I’m really excited to be doing a lot of public speaking this month. The last time I did a “proper” talk was back in April at the Inspire Women in Tech Nottingham conference. By proper talk, I mean at a meet-up or conference. I have since then, I’ve given presentations at interviews, work, University and beyond – I still consider these as talks, of course, because they have all given me the steps to be a better speaker… even if they are the smallest steps.
Late last month, I realized that it has been a whole year since I did my first solo talk at Sheffield Ruby User Group. I wanted to write this entry to celebrate this milestone! It was after that talk, that truly taught me that staying in the comfort zone provides no real growth benefit.
I’m still very proud of myself for doing that talk because it led to so many incredible ones after it…
- Sheffield Public School of Health – where I spoke to scientists and researchers alike about the benefits of communicating for impact through blogs and social media. It was terrifying talking in front of such knowledgeable people, but I’m glad that I did it!
- GitHub Field Day – where I was the keynote! Looking back at this, I learned so much about how self-talk which we will get into later…
- Code First: Girls Northern Conference – where I had the chance to talk about blogging and coding to my
- Inspire Women in Tech – where a little girl had come up to me after and said that she wanted to be like me when she grows up. Whenever I get bad imposter syndrome, I look back at this conference talk for motivation.
My advice from learning along the way
1. Being prepared is so important.
For me, it has helped ease my anxiety of going up on stage because I know what I have practiced! Knowing your stuff is always better than being ill-prepared, not knowing your stuff and it being very obvious to other people. Try practicing to multiple people before you deliver your talk!
2. Be kind to yourself before, during and after.
Have you heard how you talk to yourself?
When someone first said this to me, I have since made sure that I am mindful of how I speak to myself. Because I have caught myself saying some horrible things about myself.
We should always be our biggest fan and best friend (which means being real as well) I noticed that when I spoke to myself nicer before my talk, “Who are you? You’re Pawlean.” “You’re amazing with a brain full of knowledge and immense value to give.” I gave my best performance because my self-confidence takes over fear and doubt.
So instead of talking yourself down and dooming yourself before you even get on stage, try being your biggest hype woman. It works, it’s my magic power. This applies to after the talk as well when you’re reflecting – focus on the things that went well and think of the “not gone wells” as a learning opportunity because it ALWAYS is.
3. Accept that some people will be on their phones.
This used to throw me off – there have been some talks where I have had to stop mid-sentence because my panic would kick in as soon as I saw people pull out their phones.
After being more aware of my own habits, I realized (and have accepted) that some people will take out their phones either tweet what you’re talking about (this is a given) or just to browse on their feeds because that’s what the majority of people do…
OK, your talk might be boring to some, but hey, focus on the talk and always assume they are tweeting. That has helped me so much!
4. Always have one person in the audience that you know will always support you (even if you mess up!)
Remember about being your own hype woman?
Bring another one with you in the audience so that if your own hype woman (i.e. yourself) fails, you have someone to cheer you on on the other side.
5. Find out what style works for you.
During my first talk, I was glued to one side of the screen where my presentation was, all the nervous energy I had was under my feet and I felt like I was going to collapse. Sitting down whilst giving a presentation is also a no for me (panel talks are fine but a full blown presentations sat down is no no no!)
What I learned worked for me was moving around, I enjoyed myself SO much more (it started feeling more and more like a HIIT workout haha, which is my specialty) Your comfort above all else.
6. Care so much, but also don’t care THAT much.
It’s a balance, isn’t it? Caring so much allows you to prep and perform better. But also be mindful that at the end of the day, it’s just x minutes of your life so if you make a few mistakes that’s OK too. Trust me there will be other chances to do better – laugh it off and learn!
7. Ask for feedback afterwards.
This is probably the most important one, make sure that after your talk, you follow up with the audience with constructive feedback.
Each and every talk is a learning opportunity to keep getting better! What I’ve done in the past is film myself as I’m doing my talk (set up a tripod with a camera, get a friend to capture it or get an Instagram husband i.e. a Matt to do it), and then watch it back after, write notes on what you think you did well and what you can improve on for next time.
For me, I started noticing from watching these videos back that I have SO much nervous energy so I tend to use my hands a lot (almost too much) as well as walk around. When it’s too much, it’s too much. But bringing that self-awareness is always the first step!
8. Enjoy yourself and celebrate.
You’ve already committed to it, why not enjoy yourself in the process. It makes the whole thing much easier and fun! Also, after it’s all done make sure you celebrate because, hey ho, that was well outside your comfort zone and that is incredible.
I still can’t believe that I wrote this, I never thought that I would enjoy speaking in public so much but I do. I hope to have more opportunities in the future to spread the