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Resham Kotecha on Magical Mornings: UnitePod- A Leading Podcast in MENA region

In this episode of Magical Mornings, we featured Resham Kotecha. Resham has over a decade of experience in policy and strategy, currently serving as the Head of Engagement for Women2Win, the Founder and Director of a Policy Network and has stood to be a member of Parliament twice. Resham runs her own public speaking training agency, Podium Perfect and has trained hundreds of political candidates, 30 former and current MPs – and has been flown overseas to train foreign politicians. She works with organisations including Citibank, Pfizer, Aetna and Bloomberg and has trained over 11,000 people in over 100 countries, helping them to build their confidence and develop their public speaking skills. Resham has written for publications and think tanks such as The Times, the Centre for Policy Studies and Huffington Post and is a Trustee for the Fawcett Society - the UK's leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women's rights. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Cambridge and has been recognised as a ‘Global Shaper’ by the World Economic Forum for political work in trying to achieve a more representative Parliament.

Here’s the interview of Resham Kotecha with UnitePod.

Q. You are a politician and public speaker and have launched your art of public speaking coaching. How did you start off your journey and continue to achieve success to this day?

Resham: Its quiet a long story about how I ended up in politics and doing public speaking. I read economics at University of Cambridge and I focused on development of economics. I loved international development policy. I focused on India and Africa. I just thought that was incredible and I wanted to work in policy. So, after I graduated, I spent a couple of year of working in financial sector. I just didn’t really like it and so I left. When I wasn’t working, I find out about organization of the Conservative Friends of International Development. I begged them to take me in but they dropped me saying that I was over qualified and it was only one day in a week. But I said that I was absolutely fine. It’s international development policy so it doesn’t matter. Just give me a chance. So, they did. The woman who had co-founded the organization was a woman called Anne Jenkin who is a member of House of Lords. She is absolutely amazing. She said to me that okay fine we would give you one day a week’s work at the International Development organization and why don’t you work for me for one day a week as my researcher for writing my speeches and helping me with my work and House of Lords and you can work in an organization called Women2win. Women2win is an organization which she co-founded in 2005 with Theresa May, the former prime minister here in the UK. They set it up because at that time only 9% of the conservative party MPs were women. It’s an organization which is designed to get women to stand for parliament which I loved as a feminist and thought it was fantastic. We have to have more equality in our parliament. So I started this work three days a week. One day for each. I loved working in parliament. Until that time, I never thought that I wanted to be an MP. I just thought that I wanted to work in policy. But working in parliament gave me an opportunity to see and understand how MPs work, what their role were and incredible changes they can make. As an MP, you can help one individual with a problem like housing, education and healthcare. You can change their life. At the same time you can be working on the national policy that’s going to change your country for better. There is no other job that I can think of where you get to do that. After about six months of working in parliament, I said to Anne that maybe one day I will be a MP and she said why one day, why not go for it now. And I just felt okay, well sure why not. I am young, I am 24 probably no one will choose me to stand for parliament but I may as well try. If she hasn’t pushed me and if it hasn’t been a lucky accident meeting her, I would have never stood for Parliament. I would have never considered it. It was not the career I thought about. I started applying to stand for conservative Party as a candidate. At the same time an MP said to me that I needed an Economic Adviser and why don’t you come and work for me. I said sure, it’s not like I get to keep Women2win because at that point, I was so connected and passionate about the idea of helping other women stand for the parliament. We started running training sessions for our candidates and one day our professional public speaking coach was unable to make it at the last minute. I stepped in and I wasn’t a professional coach but I had done a little bit of debating and won awards when I was younger. I stepped into training and got really good feedback. For the next year and a half, I would arrange to train more candidates and gather all the remedies; they would give about their experiences and I would give them speaking tips. I did that for a year and half and then lead out to the 2015 General Election. I trained over 100 candidates and since then I have worked with over 27 or 28 were current MPs which were super exciting to see. It was nice to play a very small part in helping them get through the process. A few years ago, an organization called Westminster Foundation for Democracy flew me to Macedonia to train politicians from six different countries. On a flight back, a friend of mine who is now an MP said that Resham this is mad. You love doing it and you are good at it. Why don’t you coach professionally and formally? So last year when lockdown started, I thought let me do some free public speaking training to help people because I know it’s very difficult and a lot of people struggle with it. I advertised the free webinar on Eventbrite and I had 3000 people signed in on my first one. I ran more because the demand was so big that I had to upgrade my Zoom License. I had 1000 people turning up and have tons of emails saying that I couldn’t get in. Over the course of 2020, I had over 33,000 people turning up which was how incredible the demand out there was for people getting help with that public speaking training. I think that is how this happened but I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the support and encouragement and mentoring of my family and all the amazing people in politics who have encouraged and supported me the whole way because it is a very difficult career path.

Q. You have come so far in your career. From standing for parliament twice to creating Podium Perfect business where people can get that extra coaching on public speaking. What else would you like to accomplish and how do you think you will go about it?

