to do? Why am I even doing this? Do I look nervous? How’s my hair? My nose is itching. I cannot stand this anymore. 

It’s 10:00, 20 February 2020 – I am at Cambridge Judge Business School, experiencing the longest most embarrassing 20 seconds of my entire existence. 

If you have read this far, you are probably wondering: what is she talking about?  

Did she participate in a contemporary form of witch trials? You will be reassured; I am talking about an enlightening event I attended – EnterpriseWOMEN Centre Stage where the magic of captivating Judita Vivas was unleashed by physical theatre training.

I am a Product Manager working in the space and defence industry, so personally, public speaking is a regular workout. As a STEM ambassador, it is my vocation. As a gender activist and empowered woman, it is a must for me. As an Italian, I am very conscious that my hands and body gestures can often speak louder and more effective than words. In the session, Judita certainly succeeded in making me feel uncomfortable with silence in front of an audience as an initiation ritual to the daunting stillness of centre stage exposure. I absolutely loved it. Why? Because, it disrupts one very popular and erroneous belief: public speaking is intrinsically frightening.

The speaking part is the easiest – standing silently still in front of an audience is the big deal. You are there, under the spotlight. You feel every little movement, quirk and inch of your body is being observed, interpreted or examined and you have no control of the observers’ perception of yourself. 

You can control your breath, your voice, your tone, your movements, your intention and graciously blend them into your enchanting uniqueness – to deliver a powerful and heartfelt message. 

From a ‘hands talking game’, to storytelling in pairs and groups, to mindful feedback sessions – I am happy to learn that my body language is gentle like a dance. I am a positive storyteller and I own every word I say. This is a boost of confidence! I am honoured to receive the emotions, dreams, achievements, life missions and core values exuding from the stories of all the amazing wonder women attending the EnterpriseWOMEN event. 

During media training, Bridgid Nzekwu gave us a depiction of a male power pose. Men will rarely shy away from physical exposure whilst standing on a stage; yet women tend to close inwards. This is expressed in closed body language – crossing legs and arms – often subconsciously. 

A few days after the EnterpriseWOMEN workshop, I find myself accidentally crossing my legs during a Q&A session – what a mistake. It’ll never happen again – obviously! 

What do you do if you don’t know or want to say the answers? 

You use Bridging: 

Address – why you can’t/won’t elaborate on X? 

Bridge – I can’t say X, but I can tell you Y 

Communicate – spill the beans on the Y-topic you know well and can talk about. 

Bridgid sends us all home with the phrase: AMEN – Audience. Messages. Examples. Negatives. 

That is all you need to capture to successfully pitch your business and brand. 

In a nutshell – what is my main takeaway from EnterpriseWOMEN Centre Stage? 

Public Speaking is like meditation mixed with power flow yoga. Always breathe, engage your core, stay grounded, remain centred and focus on the relevant objective of your speech like you would focus your gaze during a balancing pose. Find comfort within the uncomfortable – aligning the movements of your body with the impactful content of your story. 

EnterpriseWOMEN is an outcome-driven and highly-focused programme tailored for early-stage women entrepreneurs who are starting or scaling their businesses. You can learn more about EnterpriseWOMEN upcoming events on the CJBS website >

Bianca Cefalo

Bianca Cefalo

Bianca Cefalo is a Space Systems Thermal Product Manager at Airbus Defense and Space working on disruptive thermal management solutions for Next Generation Telecommunication Spacecraft. She is a gender activist, STEM ambassador and public speaker.

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