Act as If: My first Public Talk

Assignment #5: Get invited to give a publicly advertised talk. Write a short blog post about the experience: how you got invited, what your talk was about, links to videos/photos/tweets. Submit the URL to the blog post.

I pitched a talk idea to the Children’s Publishing Design Forum (CPDF) back in January (I can’t believe it was that long ago) about my transitioning from graphic design to interaction design and the commonalities and overlaps, as well as the differences I’ve come to find. I use to belong to the group when I was working at Penguin Young Readers before coming to the program.

I thought it might be of interest to an audience of young designers who might be contemplating their place in design in this digital era and how my background in graphic design and my experience in the publishing industry has played a helping hand in my move into interaction design.

I designed a poster to go along with it, which I sent over to the CPDF to get the word out amongst their mailing list and members. I didn’t really promote the event since I was already nervous about giving it in the first place. So much so I wanted to have other speakers with me, but that didn’t turn out as planned…

My ex-coworker/CPDF member sent me the RSVP list and 30 people signed up. I was pretty shocked. So this past Wednesday evening, after the last Entrepreneurial Design class, I gave that talk

Thanks Mikey for the photo!

I have been knee deep in finals mode along with my fellow classmates so I didn’t have a chance to work on the talk until the night before, more like the morning of. Thank goodness for user journey videos, man. They tell a complete story and I just have to set it up, a little premise, push play, and then comment or give a side factoid. When and if I made them laugh, I felt like I succeeded. Nothing like making someone smile or laugh to feel like you are really engaging the audience and not just speaking at them.

I hate public speaking. I know that about myself. I’ve gotten much better, but sometimes it’s overwhelming. I feel like my entire body is on fire, and I feel my face is steaming hot. People say I don’t look or seem that way except of course if my voice starts to tremble.

I try to notice the nervous things I tend to do when I’m speaking in front of people. I talk too fast. I should take a breath. I know I should be more comfort with silence and just think for a moment before I ramble to fill the air. I tend to grip the podium and glue myself to my laptop, or I’m nervously playing with the table, paper, chalk, any object I can get my hands on that is around me. 

All that said, it went really well. They were really receptive (even if 8 of them were my ex-coworkers and my sister). I’m glad I did it. My ex-coworker even prepared a nice introduction!

Advice and lessons I learned from giving my first public talk:

1. Fake it till you make it, or the phraseact as if” because it really is a positive feedback loop and the more practice you have, the better you get. That is just how it works. No shortcuts. Another tidbit I have found useful is standing straight and planting my feet firmly, slightly parted, so my “confident” stance makes me feel more confident up there.

2. Tell your story (thanks Gary!) This was huge for me because I always think (designers are so self-deprecating!) who would want to hear me speak? I remember two classes ago, during our class debrief, there was a consensus in class that we as designers have never been in the forefront or face of a company/product/service. We are usually the ones communicating someone else’s ideas. And how scary that was for us to be the face of a product or service. And Gary responded, saying how we tend to feel insecure about talking to much about ourselves. It was amusing to hear him say he didn’t have to tell anyone to refrain and scale down their self-promotions. We were battling that line already in our own heads and speaking about our insecurities amongst each other. 

3. You never know until you try I dread speaking in public and will avoid it as much as I can, but it wasn’t so bad. Being my first talk, heck, I think it went pretty well. So push yourself, a little bit at a time. Inch forward. Being in the unknown feels exhilarating (and liberating).

4. BEGIN BEFORE YOU’RE READY. FECK PERFUCTION. I played this clip at the end of my talk because I always turn to this video when I need a boost of confidence. Such as before coming here, when I quit my job and decided to go back to school and now as I am swimming in the process. We should always be swimming in the process. 

The little voices and the never feeling satisfied never goes away, don’t look for some big change, and it’s not a secret, it’s not like at some point you’ll wake up and everything will be perfect for you. Remember what I said? Feck Perfuction… These videos will never be perfect even when they are better produced. Don’t worry about. My solution is let go kitty. My solution is turn professional. We professionals move ahead anyway. We have an idea here in the studio called begin before you’re ready, because you’ll never be ready. Fuck—charge ahead.