It has been a crazy week. An exhausting, beautiful, crazy week. My wonderful colleagues and I launched the findings of a four year study we have been conducting through the United Nations programme Partners for Prevention (that’s where I work) about men’s use of violence against women in Asia and the Pacific. The aim of the research was to understand what causes violence in order to prevent it.
The global media response was beyond our wildest expectations. It was one of the top stories of the news cycle and covered by every major news outlet in every continent (except Antarctica; I guess those emperor penguins weren’t that interested). At one point there was more than 300,000 people reading about the study on BBC online at the same time. And it was being broadcast on CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera, watched by millions worldwide. We were inundated with a deluge of interview requests from Poland to Brazil, South Africa to Cambodia and everywhere in between. Friends sent me front-page news articles in Swedish and Spanish. But this blog is not about the research or the response (see my Huff Post blog about the study if you’re interested), it is about what I personally learned during media interviews in the days surrounding the event.
Personally I enjoy public speaking, especially when it’s a topic I feel passionate about and know well. This may seem incongruous with my introverted nature, but I guess we are all a little bit contradictory. So I wasn’t really nervous but we had a key message to deliver and generally one doesn’t want to sound like an idiot. The material was sensitive and I wasn’t speaking only for myself, I was speaking on behalf of a major international organization with its own priorities and expectations.
Generally live interviews were the most heart pounding and butterfly inducing. You stand looking into a dark camera lens, hot lights melting your make-up, the previous segment crackling through an earpiece that isn’t quite as snugly in place as you’d like. And then you’re on! It feels like you are talking to yourself. Well, you are really, expect there are millions of people somewhere out there in the darkness watching you.
I felt reasonably well prepared. So I just tried to focus on my breath, not anticipate questions and stay in the moment. But the one thing that kept running through my mind was my bosses voice reminding me to ‘mention the UN’, so they received acknowledgement and visibility. I repeated the mantra to myself, however during the interviews the right moment often failed to present itself and the words seemed forced. Before I knew it the interviewer was saying ‘thanks for joining us’ and the ‘UN’ was still on the tip of my tongue not on the airwaves.
On day two I had my last live interview and it was on Australian ABC news. The likelihood of a UN bigwig from Bangkok or New York watching the evening news in Australia seemed remote. And I was too tired to force it. This time, I thought, I won’t worry about the UN quote. I will answer the questions in the most honest and meaningful way I can. I am not attached to the outcome, I said to myself. I am just going to speak from my heart. And I did.
It was the best interview I think I did all week. And most fascinating of all, I mentioned the UN multiple times. The words just flowed like a turquoise stream. I was a leaf floating on the surface, or maybe I was the water itself. I was perfectly present. I didn’t think about the words and then speak them, they just were. And when it finished I felt calm and content.
It was a hugely powerful lesson for me. Your authentic voice is always best. You cannot beat it. Not even with perfectly worded and memorized key messages and sound bites. They will never compare for you as a speaker or for the listener. So my humble lessons from this profound week are:
- Always speak from your most authentic place, whether it’s live on TV, chatting with your friends or talking to your children.
- Prepare well, but then let go. The rest will work itself out.
- Don’t be attached to the outcome and the best possible outcome is inevitable.
- Breathe and be here, now.