My experience of talking at DisruptHR

Richmond speaking

Richmond speaking at DisruptHR Edinburgh

Standing in a marked box, microphone in my left hand held close to my chest, screen to my right and just behind (meaning that I cannot see the current slide unless I turn), twenty loaded slides ready to roll automatically every 15 seconds, and a crowd of faces looking at me, is how this starts. These are the ‘rules’ of the game. It’s a very different approach to delivering a message to a group of people who work with people. They want something different, something to take away, something that disrupts how it is right now.

I was on a train coming back from a conference in Manchester with Jeff Weigh, the host of the Edinburgh DisruptHR events. Someone had dropped out leaving a speaker spot open. We looked at each other. Do you want to do it, he asked. Immediately I said I would.

Why? Because of the challenge of giving a punchy talk. I didn’t know at that point that the slides were to be out of my control. Five minutes I thought. No problem. Mini TED talk style.

The challenge extended when I discovered that the slides would automatically move onto the next after 15 seconds. Now that is interesting I thought. I’m used to speaking, but I have always been in command of the slides so that speeding up, pausing, jumping topics is within my power. Here the speaker is powerless. The button is pressed, ‘go’, and that’s it. You’re off…

Strangely, in the morning I received my daily email from Seth Godin entitled ‘Awkward memorisation’. He spoke about the importance of speaking from the heart, and being yourself. A timely thought provoker. One choice is to memorise the 5 minute talk and allow the slides to roll in the background. You can polish your act by rehearsing. That is one type of performance. A further choice is to ‘show up’ and know what you want to say and deliver it from the heart. This is going to be raw, show vulnerability, perhaps include a few mistakes, but undoubtedly it is you up there.

Last night there were 13 speakers covering a range of topics. Two halves were scheduled. My talk kicked off the second half, but just before I did, we played around with touch (a separate blog for this in the near future). Then it was straight into the talk. Go!

5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide. Pacing is tough. Sometimes you say what you want to say and it does not move on. Sometimes it moves on before you have finished. It’s vital to stay focused and keep delivering. Don’t get thrown or put off. Rapid fire. Stay in the box, keep the microphone up, engage. And then its done! In a flash.

View towards Edinburgh from The Pentland Hills this morning

Pleasingly the crowd were engaged and interested to listen and connect. There were some excellent conversations following the talks resulting in the exchange of details.

DisruptHR Edinburgh was a very positive experience. It was a challenge, a stretch and something different in terms of speaking skills. It’s about clearly delivering a message about what we can do to improve the world of work, and it seems that there is plenty we can action. Disrupt HR happens all over the UK and the globe, different people hosting the evenings.

Big thanks to Jeff for organising last night. I think that those 5 minutes will make a big impact upon my future speaking, which is undoubtedly a skill to hone.

What did I talk about?

There were four main messages:

  1. The size of the problem of pain in society: 20% of the UK population; 441bn Euros per year in Europe; 100 million Europeans; chronic pain is the No1 global health burden
  2. What is pain? A very brief look at the modern understanding of pain compared to the predominant way of thinking that is based on Descartes from 1633. This together with some of the common misconceptions about pain such as the experience being well related to injury or tissue damage.
  3. Do you know what pain is costing your business? How is pain affecting the people in your organisation: absenteeism, loss of productivity and engagement etc.
  4. Some ideas about what we CAN do to make a difference (see below)

Looking forward

Businesses may see the importance of understanding how chronic pain is affecting them. Equally how is the business impacting on the wellness of the people? It’s a two way street.

With 20% of the population suffering, its inevitable that there is an effect of chronic pain that pervades the workplace. The initial steps that can be taken include establishing whether such an issue exists and the scale. How many people are affected, how they are affected and what happens as a result? Next, a plan can be made to encourage and support that person, use their strengths, build their wellness and seek to create an upward spiral within the workplace (and other areas of their life).

Work can provide structure, meaning, purpose in addition to income, social connections and other ways to increase wellness, our greatest buffer to life’s ups and downs. Coaching, a mentor system, flexibility, and open communication can all help form a positive environment, which in itself can be transformative for the person. This is the opposite to what happens in many cases when there is a downward spiral, negative approaches, penalties, threat and isolation. All of these add to the stress and perpetuate the state of protect that the person is already in. This need not be the case.

It’s time for a change. We know that businesses are more successful when staff are engaged and valued. This approach can be extended to incorporate people suffering chronic pain, helping them to move on and improve their lives and in turn the health of the company.

And if you get the chance to speak at DisruptHR, go for it. From the heart. Show up.

For further information about tackling the problem of pain, please contact Richmond >> [email protected]


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