Thursday, April 12, 2018

Talking About Talking - a 1 1/2 armed #LiveBlog from #STPCON Spring 2018

Any time I attend a conference, I tend to go with 70% new content and about 30% familiar speakers. Over time, I've found it harder to look for new people because many of the people I get to know get asked to repeat present at conferences. With that out of the way, I consider Damian Synadinos a friend, but I picked his discussion for a specific reason. While I think he is intending for this to be about public speaking, I'm looking to see how I can leverage public speaking focus on my own active company interactions.

Why do I speak at conferences, at meetups, or at events? There are a variety of reasons but if I have to be 100% honest, there are two reasons. The first is wholly professional. I want to develop credibility. I want to show that I walk the talk as well as that I know at least an aspect of something. The second is personal and depending on how well you know me, this is either a revelation or so obvious it's ridiculous. I'm an ex-"RockStar". I used to spend a lot of time entertaining people as a singer and I loved doing it. I get a similar rush from public speaking, especially when people say they actually enjoy what I'm talking about and how I deliver the messages I prepare.

Part of talking in public is the fact that you are putting your ideas out there for others to consider. That can be scary. We own our ideas and our insecurities. as long as we keep them to ourselves, we can't be ridiculed for them. In short, people can't laugh at us for the things we don't put out there. Personally, I think this is a false premise. I have had people laugh at what I presented, but not because what I was saying was foolish or made me look dumb. Instead, it was because what I was talking about was in and of itself funny (actually, more absurd) but people laughed because they could relate. To date, I have not been laughed at. Laughed with, lots of times. If you are afraid people will laugh *at you*, let me reassure you, it's hugely unlikely that will happen.

The biggest reason why I encourage getting out there and speaking is that our ideas deserve to be challenged and we should want to challenge our ideas. Also, we may never aspire to get on a stage and speak, but all of us participate in meetings or presentations at work, in some form or another. By getting out there and speaking, we can improve our ability to function in these meetings. 

Something else to consider for a reason to give a talk or speak in public is what I call the "ignorance cure" for a topic. It's wise to talk about stuff we know about, but once a year or so, I will deliberately pick something I don't know much about or that I could definitely know more about. When I do this, I try to pick a timeline that gives me several months so that I can learn about it in a deeper way. People's mileage may vary with this, but I see a definite benefit from doing this.

Not every talk idea is going to be amazing. Not every talk idea is going to be some revolutionary idea. Truth be told, I'm lousy at revolutionary things. I'm highly unlikely to be creating the next big anything. However, I am really good at being a second banana to take an idea someone else has and running with it. Don't be afraid that something you want to talk about isn't new. We aren't born with ideas, and most of the time, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

My recommendation to anyone who has any interest in public speaking, no matter how small, is to borrow from Morrisey... "Sing Your Life". Talk about your experiences, as they will always be true and real. You may not be an expert on a topic, but you are absolutely an expert on *your experiences* with that topic. Also, if anyone wants to get up and talk, let me know. I'd be happy to help :).

No comments: