I started reading this book by Scott Berkun titled “Confessions of a public speaker”. After the first couple of chapters I felt I wasn’t alone… What I am talking about? Stage Fright / Fear of Public Speaking. Let me start with a quote first…
Mark Twain, who made most of his income from speaking, not writing, said, “There are two types of speakers: those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
For those considering speaking at a VMUG but are terrified, I hope you find comfort in knowing that the majority of people you see presenting at these events have (or had) similar feelings. I don’t know anyone who is not nervous when he goes up on stage. Those who say they are not probably indeed lie about it, yes there are some exceptions to the rule of course as always, but I can tell you that I am not one of those. I used to be terrified, stage fright is the right word.
Just to speak from my own experience, a lot of people seem to think that presenting is part of my role and is something I enjoy doing. I do enjoy it when the session is over, but the journey there I don’t enjoy. I am still nervous when I go up on stage, and depending on the size that is either nervous/excited or nervous/scared. Yes, like many of you reading this, the first couple of times presenting I wondered WHY am I doing this? It was painful being up on stage, it was painful doing dry-runs, and it even felt crap afterwards. WHY am I doing this?
Personally I believe I need to place myself in an uncomfortable situation to grow / learn. This applies to learning new skills, like public speaking, but also broadening the horizon from a job/career perspective. You can be a “virtualization admin” for the rest of your life and do it with your eyes closed… You can also take on a completely new set of responsibilities, yes you will feel uncomfortable for a couple of weeks or even months, but guess what after a while it all feels like you have been doing it for years… Same applies to public speaking, only way to get comfortable with that fear or nervous feeling is by doing it!
So what are some of the mistakes I made, and probably still make every once in a while, and what should you be doing or not doing?
- Don’t over do it! Practicing will help your delivery, overdoing it will probably hurt it! I did this for a long time, and I noticed I get nervous about forgetting things, and guess what… You will forget things, but don’t worry about that because the audience typically doesn’t know what you are going to tell them anyway!
- When practicing focus on your opinion, your story, your considerations. Don’t practice it “word by word”, think big and feel comfortable with the content.
- Don’t cram your slide-deck! Less = more. Especially true in the case of a slide-deck, understand the deck is there to support your presentation. But still keep in mind that many people use the slide-deck afterwards as study notes, so keep it balanced. Typically when you have 60 minutes, aim for 50 minutes talking and 10 minutes QA. Believe me when I say that 30/40 slides is MORE than enough. 30 would probably be better, and if you can do with less you’ve mastered it!
Practice while you build your deck… I do this regularly to test the flow and see if the points / diagram / screenshot works in the presentation, and I will tweak the deck while doing a dry-run when something doesn’t work.
And it’s often the case that the things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well.
That is key to remember, they want you to do well! Now, please take the time in the upcoming days to think about what you would like to talk about at a local VMUG. Everyone has something interesting to tell, it doesn’t need to be a deepdive on Storage, not everyone is Cormac Hogan right… No, a presentation on your migration between storage systems or datacenters could be just as interesting! A presentation on the introduction of a Disaster Recovery tool and how it changed your life would be a good way to help people making the right decision. Many many things one can talk about without the need to go extremely deep.
Once again, think about what you would like to talk about, create a slidedeck, practice and more importantly go have fun and support your local VMUG!!