My Wake-up call to Public Speaking!

Karen O'Donnell

Karen O'Donnell

Communication Coach/Mentor/Speaker

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My Wake-up call to Public Speaking!

It was a glorious day on 4thAugust 2006 when I attended the maternity hospital with my husband to have my second child. Like any expectant parent, we were excited and so looking forward to meet our new baby.

Callum was born by caesarean section @ 2pm.   At 2:20pm whilst in the recovery ward I turned to my husband Fran and said ‘look after Callum’, I felt a chocking sensation, as the life drained from me, I gasped and stopped breathing.

The surreal scene before me was one of chaos, commotion and desperation as hospital staff spent over 20 minutes trying to revive me.

I was watching this chaos….

It was like I had a vantage point above the scene.  I looked on in disbelief – calm, though confused….. What was happening??  It was like everything was moving in slow motion. I could see Doctors trying to bring me back to life with 2 doses of adrenalin and CPR and finally they tried to shock my body with a defibrillator 3 times.  I could see my distraught husband Fran with his head in his hands…

While all this was going on, in my world, I was watching a screen play of my life… like every play, there is a theme, and this theme was ‘being invisible’.  All the scenes that played out where times when I chose to be quiet around adults as a child – swallow my words as a teenager and agree with others to avoid confrontation, as an adult.  It struck me that in many interactions in my life, I would hold back from being my true self in order to be accepted in some way or another.  Each time I did this, I could feel my own light dimming and now as I looked down at me on the hospital bed – my light was all but extinguished.

A choice presented itself, …. Be invisible, or STAND OUT & SPEAK UP !!!

The easy choice would have been to just fade and become invisible and I have to say, it was a tempting prospect.  However when I looked down and saw my husband Fran, and our new  born son Callum,  I realised I had to return for me and also for my family.

Meanwhile the hospital room had become quiet and a nurse approached my husband and said “she’s gone”.

When I chose to STAND OUT –  I returned to the hospital bed… the heart monitor announced my return with its beep …. Beep … beep  and with that a renewed flurry of activity ensued. After stabilisation,  I was later transferred to St. James’ Hospital to ICU.  It was discovered that I had suffered an amniotic fluid embolism.

For the first few days post ‘amniotic fluid embolism’ my memory was very poor and I had no speech.  It was a time of confusion, though I had one recurring thought…. You need to speak up.  Quickly followed by me thinking, how when I can’t talk!!  With an inner strength and a fierce determination, I focused on my recovery.  On day 2, I was mumbling and getting on my feet.  By that evening, to the shock of hospital staff, I had removed my canula and was free from all tubes and wires.  On day 3 I was reported to have had a miraculous recovery!

Although giving a poor prognosis of likely brain damage, I did make a full recovery.  After 3 days I was transferred back to the maternity hospital, to my son Callum.

Now that I had chosen to SPEAK UP  – I had some fears of my own to overcome, one of which was, Public Speaking!  In my formative years, speaking up was not encouraged, particularly in school. A particular memory of mine was when my teacher humiliated me in the classroom. If you were there, you would have seen her haul me up to the front of the class to speak.  My hands became all clammy, my stomach was doing somersaults and my throat because so dry… I stuttered and stumbled over the words and she laughed!  My inner dialogue reminded me of how much safer I would be from humiliation if I stayed quiet, if I was invisible. Now as an adult, I nervously joined a public speaking group and over time, I developed the confidence and learned the skills of presenting to an audience.  I  got immense satisfaction in coaching other people to overcome their fears and excel at speaking in public.

Working with people to overcome the various obstacles that life throws at us, has always appealed to me.  I was delighted to  qualify as a coach prior to my hospital experience.  When I got back to work, assisting clients took on a new meaning. Many clients have fears, challenges and inner dialogue that is not benefiting them.  I help clients speak their truth, to come out from behind their own shadows and to gain confidence in what they say, be it with family members, in a small group or on a larger stage.  I am passionate about making people understanding the psychology of what their audience is looking for.  To make those connections with whatever group you are speaking to and to always make it relevant.  To provide clients with the skillset to deliver with impact and also with confidence.

 

Karen O'Donnell, Communications Coach
Karen O'Donnell, Communications Coach

With a background in HR and experience over 20+ years, Karen has enjoyed working with a wide range of staff from diverse cultural backgrounds within national and international clients. Her avid interest in communication led her to Toastmasters where she received various awards including District Toastmaster of the year & Distinguished Toastmaster. Karen has developed and delivered several training programs in Communications and also Employee Engagement.

As an experienced Coach, Karen is passionate about the development of Emotional Intelligence. Corporations are seeing the positive impact it has on employees in the work environment. Assisting teams in becoming aware of actions and feelings and the impact they have on productivity is particularly effective. By enhancing team dynamics – teams can work towards meeting goals of the organisation in a mature and coordinated fashion.

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