My experience as a public speaker...so far
For about 2 years now, I've started doing public speaking. I've applied to 60 different conferences in that time span. To my total surprise about 10% of those conferences agreed to have me as a speaker. Me! Nobody have ever heard of me. Very few of the people (if any), that are responsible for the selection of those conferences, have heard of the company I work for. I am not part of sponsored sessions of anything like that.
Nevertheless, I had the amazing opportunity to visit those conferences and talk about my current passions in software development. I had the opportunity to go and have that experience of a lifetime, which is public speaking.
Let me get back a little for a bit
I've never even imagined I will be doing any public speaking. I have been on stage since I was a little boy. I was doing amateur theater as a kid and stuff like that, but never thought I will, willingly, apply to speak about professional stuff in front other professionals.
It all started as a course for presentation skills, I happened to attend, at the office. I've created a presentation during that course, on a topic I was really passionate about (and I still am). It turned out really good and the trainer told me:
"You should apply to some conferences with that!"
At first I was like: "Really?!? No!! ... I can't.... Or can I?"
My first international conference
So I got accepted to my first conference ever. It was in Kraków, Poland. And I hit the jackpot! All expenses covered. I was blown away! The most important thing of having your first conference is what people you meet there. In my eyes, this will pave the way of your future as a speaker. Thankfully, I've met some amazing speakers at that one, who told me some of the best advice, I will keep forever. The strength and courage they have given me, will help me become better at speaking.
But let me outline a few key facts that I've learned from them, that you need to now:
- Everyone wants you to succeed - This is very crucial! When you go to a conference, all of the people there want you to deliver the best possible talk, you can. The organizers, the other speakers, the audience and yourself are all cheering for you and are doing everything they can to help you rock the stage! It is in everyone's interest that you do. It is that simple.
- You will be nervous - That will never go away! If it does go away, this means you don't care any more and you should stop doing it. Being nervous, sweating, having dry mouth. Those are all sings that you care and that you want to be the best. This is normal. Embrace it and use it as a push.
- You are not there to teach anybody anything - You are there to share your experience. Your suggestions and ideas might be totally wrong and that's OK! Nobody knows everything and nobody is perfect. Sharing your journey and pains is what is most important for the audience. They need to see that you are talking about stuff, you have dragged yourself through, in order to reach the other end as someone who've seen some sh*t and won. This is what they care about most and what they value in a speaker.
- Value yourself - The sole reason of you being there on stage, willing to prepare a talk and deliver it, is an amazing accomplishment. Do not underestimate that and do not underestimate yourself. Public speaking is hard. It is exhausting. It is time consuming. It is frightening. Give yourself credit and don't let anyone take it away.
What happens next
Once you've done couple of conferences, things tend to get much easier. At least you know what to expect and how to handle it.
I am just in the very beginning of my speaker journey, but I am so enthusiastic about the future that I can't wait to get to my next conference, which in the time of writing this article is non existing, since I don't have an accepted talk anywhere...yet! You get your ups and downs along the way, but it is awesome and totally worth it. If you are wondering if you should start doing public speaking, you should have started already. But don't worry! It is never too late. Just sit down. Grab a piece of paper and outline some topics, that you are interested and passionate about. Pick two of those and try to come up with some starting points of what you feel you need to share. If you were my friend and we had a beer at the pub, and I ask you about that topic, what would be the key points that you would explain to me, in order to get me hyped? Write those down and then elaborate around them. Do your best to involve the audience in your world. To show them WHY this particular thing is so cool or useful, that you can't wait to share it. Only when you feel like this about a topic, this is when the session will just pour out of you and it will have an impact.
Got for it. I guarantee you will love it!