I achieved an idea that I never thought I would ever have the desire to pursue... talking on stage. I had this insane thought while out on a run. It was the summer after I attended the 2011 HOW Design Conference in Chicago. I was thinking in my head I could be as engaging as Dyana Valentine - talk about big shoes!
I have been talking about this talk for a few months, ever since I got the booking with CreativeMornings four months earlier. I have had the topic in the forefront and back end of my mind this whole time. I trusted in the creative process that works for me. I allow the ideas to coalesce in my mind.
So as a first-timer I'd like to share my thoughts and experience with other potential first-timers out there.
- Know your story. Here is the thing, people want to hear your view of the world. They don't want a reiteration of what someone else has to say. And in the end, people will relate to your own view because it comes from an honest place.
- Invite your support group! Seriously, anyone and everyone you know. Not only are you adding to the attendance and it looks good, but what you have is a room partially filled with people who know you which encourages you to be who you are, and that is such an easier role to play.
- Practice. This was a tough one for me. I am such a procrastinator that the idea of having my presentation even almost ready, never mind talking it through felt odd and awkward. But I made a point to make a couple practice runs. One of the best moves was asking a colleague I respected who could give me advice on the flow and content was important. I was about half-way through and it really helped to talk it through and collaborate on what was missing, how my transitions worked and didn't work and overall order and flow of the talk. Thank you Lindsay!
- Make it personal. I think the best way to sound like you know what you are talking about is talking about what you know - and you know you best. Relate your information with a personal perspective and you will help others to do the same.
- Keep it simple and on brand. When it comes to creating a visual presentation, the slides should be supporting your talk, not doing the talking for you. The visuals add to your message. So you don't necessarily have to describe what is on screen, but they do have to relate to what you are saying. Also - if you are a brand, make sure to subtly add your brand look and feel to the design. It should not be overpowering. I chose to use a wordmark icon of my website URL. It was simple and would show a link to my own site if the person is interested in learning and reading more.
- Speaker notes. Write them, print them and have them included in the speaker part of your digital presentation. Don't think you need to memorize your talk. If that is the case you will never find the time or ability to do it. When I read my notes, there were parts I literally just read verbatim because of some anxiety, and then there were parts I would skim and re-word based on how the talk seemed to be going. I also allowed myself the space to speak random insights, stories, and thoughts as they came to mind. Kind of like have a conversation with someone. We all get talking and other ideas start flowing. Also, if you are like me and have paper notes, and a few happen to fall on the floor in a very unprofessional way - let it go. No one is there to see you pick up paper.
- Water. Seriously. I am not really a water drinker but had noticed anyone who speaks has a water and takes the time to have a sip here and there and I thought sure, I'll have one too. While I was wandering around the room before my talk, I managed to leave my bottle at the back of the room and all of the sudden I was being introduced. No big deal right? Hell no! I was blown away by how dry my mouth went. It was like I drank in the Sahara desert in one breath. The first few words of my talk, I think my saliva literally evaporated. But I plugged on through. I cringe and seeing the video and how I kept smacking my lips, but oh well.
People ask me after the talk, how I feel, and I respond with, "Good." It wasn't life-changing, if anything, life-affirming. When you have the chance to provide thoughts and insights about what matters and to see others relating to your message, I felt good. I feel my purpose being fulfilled.
I have created a page on my site where I have posted my speaker notes and accompanying slides relating to my 5 Tips for the Courage to have the hard conversation. You can check it out.