Participating in Girl Geek Dinners

Nearly every other week I speak at events, mostly for project management audiences, but also for techies. I spoke about conflict management in teams at a BCS event earlier this year for their Young Professionals Group. They were all more tech-savvy then I was, including web developers and infrastructure specialists as well as network specialists. When I work in IT, it is important to be able communicate with technical audiences even if it isn’t in a formal presentation.
I’m assuming that you will have to speak to large groups in meetings, presentations at work or large-scale presentations at events. It’s daunting. Despite speaking publicly for many decades, I still don’t feel confident.
Speaking out! Last week, Speaking Out! hosted an event that I attended. London Girl Geek Dinners and speaking out! Three speakers shared their experiences and gave tips. Here’s a summary.
Claire Lee, Microsoft Emerging Business Team Developer Advocate
Be prepared but not too prepared. You will sound unnatural and stilted if you do not.
Get to know your audience so you can tailor your message for them.
Use facts.
Use humor.
Play to your strengths.
Be yourself.
Tell stories.
Prepare for a panel discussion. Learn about the other members of the panel and find something that ties them all together.

She said, “Get out of here.” “It’s worth saying and doing whatever you can.”
Margaret Gold, Gold Mobile Innovation Ltd
Learn from your mistakes and share your knowledge with others.
Have fun and play
Slow down.
Be open.
Move your body – it shows enthusiasm.
Twitter headlines are short phrases used to convey the message, especially when they are used on slides.

She said, “Forget impressing people.” “We are often surrounded by super smart people and get caught in trying to appear more intelligent.”
Margaret repeated my comments about the “deplorable lack” of women attending tech events. She stated, “It’s our fault” and that “we don’t put ourselves forward.”
Christian Heilmann, Developer Evangelist at Yahoo! He has a new job but is still a Yahoo! developer evangelist
Tech audiences demand facts.
It doesn’t really matter what you wear.
It is not a good idea to give the first talk on the second morning.
Tech problems are well-known. Poor technology or inability to use it will kill your pitch if you are pitching for work. Conference attendees are more open to understanding.
Tech audiences have a short attention span and will lose some attention if they start tweeting.
Avoid making mistakes. Tech audiences value correct terminology so use it.
Citations in slides or handouts can make it seem smarter.
It will be polarized. They will either love it or hate it.

Christian’s blog includes more notes and a copy of his slides.
The speakers recommended Nancy Duarte as a source for inspiration to create great slides. Slide:ology: Science and Art for Creating Great Presentations is a book I highly recommend. They recommended that you also visit Bryan Rieger’s slideshare. After looking through the slideshow, I realized that this is definitely a place where I will be looking for inspiration.
For 2011, resolve to volunteer to speak at an event. Your public speaking skills will only improve if you practice them!

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