Technically Speaking webinar: Public Speaking Scares Me, Should I Do it Anyway

February 17, 2015

My notes from the Technically Speaking webinar hosted by Cate, Chiu-Ki, and Denise. Even though I've followed each woman's work for awhile now, it was 1, still packed with new-to-me advice and 2, really fun to hear all of their accents and stories together! Here is a Storify that Cate put together of the event too, and here's a follow up piece the trio wrote about managing fears at different stages of the talk process (includes a video of the webinar!).

The format was pretty loose, Denise opened up with an overview of common fears of public speaking that people have, and then Cate/Chiu-Ki started pitching her questions polled from the audience through the Google Hangout setup. I imagine it's somewhat tough to do something like host a webinar where lots of people are listening in but you don't really get audio or visual feedback from an audience, but they handled it well. Anyway, I tried to re-organize my notes based on the broader themes that they hit upon since a lot of the questions had common themes.

Fear of public speaking
  • Break out different kinds of fear
  • to produce anxiety in research studies, psychologist spring impromptu public speaking tasks on their subjects -- so reliable for producing anxiety
  • counteract physical effects of anxiety with smiling
  • Aggressive challenges from people are to get women to sit down and be quiet -- don't silence yourself, they've already won. Giving away power by believing you don't have any.
  • Fear of what happens being worse than what happens itself
  • Technical talks: almost more factual, not directly confronting people's opinion, but through your action in being up on the stage and talking
  • It is rational to make choices to avoid harassment. Find a rational reason for taking the risk. 
    • Reasons to speak: covered travel. Makes travel decisions for you. Establish yourself as an expert for freelance contracts, future jobs. Helps your opinions later on be weighted more heavily, because you have a "presence"
  • If it's a friend with anxiety, don't correct her/his feelings. Maybe suggest coaching (Denise! She's so insightful.) or recommend a woman as a speaker

Preparing for a talk
  • Having opinions is important, talks are poorer and more boring without them
  • Pick a time in advance of talk to freeze it
  • Save new ideas for another talk, can't get it all in anyway
  • Schedule a practice at a meetup and have your talk "done" for that time, prior to conference. Can still edit a bit, but mostly done
  • Junior developer feels like can't teach more experienced people: your perspective is still unique.
  • Also not your job to determine if talk will be interesting to audience through proposal, that's conference organizer. Work really hard on talks you know you're giving, don't have to expend as much effort in early stage of proposal writing
  • Introvert: advantage in planning and preparing for the talk, even if not drawing energy from audience in the delivering of the talk
  • Find a place to be absolutely alone before the talk, like a stairwell. Conference organizers aren't always great at setting this up, but you can figure it out and make it happen for yourself.

Handling Q&A
  • Giving a talk is not a test. You don't have to be the expert, but a expert. Sometimes people are just curious to find out whether you know and won't hold it against you if the answer is no.
  • You own the stage. No obligation to answer questions. Could just not leave time for Q&A. (the hosts agreed to disagree on whether to do it)
  • Some people are just asking questions to hear themselves, maybe hearing themselves challenge you.
  • Cultivate not being anxious when people disagree with you -- not every question is a challenge
  • Come up with 5 great ways to say "I don't know" and practice them!
  • Open up/deflect to someone else in the audience ("That's a great question. I haven't considered that angle before, is there anyone in the audience that might want to speak to it?")
    • Gather questions at beginning, then give talk, then answers later. Letting the questions air early.
    • Dealing with hecklers
      • "Tell me why you asked the question in that way?" if tone seems aggressive
      • "Aw, there you go again!" gives you power back in calling out people that might be repeatedly challenging you (Reagan tactic)
      • "Thank you for sharing that." & move on, don't have to agree with them