Make Your Voice Heard – Public Speaking Workshop on June 11 in Montreal

I’m delighted to be offering Make Your Voice Heard: A public-speaking workshop for beginners on June 11, in conjunction with Montreal All-Girl Hack Night. Shopify is sponsoring and hosting at their Old Montreal office. If you’re local, I hope to see some of you there.

Have you considered presenting at an event, but thought you didn’t know enough or felt like an impostor? Does the idea of speaking in front of a group set your knees quivering and your heart racing? Or maybe you’d like to speak, but aren’t sure how to come up with a good idea. During this hands-on session we’ll look at what’s stopping you from speaking – and explore how to move past your fears. We’ll delve into practical techniques for choosing a topic, writing a proposal, crafting presentation content, and making great slides. We’ll also look at common speaker mistakes and handling Q&A sessions.

The workshop aims to give women, non-binary, and other under-indexed people the skills and confidence to submit a talk, whether to a conference or smaller event.

Check out all the details and register.

How to Deliver a Talk at a Programming Conference

Check out developer Paul Hudson’s curated collection of tips and advice on preparing and giving talks at tech events. From examples of talk titles and speaker bios to what makes a good slide deck, there’s some solid advice here from an array of experienced speakers. While some of the info is specific to mobile devs, most is much broader. Some of my favourite nuggets involve how to pick a presentation topic, the part that a lot of people – no matter how many talks they’ve given before – can find challenging:

I think a great talk is a talk that only that person can give – something created at the intersection of their passions and experience.

Cate Huston

The best conference presentations are about something the presenter really cares about – either because it’s something they’ve experienced or because they’re deeply interested in what they’re talking about.

Ellen Shapiro

Try to connect what you’re saying to real-world experiences. If you have anecdotes, use them. If you have places where you tried and failed, use those. Seeing real code is great, but hearing from your personal experience is often better.

Paul Hudson

Check out the post.

Deconstruct - Seattle, WA, May 21-22, 2018

Deconstruct’s Opportunity for New Speakers

Seattle, Washington’s Deconstruct conference is looking for first-time speakers, through an innovative initiative. The “language-agnostic,” sponsor-less, single-track software development conference – taking place in May 2018 – is encouraging submissions from diverse speakers, and paying all travel expenses, plus a substantial speaker fee. (They note that the speaker fee might only be possible for US residents.)

Only first-time speakers are eligible, which is described as “anyone who hasn’t given a conference talk” – talks at meetups, in work situations, and at school won’t disqualify you. The Deconstruct organizers also commit to mentoring you “in whatever way you need.”

What a great offer! Check out the call for proposals or explore the conference.

Why Women Speakers Say No to Speaking & What Conference Organizers Can Do About It 

Melissa Kim and Jennifer Kim from the Women Talk Design speaker compendium have put together a practical list of steps that event organizers can take to counter some of the most common reasons women don’t speak at conferences. Check out part 1 and part 2 of their piece.

stop written on cobblestones

Stop Interrupting Speakers

I don’t often publicly criticize an event while it’s still happening – I don’t like to be a complainer – but this weekend at WordCamp Ottawa, I couldn’t help myself. On the morning of the first day, I tweeted out:

Getting tired of people interrupting speakers at #wcott. Unless they’ve invited questions during the talk, it throws off the speaker and most of the audience can’t hear you anyway. Be respectful.

I’d spent the morning watching speakers (all women, by the way) being constantly interrupted by audience members – most not even asking questions, but commenting on some aspect of the talk. I’ve never seen this happen as badly before at any event, WordCamp or otherwise. And you can’t blame an intimate room size as the culprit – this happened in a large auditorium.

That afternoon, a woman was giving a lightning talk, with a short amount of time to present. Smack dab in the middle of her presentation, a man piped up to voice disagreement with one of the examples she was showing. Audience conversation started rolling from there, and I could see the speaker – who’d never presented at a WordCamp before – start to look a little flustered, as her talk became completely derailed.

I was filled with rage. I’ve never done this before, but I had to say something.

“Let’s let her finish her talk. She only has seven minutes left, and she can take Q&A after.”

There was a small shocked silence. I’m not sure if I imagined it, but I might have heard a few murmurs of agreement.

The speaker finished the rest of her talk without interruption, and then took questions after.

Afterwards, a few people – including the speaker – thanked me for calling out the interrupter.

I don’t know what was in the air at WordCamp Ottawa this weekend, but I implore audience members to keep this in mind:

Your desire to express your opinion is not more important than the speaker’s right to finish their talk without being interrupted. Interrupting a speaker is disrespectful – you are throwing off their focus, disturbing their flow, and messing with their timing.

As a speaker, there are a couple of things you can do to curb this phenomenon. First, tell the audience your preference as you start the talk.

For example:

“We’ll have a good 5-10 minutes for questions at the end, so save them til after.”

Or,

“I don’t mind taking questions throughout the presentation, while they’re fresh in your mind. Just raise your hand and I’ll repeat it so the rest of the audience can hear.”

If someone interjects with a question or comment when you’ve asked people not to, remember that it’s your right to say:

“Thanks for the question. Let’s hold it til the end, and if I haven’t covered it during the rest of the talk I’ll be glad to address it then.”

Remember, you are in control of your talk. No one has the right to throw you off.

Featured image by Lucas Cobb (CC BY 2.0)

Three Things, Eighteen Years

In this still-relevant post from 2015, digital artist Jer Thorp shares his top three tips learned over nearly two decades of public speaking: from not rehearsing so much that you can’t handle the unexpected, to exploring non-linear narratives, to remembering that the audience wants you to succeed.

Sprinkled with amusing examples, the piece packs seven shorter additional tips at the end.

Hat tip to the fabulous Technically Speaking newsletter for the find.

Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking

Present! A Techie's Guide to Public Speaking - coverIf you’re looking for a detailed, step-by-step guide to preparing any type of talk, take Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking for a spin. Co-authored by Californians Poornima Vijayashanker and Karen Catlin, this 280-page book is ideal for anyone new to speaking who’d like a hand getting started, but is particularly geared to those in the tech industry. Present! breaks down the process of planning and giving a presentation into bite-sized chunks and comes with a collection of accompanying online videos and other resources. There are suggested activities to go with most sections, many of which involve making video recordings of yourself and watching them back with a critical eye — something that might make you cringe, but that can reap real benefits.

Present! goes into detail on topics that shorter books on the subject don’t usually broach, like how to promote a talk and even how eject a heckler – something I hope to never have to do! There are sections on how to be a good panelist or an effective moderator, and another on what it takes to bring your speaking skills to a wide audience through a podcast or webinar. There’s even a whole guide to how to make eye contact with the audience in a natural way.

I got to see Poornima and Karen in action while attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last fall, where they ran a hands-on workshop based on a portion of their book. Their session gave me timely ideas on how to handle larger groups in my own workshops.

Once a year, Poornima and Karen teach an 8-week, online, live course on public speaking called The Confident Communicator Course. They cover many of the tips from the book, along with modules on accent reduction, negotiation, and interview skills. The next course begins on February 13 — check it out if you’re ready to invest in becoming a more confident and skilled public speaker in 2017.