Imagine that moment when you revealed your deepest secret to someone for the first time. That thing that you hold so close to you, that only your most intimate friends and family know it; how it shapes you and the struggles you’ve had with it over the years. Were you scared? A little thrilled to have it out in the open finally?
Now picture doing that to almost 200 people who don’t know you, baring your soul as a public speech. That’s FuquaTalks. And it’s one of my proudest accomplishments at business school.
FuquaTalks is a space for individuals to model self-reflection that inspires discussion in the Fuqua community. It typically involves a 15-minute personal narrative told to any and all from Fuqua who want to attend, followed by Q&A. I was nominated by a close friend and classmate, as it fit well with two of my goals during my time in Durham: be more open and become a better public speaker. Be careful what you wish for.
The FuquaTalks committee members were extremely kind in helping me determine my topic, craft my message, and muddle through my initial drafts. I was one of four speakers selected for the Fall Term 2 iteration.
Then a sense of dread set in.
I was going to do this. I was going to speak to my classmates about this intensely personal topic, and I couldn’t undo it. There was a second surprise buried in the congratulatory email: I had only a week to prepare my 15-minute talk.
Preparation and the Talk Itself
For the entire week leading up to the Talk, I would wake with a sense of animal panic as my brain reminded me of my impending public revelation. I prepared for it feverishly. It took me two days just to get the wording right. I locked myself in a study room for three days straight to memorize the Talk, word-for-word.
The day before the Talk, my mind had discovered an anxiety-reducing mantra: “Maybe no one will come.” Then Dean Russ Morgan sent out a reminder email, and every person I encountered in the halls told me how excited they were to hear it.
I’d like to think I went to the talk itself, all of my preparation, chin held high, defiant of the fear resting in my gut. But the truth is, I had too much nervousness for that. I had only a week to prepare something I’ve wrestled with my entire life. I can’t do that. How do I do that? Can I do that?
Then I did it. I spoke about my relationship with my younger brother, and how viewing the world through his eyes gave me a renewed and more accepting perspective of myself. It came out the way I had practiced, and I thought I did it justice, considering all the constraints.
Two things surprised me about the entire experience.
First, I’m glad that by chance I spoke before the other participants. I would have been too focused on my own apprehension to listen to them. The other three speakers chosen were phenomenal. Their topics were moving, heartfelt and personal: motivations for coming to business school, traumas they had struggled with, faith. I teared up several times during their talks.
Second, I was surprised at how incredibly supportive the Fuqua community was afterward. I had strangers, both students and faculty, coming up to me weeks after my talk and thanking me for sharing my story. I was stunned to have divulged so much and to be so readily embraced by those around me. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced that at Fuqua, but it was certainly the most personally meaningful.
The entire experience served to reinforce not only a truth about the incredible community and support that I have as a student at Fuqua but also a capital “L” Life Lesson: The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll be rewarded. It felt like a hard-fought lesson to learn after all of the fear, practice, and exhaustion. But I’m not sure I would have even put myself out there and taken that risk had I not been in a place as challenging, as cooperative, and as accepting as Fuqua.