Giving a talk that I didn’t know I wanted to give

Published: August 24th, 2017

I never in a million years would think I’d be giving a talk, no matter the size of the audience. Nor would I understand how much I’d love doing it and how much I’d want to keep doing it.

I was invited to give a talk about my workflow as a designer/developer. I’ve always wanted to teach in some way, a desire since high school. I’ve always felt that I’m good at explaining things especially if I have a passion for it. I was thinking of just sharing some of the things I’ve learned on the internet, through written articles. Maybe work my way up to videos one day. Talking in front of a group of strangers, that seemed too outlandish to consider.

Discovering a new interest

Recently I’ve been going to more and more conferences, I love learning new things and listening to amazing people. Going to all these events has shown me a world that I never really knew about, public speaking. I know it sounds silly but it’s true.

I thought public speaking was for CEOs at release events and people trying to sell something to you. I didn’t know everyday people could talk to you about what they do and it be so inspirational. Some are famous from sharing great content and their knowledge and expertise are common knowledge in their field. Others are people who are passionate about solving a problem and bringing those ideas and values to life.

Seizing the chance

After getting this invitation from a local Wordpress Meetup leader, though scared to death of failure and embarrassment, I agreed and started work on my topic. Starting was not the hard part, I had tons of ideas and things to write about. It was coming up with something appropriate for the time and audience. Not comparing myself to any of the speakers at large conferences such as, Ted, 99U, Generate, or LitmusLive but I was incredibly scared and nervous. They question of where do I start was dominating my mind. I started where I always start a new project, with research.

I don’t think I’ve been more obsessive about anything in my whole life, including the never-ending revisions to my website. I was watching every video about presentation and public speaking. Reading every article on content arrangement, how to talk properly, understanding speaking pace, and how to arrange the slides. Trying to soak up all the different methods of presenting and combine them into what I was to do was daunting. I rewrote my slides constantly, even on the day of the talk.

Sticking with what I know

Thanks to great words from my mother — You know your stuff, just talk about things you know about. She was right, I knew what I was going to talk about. The actual content, was stuff I knew all about, sometimes did, and what I wish I did everyday.

Having created a vague outline, it was time to flush out the sections to get an idea of the flow of the talk. This was harder than it seemed, I was told not to go into minute details but stick with an overarching general talk. Not to teach the intricacies of using sketch for wireframes and prototypes but talking about why wireframes and prototypes are important and what roles they play in my workflow.

Since I don’t do things half-assed I had prepared my brains out and was ready for the potential flow of my topics. In this case, how I go about a freelance project from initial client contact to launched site. I found articles to back up the techniques I use and the processes I follow. To add some credence to what I do or rather what is the optimal method I would love to use. This workflow is what I’ve been doing for my personal projects for a little while, sans the client questions and feedback.

Some Minor setbacks

The biggest problems that I ran into were all about how to create the presentation and how to deliver it. I’ve not used PowerPoint in years and was trying to get Keynote but was told to upgrade to Sierra, which I don’t want to do. I had made an outline but was unable to start making actual slides. I made “slides” which were text descriptions of what I wanted to include in each slide and where in my outline they should fall.

Making the slides themselves was an interesting adventure. I was originally making them based off of my high school remembrance of presentations but everything I read was basically yelling at you not to do that. The old “reading off the bullet points and explaining what people can plainly read” felt safer and there was less reliance on my actual speaking but I’d still impart knowledge.

Trying to get it right on the first try I resolved to mimic what those top level speakers do, have slides that are more background for the information your speaking about. This was a big decision for me but more importantly it ruined all the slides I’d already thought of making. I’d written them so full of info and with heavy usage of bullet points so I had to change them. I brought in images that illustrated and emphasized my points. This then moved the information from my slides back onto me and my talking.

The result

The talk went better than I could have hoped. It was well received and I was asked a lot of questions. People liked some of the techniques I utilized in my workflow and that got some interesting discussion going on. I was told my passion came through in my talk and was complimented on my proper usage of PowerPoint. With not reading directly off of the slides.

It was a nerve-wracking experience that had my anxious for days but the end result of a job well-done is worth it. I’m not sure where to go from here but I’d love to do more in the future. As long as my knowledge is applicable and I can contribute something I’d be more than willing to speak again.

If given the opportunity, regardless the size of the audience, to impart any amount of knowledge you possess you should give it a try. It’ll seem a bit daunting, but will be worth it.