Fear. Such a little word, such a huge impact. I have always been terrified of speaking in public. Way back in the school, when we had to do presentations, I barely managed to get a word out of my mouth. Sweaty palms, voice shivering like a leaf in the autumn winds, words gone and forgotten.
After I started working, I obviously needed to do presentations on various topics and in various settings for my colleagues, management and customers. After a couple of not-so-perfect trials, I soon begun to gain confidence to present what I had to say. When I knew exactly what I was presenting — one might say, selling — the fear started to subside in favour of confidence and sometimes even enjoyment.
But still, at least for me, there is a huge gap between presenting something at work for a small familiar(ish) croud and speaking live in front of strangers in a seminar.
Does online count?
I have done quite a few webinars and live YouTube streams over the past couple of years. At first, the all-too-familiar fear was holding me back, and I turned down many opportunities because of this.
Questions like “Do I know what I’m talking about?” and “What if nobody likes it?” were very effectively standing in my way. I really had to convince myself to believe, that “Yes, I know what I’m talking about”, and “It really does not matter, if nobody likes it. Just try once, and see how it goes.”
So, after I received positive comments on one of the first ones I did, the fear started to let go a little, and I started to even enjoy a bit.
This one is in Finnish, about APIs and Information Security.
Another one on Chatbots
So, after internet seemed to be okay now as a medium, what about seminars and conferences? Nope. Standing on a stage, in front of strangers who can put you on a stand for what you say, was still very much not ok.
Then came November 2017.
The stage is mine
In last November I was asked to speak in a Systems Integration 2018 seminar (in Finnish: Järjestelmäintegraatiot 2018), organized by Alma Talent. At first, I was a little hesitant to say yes, but after thinking about it overnight I said yes to my surprise.
Again, the topic was something I was familiar with, APIs and Information Security. This made it quite easy to prepare the talk and the accompanying slides. I had 30 mins allocated to say what had to say.
The seminar was in Helsinki, between February 14th - 15th, at Clarion Hotel conference center. There was a couple dozen seminar quests participating. My talk was on the 15th on the afternoon, and I had time to be there for both days, so I listened many good talks before mine. For the whole time, I felt surprisingly calm. My heart was racing a bit, but to my experience that’s just a good thing which keeps me alert and present.
The speaker before me finished early, and all of a sudden I was given 15 mins of extra time. Now what do I do with the extra time?! I have prepared for 30 mins, not 45!
Again, I knew what I was talking about, and decided that I can open a couple of topics in more depth with few more examples.
The talk went really well. The timing worked okay, despite the schedule change. I received couple of really good questions during the talk, which helped to keep the talk interactive.
I was very pleased with the feedback gathered from the participants. The feedback was very positive, with a few things to improve.
All and all, after all the fear earlier, I really enjoyed the experience. I might do it again someday, when the opportunity raises. So apparently it is never too late to overcome your fears. Just do it.