Although she had not given it much thought, her good grades and her cousin’s influence swayed her to study medicine.
Marea Gaenamong would become part of the first cohort to graduates from the University of Botswana School of medicine.
Excited to venture into the world of work and do her bit in contributing positively to the society, Gaenamong joined the public sector serving at Princess Marina Hospital.
“It was such an eye opener and a great training ground.”
Although technically gifted like most doctors, Gaenamong had to confront her fear of public speaking to be more effective.
“As a doctor, a lot of my daily work involves listening to patients as they describe their aches, pains and concerns. One also has to give their colleagues an ear as we consider interventions and in addition listening to other healthcare professionals such as medical technicians as they escalate issues to my attention is all in a day’s work hence it would seem that in my line of work, there is very little need for public speaking”.
This, however, couldn’t be further from the truth as she got to find out. “To be effective extends to also being able to express oneself concisely,” Gaenamong states.
Faced with the challenge of being soft spoken, the petite young woman felt the need to take charge and explore platforms that would aid her to cultivate her speaking abilities.
“In many instances, when I was presented an opportunity to contribute my thoughts or ideas by speaking up where a group of people would be listening, I refrained and coiled into silence. It was frustrating as I wished I could be more expressive”.
To overcome that shortcoming, Gaenamong did some digging and uncovered clubs geared at her interests.
“I decided to get out of my comfort zone and face my fear of public speaking. Initially, the very thought made me panic. But I was determined to succeed.”
Gaenamong became involved with organisations such as Global Shapers Gaborone Hub and Toastmasters.
“The clubs provided a supportive environment that I needed to overcome my fears. The chance to become a member of smaller cells of the local clubs was more appealing since I am quiet, shy and reserved.”
Taking on the challenge to develop her public speaking skills would turn out to be quite a stretch.
“When I delivered my first speech at Gaborone Toastmasters, my nerves were sky high. I instantly regretted coming forward to speak and I avoided connecting with the audience but had to endure speaking for the allotted time. It was really a fish out of water experience,” she says, laughing, as her she recalls the moment.
However, Gaenamong quickly regained composure. “To my surprise, I was given a round of applause as per Toastmaster tradition of encouraging and supporting speakers. Furthermore, I appreciated the immediate feedback.”
As part of the meetings, speakers are afforded a feedback session by evaluators.
They share the speaker’s strong points and highlight areas that need attention.
This enables the speaker to reflect on their delivery and make necessary improvements for better delivery on their next speaking assignment.
It also benefits others as they, too, learn from the experience.
Gaenamong gushes about her journey and is quick to encourage others to take a leaf from her book.
“The lessons gained have not only been suited to my work as I have learnt to appreciate the importance of public speaking skills even more. My speaking engagements have extended beyond work. Last year, I delivered talks/speeches several times in South Africa, expanding my experience and horizons further,” she says.
Reflectively, she adds, “I realised quickly that being technically competent is not enough in the modern world of work. Soft skills, particularly public speaking skills, are important if you want to ‘level up and succeed whether professionally or socially.”
To illustrate her point, Gaenamong says, “Imagine being called for an interview, and as you wait in the reception area among other equally qualified candidates, you wonder what will set you apart. What it might boil down to is the impact of your communication skills. Will you manage to express yourself fully and communicate the value you can bring to that organisation?”
Encouraging others to explore public speaking by taking advantage of the resources available to them to cultivate the skill, the young medic further says, “Public speaking is not just restricted to “official” occasions. At some point, all of us are faced with the obligation to address an audience whether it is at a funeral or at a family gathering, our daily lives dictate that at some point we speak in front of people and the question is would you be prepared?”
She serves as the President of Gaborone Toastmasters and additionally provides support to the Mahikeng Toastmasters in South Africa.
“I get to not only provide strategic guidance but get to aid others in achieving their goals. What could be a better way for one to live their life than this?” she asks.