Tips for new speakers: Part 1

“I wish I could stand up and speak like that

As a regular conference speaker, it’s a common sentiment I hear from those who aspire to be conference speakers but when you ask “Why don’t you?” the two most often cited reasons are:

  1. I wouldn’t know what to talk about
  2. The thought of speaking in front of people scares me

These are fairly natural responses and I suspect all speakers have thought these thoughts at some point and many still do – I still suffer from point 1 at times but increasingly I am less and less intimidated by point 2.

I started public speaking at Tech Conferences (developer and tester conferences) in 2011 and have spoken at conferences every year since then (usually multiple conferences each year).

My main motivation for starting to speak at conferences was because I had experiences, skills and insights that I wanted to share with others. As a natural introvert and really quite shy, the thought of public speaking wasn’t exactly a pleasant one. However I think it has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my professional life and I encourage others to at least try and present their ideas once to their peers.

I find it encouraging that in the last year, so many new speakers have started to emerge and importantly been given space on conference schedules to present.

Knowing how to start and where to get support from was difficult – this was before excellent initiatives such as Speak Easy and BCS SIGiST Mentoring. Luckily a friend of mine, Melanie Smart, was an experienced Public Speaker; she was a trainer for ToastMasters, had won some public speaking competitions, was/is a developing stand-up comedian and an all-round lovely and supportive person to get advice from. She gave me 3 pieces of advice which I usually repeat to others wanting to start speaking:

  • Talk about something you know
  • Talk about something you are passionate about
  • Learn to breathe

These were enough to make me think it was possible that I could speak at a conference. So I thought I would write about these and a few other tips for those starting out as speakers and in particular to help overcome the above reasons for not speaking. I hope these will encourage new and aspiring speakers to stand up and make a difference in our community.

Part 2: What would I talk about?

Part 3: Panic Stations

I hope you find these useful.