In some ways, this should have been the first post in the series, since there are probably a number of people out there who don’t care about speaking at conferences. In my opinion everyone should try their hand at public speaking, because it gives you numerous transferable skills.
I guess a number of people in the Oracle community who know me will laugh at this following statement, but I am naturally a shy person and although I like to talk to people on a one-to-one basis, speaking in groups is not natural for me. I always hated having to read things out loud in class. If I was asked to introduce myself in a meeting, I would get that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling and have a bit of a panic. There are two ways you can react to this. You can avoid putting yourself in those situations, or you can confront your fear and go for it. I chose the latter.
This isn’t just about being able to speak at conferences. It has a knock-on effect on your life generally. There are a few situations that spring to mind that could dramatically alter the course of your life.
- Job interviews : Having a job interview is pretty scary for most people. If you’ve stood in front of a few hundred people at a conference, sitting in front of a hand full of people in a job interview is a breeze.
- Meetings : How often have you wanted to say something in a meeting to influence a decision, but you’ve kept quiet because you are nervous of drawing attention to yourself? If you’ve put yourself on the line in front of a room full of strangers, commenting in a meeting is nothing in comparision.
- Relationships : Confidence is an attractive quality in others. Lack of confidence is percieved as a weakness. Anything that increases your confidence will improve your interactions with other people. Unless you are a hermit, everything in life ultimately comes down to your relationships with those around you.
You don’t have to be a naturally confident person to be a good public speaker. Amy Cuddy has a great TED talk called Your body language shapes who you are. You might also see it listed as “power posing”. During the talk she talks about, “fake it until you make it”, and more importantly, “fake it until you become it”. I’ve certainly seen evidence of the latter in myself over my years of presenting. I am definitely not the person I was…
As I said at the start of this post, I think everyone should try public speaking. I’m not saying you have to make it your life’s mission, but you owe it to yourself to at least try it out and see how it affects you.