Participating in Girl Geek Dinners

I speak at events almost every other week, mostly to project management audiences but also to techies. I spoke on conflict management in teams at a BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) event earlier this year to their Young Professionals Group. They were all more tech-savvy than I was – web developers and infrastructure specialists, as well as network specialists. It’s important to be able to communicate with technical audiences, even if it’s not in a formal presentation, when I work in IT.
You will, I assume, have to speak to large groups of people in meetings, presentations at work, or large-scale presentations at events. It’s daunting. Although I have been speaking publicly for many years, I am still not confident.
Speaking Out! hosted an event last week that I attended. London Girl Geek Dinners and Speaking Out! Three speakers shared their experiences with public speaking and offered some tips. Here’s a summary.
Claire Lee, Microsoft Emerging Business Team Developer Evangelist
Be prepared, but not too much. Otherwise, you will sound stilted and unnatural.
Get to know your audience and tailor your message for them.
Use facts.
Use humor.
Play to your strengths.
Be yourself.
Tell stories.
If you are going on a panel discussion, prepare well. Find out about the other panel members and find something that ties them together.

She said, “Get out there.” “Whatever you have to say and do is worth it.”
Margaret Gold, Gold Mobile Innovation Ltd
Learn from your mistakes and help others.
Play and have fun
Slow down.
Be open.
Move your body – it shows enthusiasm.
Twitter headlines are short phrases that convey the message, especially on slides.

She said, “Forget about impressing people.” “We are often surrounded with super smart people and get caught up trying to appear more intelligent.”
Margaret repeated what I had said about the “deplorable shortage” of women at tech events. She said, “It’s our fault,” and that “we don’t put ourself forward.”
Christian Heilmann, Developer Evangelist at Yahoo! Although he has a new job, he is still a developer evangelist at Yahoo!
Tech audiences demand the facts.
It doesn’t matter what you wear.
It is not a good time to have the first talk on the second day.
Tech problems are well-known and understood. If you are pitching for work, poor technology, or inability to use it, will kill your pitch. However, conference audiences are more open to understanding.
Tech audiences are short-attention span and will lose some of their attention if they start tweeting.
People look for mistakes so avoid them. Tech audiences value using the right words so make sure you use the correct terminology.
Citations in slides and handouts can make you appear smarter.
Feedback will be polarized. They’ll either love or hate it.

Christian’s blog contains more notes and a copy his slides.
Nancy Duarte was recommended by the speakers as a source of inspiration for creating great slides. I have read slide:ology: Science and Art of Creating Great Presentations and can highly recommend it. They suggested that you also check out Bryan Rieger’s slideshare. After taking a look, I believe that this is definitely a place I will be looking for inspiration.
Make a resolution for 2011 to volunteer to speak at an event. You’ll only improve by practicing your public speaking skills!

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