Resham: That’s very kind of you to say. I don’t feel like I have come very far. I feel that there is still a long way to reach my goals. In terms of politics, I stood in parliament twice. In 2015, I fought for it. Even though I couldn’t win but it was a great experience to learn everything. I spent time with the campaigns; raised 30,000 pounds, had Teresa May the former Prime Minister speak on a fundraiser on my behalf, have borrowed stuff and donated prizes to my campaign. It was so exciting and so wonderful. My friends and family all came to the country for my campaign. That was a great and an incredible experience. Then I fought in 2017 which was a very different experience because it was a very short campaign. The campaign was of six weeks. I was selected on a Saturday and I went straight into work next week. I quit my work and moved to Coventry. That did change my life. My fiancé, my parents came up every weekend and they stayed in Coventry for a week. My twin sister actually flew from Australia for a week to do campaigns for me which was incredible of her to do. Obviously, I didn’t win that either. Now we are going for the third time lucky. So that would be a big step in politics that I would want to win the next election and hopefully in a few years’ time I will be a part of the parliament here in UK. In terms of public speaking, I feel that it’s just so wonderful to hear from clients when they tell me that I helped them to get a presentation done, or get a job or to get through a public speaking event which they were very nervous about. In terms of that just building up more and more training programs and support more people because the thing people said they were scared of, holds you back in every element of your life, be it your private life or your career. You must be able to try new things and to speak to new people. In terms of what else to accomplish, I just got some new programs and I just opened something called Podium Perfect. It’s my way to giving back the help. I was very fortunate in my life to have the support of so many people. Podium perfect is me offering free public speaking training to all state schools here in UK. The idea is that there are so many brilliant students who don’t get taught about how to speak which hold them back from getting into university, holds them back in job interviews, hold them back to communicate confidently. That’s something which I am really excited about in the coming year. I hope to grow Podium Perfect. If you want any training, check it out.

Q. What tips can you give our listeners for public speaking up and interview skills as the biggest challenge people come out with is that they are nervous while speaking in public spaces?

Resham: I think what’s really important to people to know when they are nervous about public speaking is that it’s very common to be nervous. So, don’t feel alone. But often people let the fear of public speaking overwhelm them. I think it’s really important to get things into perspective. Instead of worrying about all the things which might get wrong spend a little bit of time thinking about what the worse thing can happen. If you forget what you are trying to say, you messed it up, are you really not getting a job ever, it’s not most likely that you will get fired, it’s not going to mess up the rest of your life. When you think that you messed up a meeting, chances are that other people on the meeting didn’t even notice. The first advice I would give is to get things into perspective. Secondly, deal with your adrenaline and your nerve in a healthy way. I like to go to bowing class before going to any big public speaking session, other people like to meditate. Workout is going to help you to feel calm. Make sure that you practice hard. That’s the third advice that you must practice. It’s like any other skill. The more you practice, the better you get. If you only read it in your head, you will not get the experience of delivering and speaking it. So that’s something really important.

Q. To the listeners who are tuned in listening to this podcast, what tips would you give them to be as accomplished in their career as you are?

Resham: You are being very kind to my ego. I definitely don’t think that I am accomplished in my career. But the tip that I can give based on my career so far is firstly, be open to take the risks. I have left jobs without having another job to go to. But obviously, I made sure that I am in a position where I can manage that. Don’t wait unnecessarily for something to be clear for you before you go for it. I have been a part of concepts of different international developments, Women2win. I didn’t know who Anne Jenkin was at the time when I applied but I just told myself that yes I can do it and if it didn’t work out, I can do something a bit more traditional, a bit more safe feeling. That was the best decision of my life. That was such a lucky coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time to hear about an opportunity that absolutely changed my entire career path and changed my life. I am so grateful for that. Another tip I would say is say yes to doing things, take on opportunities. When I started working for Women2win, and we had this public speaking coach coming in, I volunteered to arrange the sessions and be there. My thought was I should be learning from this professional coach even if that meant giving up several hours every week from my free time to do it. If it hadn’t been that experience, I wouldn’t have been in the right place at the right time to offer my public speaking. It wouldn’t take me far but I still had the opportunity to learn and to get that experience. I wouldn’t be in a position over the following years to actually set up my own public speaking agency. Say yes to things, take on experiences, volunteer as much as you can because you never know where that experience will come to help down the line. The more you can do the more you can say yes to, the better. My tip especially to women who very often feel pressure to say yes to things that don’t have value for us. Don’t volunteer if it’s just you doing work that’s not going to teach you anything new. Don’t get into that. But do think about the opportunity to learn new things or meet new people. Network as much as you can. Learn from people, meet people, connect with them, and be generous with your contact because by introducing other people, you are just widening other people network that might help to widening yours back. The more you network, the more you can find out about opportunities which you might not even know existed. These will be some of my tips on how to build your career. And finally, I think get a mentor. I have many different brilliant people mentoring me. I am willing to give that mentoring to others because even if you are technically more experienced than somebody, their own knowledge, their own value and network, so by passing that two way, you really grow and build yourself as a person and your career.

