I just gave my first talk at a conference and here’s why you should (and can) too

I gave my first talk recently (at UX Camp Brighton) and I really enjoyed it, despite having put off doing a talk for quite a while and being nervous beforehand and it went down well judging by the Twitter response and other blog posts.
Below are some reasons why you should give a talk, especially if you haven’t before, and some responses to common objections.

Why you should do it

Overcome fears
The success of making the decision to speak somewhere and completing the talk will increase your confidence (even if its not the best talk in the world). It’s good to overcome fears and the benefits from this will benefit you in other areas.
Crystallise your thoughts
Really forces you to think through what you’re saying and what you know/think on a particular topic and to put a structure around it.

Make you better at work
It will give you more confidence to speak up in meetings and improve how you deliver client presentations. If you’re looking to shift your career in a particular direction then it can also help establish you there.

Raise your profile
It will improve your reputation (most people havn’t given a talk in their industry) more people will get to be aware of you and it can help when looking for a new job.

Give something back
We all benefit from what people say at talks, from attending them (good for networking), reading about them, hearing about them on Twitter etc. Why not contribute something you know and perhaps help someone else struggling with the same issue or to help inspire someone? The more people out there doing this the better it is for diversity of thought.

Get more Twitter followers
Be sure to include your @name in your slides.

Objections

“I’m not an expert on anything”
You don’t need to be an expert, just have something you’re interested in, everyone is different so you’ll bring your own perspective to it. You might have just run a remote usability test that you can talk about, lots of people wont have done that before so to them you have something worth listening to.

“I don’t know anything that hasn’t been said/people don’t already know”
Most talks aren’t on unique/original topics and they don’t have to be, people will choose to go to it if its something they want to know more about or are interested in. There may have been a talk about it but not everyone who is interested will have been, and even if we do know something it’s often good to be reminded of it. You’d be surprised how many experienced people don’t know things that you know and there are always new people coming into the industry.

“I’m too nervous”
If you create your talk and practice it so you know it and have speakers notes you should be ok, that will take care of a lot of the nerves. People probably wont notice it as much as you feel it. Choose a small enough meetup/event. Try positive visualization – where you close your eyes and imagine actually giving a talk that goes well and that makes you feel good after it, it can really help. It’s not everyones cup of tea and shouldn’t be the first thing you try but there are prescription drugs you can take that are effective at helping you relax that people take specifically for things like this. Google it, there are lots of things you can try if you want to overcome this – it’s important to try.

“I’ve got nowhere appropriate to speak”
Find something low key for your first talk at an informal event or meetup, for example UX Camp Brighton http://www.uxcampbrighton.org/ or find something on www.meetup.com/

“I don’t have the time”
Prepare a talk before you commit to where to deliver it, that way you can do it over a period of time (it could be over a year) as and when you have spare time. If you don’t think you ever have any spare time then maybe you should move this up the priority list so it’s not an excuse.

“It’s not really me”
You’re reading this blog post so maybe it is

“But I just can’t”
Just do it, sign up to a low key meetup/conference and then you’ve made that commitment so you’d better pull yourself together and just do it.

Need a speaker at your event?
If you’re reading this as someone who organises conferences or meet ups and would like me to speak at your even then get in touch jrosenberg@rocketmail.com
Slides for my talk

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