I love public speaking. People who know me think that I am a natural. That I have a personal charm that is easy to transfer. I can easily walk into any audience, be it a lecture hall, a business meeting or an international conference setting. It only takes me 30 minutes max to decide what I want to communicate. I grab an A4 piece of paper and fold it in half, and then I scribble my storyline. Nothing sophisticated. Bulled-points, to a maximum of five. That is it. I am ready then to walk in anywhere.
But, let’s be real, it was not always this easy. I have been a coach for a number of students who have been national public speaking champions, who overcame they fear to speak in public. Some of them are now living abroad having become spokespersons.
So, this is my little story:
I was 11 years old when I decided that I had to stand up and make personal statements. I was a winner in the Sixth Grade National Academic Olympics, 1993-1994 (each year, around 2million students participate), and a recipient of the State Medal ‘Francisco Figueroa Mata’, which acknowledges outstanding childhood academic trajectory, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico. That was an academic achievement, which deserves another blog entry itself. As winners, the best 20 students of the state were invited to meet the governor, the ministry of education, and then to represent the state and join the national talents, hanging out with the smartest kids in the country for a week and meeting the President of Mexico and State Ministries. It was pretty amazing. Especially for a country-side 11 years old, coming from a public elementary school in the south of Mexico. Well, I spoke on behalf of the group, in front of the governor. I was so nervous that I thought I would faint! No, I did not (phew!).
Years later, in an interview for the Book of Outstanding Women in the History of the State, I referred to that moment like this:
‘Women and men in history often speak about break-through, life-changing moments. That day, was my moment. I discovered that being an academic was good but that in order to be heard and represent people to reach bigger audiences, I needed to leave my books and stand up. I could never describe the intensity of the moment. The emotion, the fear, the nerves. I went back home and grabbed the full collection of Ignacio Altamirano books and stayed home for the summer, reading. A guy from my same town, who became known as an Academic, an Orator, a Poetry writer and teller, a Diplomat making history in Europe… wow, I thought, imagine…”
Anyway, after meeting the people who were in charge of the state, I came back home with a renewed interest. I wanted to be a speaker.
I was determined. I spent every single day after classes during secondary school training. I was lucky enough that I had a really good mentor, my dad, and my secondary school teacher, Natividad Perez. Dad is an Oratory champion. I have memories of my childhood sitting in the living room as an audience to him and his students’ rehearsals.
With my father, I used to sit and learn to write speeches “for fun”, memorise them, read them out loud, trying to decide the right voice tones to use. I have a full body mirror in my bedroom back home, which served to monitor my facial and body language expressions. I used to rehearse with my father on the rooftop and everybody in the neighbourhood could hear me… Come on, as a teenager, this was not funny! it was though! Think about it, while others were trying to fit in, and hang out with other kids, I was there, with my dad, rehearsing a-zero-girly voice that was my signature voice for the years to come.
With my teacher Naty, I used to rehearse Poetry Recitation, again, spending hours and hours after secondary school. I adore Poetry. I rehearsed body language, face gestures, voices to communicate different emotions. I used to practice non-stop.
While in high school, I had to travel 1 hour every day to get there, and back. I had a mentor, a friend of my father, an international champion, to whom I use to go everyday before school. He trained me during two years in Political Debate, a more elegant approach to Political Negotiation, and perfected my technique in the art of Oratory – not that is perfect at all! Then, I had to run, grab a sandwich in the naturist shop in front and catch up the public transport (combi) to head to CBTis 134 (my technical high school).
That was me, a mix between the elegance and authority image of an Orator and the delicate emotional touch of communicating feelings via Poetry Recitation.
When I was 16 years old I had already accomplished more than 30 national, state and regional awards in public speaking, and more than 15 awards in Written Short Story, Poetry Writing and Poetry Recitation. This all led to my breakthrough moment (post to come).
When I was 17, I was a proud recipient of the State Civil Merit Medal for outstanding youth life trajectory. I have been a valedictorian when graduating in all my educational levels. This skill opened doors for me, and led me to my first job and passion, politics, by the age 16. The rest is history – and can be seen in the Encyclopaedia of Guerrero, Mexico. Since then, I have spoken in events gathering from 2 to 5000 people for first line politicians, social leaders, congressmen and government leaders, including the Presidents of Mexico. I have been a speaker at national and international industry and academic events in the USA, in Europe, in the Middle East, in a number of countries and universities, and I never stop thinking about that 11 years old girl, from Tixtla, Guerrero, a 4 million state, one of the most dangerous and with the highest rankings of extreme poverty in Latin America… I made it through.