Q. What are the best resources that have helped you along your way?

Resham: The best resources that have helped along the way, I have to say, that a lot of my career choices seem overly challenging or I think that they were not necessarily the right thing at that time. It was really hard when I stood for election in 2015. It was incredibly challenging. People would spit at me when I would come out of my door, people swearing at me, people throwing things at me. The best resource for me has been the support of my family and friends. When I had a very difficult time at a public debate where I had people booing at me because of the party I was representing, having friends and family to pick me up was amazing. When I had organ surgery during the election, I had 35 friends who came out to support me because we had to get certain things done before the deadline. That was amazing. Have a good support network but remember that you develop a good support network by participating in support network, so you have to be generous with your support and then you get that support back. I think that’s the biggest thing that helped me go through things in my career. Other than that, curiosity is a great thing that helped me to want me to learn more and something that I would definitely recommend building a support network, so we can help each other to get through difficult times.

Q. What is your inspiration and what advice can you give our listeners for motivation?

Resham: My inspiration has generally been men and women, but especially women who are breaking through glass ceilings and have achieved incredible things in their careers and lives. Whether that’s people who are doing great things be it in politics and sitting in cabinet, people who are no longer with us. There is so much fight so that we can get equal representation, in business. Just looking at how far we have come in the last ten years is really inspiring and motivational for me. In terms of advice I give to other people, I would say, pick what matches to you. So feminist talk really inspires me. Pick what’s going to keep you motivated. Think about it on a good day and then when you have your next bad day, you have something that will help you get going. When you need motivation do what it takes. Like I said I like boxing class, equally I love music very loud, dancing and I love spending time with my family and friends. Do what you need do to give your brain a break. Take all the rest that you need and then get ready to get back on your horse and keep going. That is the best advice to stay motivated and make sure that you are doing something you love to do because when you are doing something you love, it stops feeling like work. I really love to work on policy. I love helping women standing up for themselves. I really love seeing people improving their public speaking which means that even if I am working on an evening, even if I am working on weekends, I really enjoy what I am doing. So, it makes me want to do it more.

Q. What would you like to accomplish in the near future?

Resham: I have already said a little bit about what I want to accomplish in the rest of my career. I would like to have Podium Perfect, my contribution to my community where I give public speaking session to students, to be successful. In the short term I would also like to grow my podium perfect business and I would like to help more women get ready for the next general election so that in next twenty years we see more brilliant women coming forward standing for Parliament.

Q. If you could step into my shoes, what would you have asked yourself that I didn’t?

Resham: If I could step into your shoes, what would I ask myself that you haven’t asked me is a great question because I would ask myself why women should come forward to stand for Parliament. You haven’t actually covered that yet. I think I would be perfectly honest with the good about it and the ugly because there are challenges. We know that women face more abuse on social media, more abuse in their lives. This is an incredible way to change your country for better. If you are the kind of person who is passionate about bringing change, you are passionate about improving your local schools, or changing disability policy or making it easy for people to setup businesses, every single aspects of our life is affected by politics. If you are passionate about that, then I think it is so valuable to step forward. You don’t have to be an MP. There are so many different ways that you can impact politics. You can be a local counselor, you can be a politician, and you can be a campaigner. You could work in policy development. There are so many different ways to improve policy making in your country wherever you are. I am speaking about British system but you know every country has its own way of being able to interact and influencing policy. My advice would be, find out how to do that. No matter what level or scale you want to that, whether it be a full-time career or just getting in to change and make a change for you local schools. I think that we as women actually have so much knowledge, so much to contribute, so much we to do to make a positive difference and often it’s considered to be something men do. If you would ask me, I think women have different life experience than men. Not better nor worse but different. It’s actually only by having diversity in politics and in parliament that we have the best and the strongest policy making. My advice to everybody would be step forward yourself. Think about other women you know and other brilliant people you know who might be able to come forward and ask them to stand instead.

Q. What message do you have for our listeners and where can they connect with you?

Resham: There are many different ways to be in touch with me. If you would like to speak about public speaking then please follow Podium Perfect on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn. I shall have a lot of resources on my account. If you want tips, you are very welcome to join. If you are following Podium Perfect you can also know about my future free webinars which will be coming up in the next few months. Definitely join that if you would like to improve. If you want to know more about politics, if you are interested in my work then am Resham Kotecha on all social media platform. It’s nice and easy, you just have to remember one name. There are lot of information about parliament, my policy work and my career in general. I would love to hear from you. If you are into learning a little bit more about politics, what I do in parliament and what I do in my public speaking training, I would love to hear from you. Thank you so much about the opportunity to tell people a little bit about my career so far.

Thank you for being our guest. It’s been a pleasure having you. And I hope you accomplish all the great challenges that you face in the near future. Thank you for the inspirational talk about your career. You have inspired everyone who has been listening. Thank you.

Resham: Thank you for inviting me. It’s been a pleasure and I hope you loved it.

That’s a wrap of another episode of Magical Mornings featuring Resham Kotecha who fights for women rights and equality. She encourages women to come forward and bring the change they want for them and their country themselves. She is an amazing public speaker and a personality who has many people with her work.

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