#Upfront – a confidence course for women (Reviewed)

I first came across Lauren Currie in 2016 when I was feeling a bit lost. I had just closed my retail business, my dream that had not worked out as planned and was looking to the next opportunity. Dealing with failure is hard and exposes vulnerability, and in my case, in a fairly public way. My first encounter with Lauren is documented in an old blog post written at the time. We tried to get an in-person Upfront course going in Dundee a year or so later but unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the numbers to make it viable.

I continued to follow Lauren’s progress on social media and enjoy her blogs. An entrepreneur, yes, but with a mission. To do things better. Her content and attention were increasingly about the visibility of women on stages and panels, in board rooms and in public discourse. She absolutely walks the walk and started the Upfront movement. Allowing people to experience stages. Building public speaking skills. Ultimately, helping people, specifically women, find their confidence.

2020 has brought lots disruption and necessary innovations and I was delighted to see one of them was Lauren taking her Upfront course online. In some ways my confidence has improved since my teens. I don’t fear public speaking, I can contribute in meetings and I can advocate for myself. But it doesn’t feel comfortable and I know I can be much better. I don’t think I allow myself to fully explore my potential and I often pause from sharing or publishing what I really think. I worry far too much about others think about me.

I signed up for the six-week course. I took the four payment instalment option and for clarity, I paid full price and have not been given a discount or incentive to review or recommend this. (I can provide a link to get a discount, so ask me if you want it! It takes the course from around £385 to £308). I paid personally and did not approach my employer in this instance. I signed up before my son was back at nursery, knowing that we would be spending a week in hospital for planned surgery, that we would spend a week on holiday and with the commitments of work. I know there is never a good time to fit learning and development in – there is only making time.

There are 26 modules each with a video, actions and further reading and viewing. The topics are so fresh and relevant. The nature of confidence, why it’s important, growth mindset, visibility, speaking, writing, panels, intersectionality, race, audiences, empowering others. Lauren draws from her existing content but introduces brilliant speakers and writers, many are new to me. This was one of my favourite aspects of the course. There is also one weekly live hour where Lauren answers questions. There is also an online group for each cohort. After the six weeks course is finished you can retain access to the group and get the reading lists and actions. (Our cohort has a Facebook group but I am told that the next cohort’s group will be hosted on a platform called Circle.) You no longer have access to the 26 module videos when the course ends. If I am honest, knowing this access ran out made me actually complete them. I can now finish the extra reading and viewing in my own time and take my time to reflect while fully completing the actions.

Who does this course? Well, around 200 women from all around the world. Lauren’s network includes a lot of designers but women from all sectors and roles are welcome. I am also impressed that Lauren offers complimentary places to women who are unemployed or on maternity leave without probing questions. I found there are other women who work in the 3rd sector, some who have caring responsibilities and some other marketers. Many, but not all, are mothers and everyone who has contributed has been positive, helpful and empowering. There is only one rule… no apologising.

So what did I get out of it? First of all, knowing there are 200 other women out there who share the same insecurities, feelings and frustrations as mine is extremely uplifting. That they want to do better, serve communities and explore their potential gives me hope. I have access to a whole new canon of reading and ideas. I have new and specific skills to practice around public speaking. I have good advice about visibility and my writing. I have been given permission. The audacity: to use my voice. I have a new responsibility – to empower others. To be a role model for other women, to lower the ladders down for the girls desperate to join us on our platforms. It is extremely powerful and joyful.

Would I recommend it? Yes, absolutely. To every woman I know. In every job, or no job. Those speaking out once a year or twice per day. Those managing corporations or households. I would also suggest you make it available to your teams. I have recommended it to my own employers. If you do want to enrol, do it wholeheartedly. Try all the activities. Join in with the group. Ask questions. Say what you think.

Do you apologise too much?

Do you turn down opportunities to present your work?

Do other people often take the credit for your work?

Do you walk away from a conversation and think about all the things you should have said?

Do you avoid applying for promotion?

Do you avoid salary negotiations?

Do you think no one would be interested in what you say?

Do you start your communications with ‘you’ve probably already thought of this, but…’?

You are not born with confidence. You learn it. This course is for you.

What’s in it for me? Well, selfishly, another person to talk to about the content. But, no, my real reason is that our challenges are too great to have any talent unused. Each additional woman we have out there with the confidence to be their brilliant selves reduces the mediocrity we are currently faced with in our society and systems, with our law makers and our leaders. We need new ideas and innovators. We need more empathy. We need women to be where decisions are made.

If you have questions, you can get in touch with Lauren at lauren@laurencurrie.co or with me via the Contact page.

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