Loading Jaywing website
19 September 2018 / Opinion

How to start public speaking at digital events

Arianne Donoghue / Strategy Director

If you work in digital, you’ve most likely been to at least one digital marketing conference and networked with like-minded individuals who have the same passion for the subject.

From smaller events focusing on one specialism, to larger events such as PUBCON or BrightonSEO; there are so many opportunities in this industry to further engage your interest and even, begin speaking and sharing your knowledge.

These events are always on the lookout for experts to speak and share their skills and experience. In this post, I hope to encourage even the least confident digital experts to come forward and have the faith and belief that they can do it too.

Speaking publicly is a skill that is becoming imperative in our digital roles; whether it’s for an important client pitch, jumping on stage to present to the rest of the company or even just giving a small presentation in a team meeting.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that it’s not something that people naturally want to do - in fact, in many surveys it comes up higher than the fear of dying! And I too was more terrified before my proper speaking gig than I was before getting married, or before I jumped out of a plane, so why put yourself through it?

What do you get out of public speaking?

The benefits of public speaking far outweigh any nervous feelings you’re bound to have towards it. It’s such a positive way to show not only the people you work with - but an extensive range of companies and other experts - what you know and that you’re ready to share it, especially if you have fresh ideas.

This is of course once you get past the “I have nothing to say and even if I did, why would people want to listen to me?” phase, which probably precedes the “stages of public speaking” in the below tweet!

It’s always tough to get past the phase of thinking you’re not good enough or that you’ve got nothing to say that will be taken seriously, especially when it’s your first speaking opportunity.

One top tip includes “fake it until you make it,” so acting super confident will eventually make you feel confident and, you don’t even need to “fake it,” as most of the time you will have been invited to speak or the organisers will truly believe your content is worth listening to. That is one important thing to remember.

More reason to speak publicly is that not everyone can, the rush of endorphins at the end is something that not everyone has the chance to experience during their careers, so make sure you make the most of an opportunity like this.

It’s likely that the audience won’t notice any mistakes you might make because they will be enjoying the knowledge you have to share. Getting over the initial fear is so important so you can develop this valuable skill.

Being a role model to others is another really valuable reason to try out public speaking. For me personally, I enjoy speaking for under-represented groups that I’m a part of.

I want to demonstrate that there are plenty of women in the industry that are experts in their field, and I want other women to feel empowered and motivated to help balance out the ratio in digital.

There is no exclusion at these events based on who you are or the way you look, you just need to know your stuff and organisers will want to listen to you.

Here are some of my top tips to help you secure and prepare for the first time you speak publicly:

How do you land the gig?

  • Tell people that you want to speak! Choose an event you’ve enjoyed in the past and contact the organisers and let them know what content you’ve got to offer. Events tend to have pages dedicated to speakers with pitching tips and what kind of content they are looking for. Check out the list of events I’ve included below which accept speaker submissions.
  • Look for any local events/meetups to find a smaller event you could use as your first opportunity.
  • Sign up as an attendee to events in your local area. For example, in Leeds there are groups such as Glug, Hey!, Bettakultcha, Ladies of Code and She Does Digital. These groups will give you a feel for the kind of things these events talk about and they will offer support to anyone wanting to try out public speaking. Attending an event is always a great way to see if you’ll actually enjoy it.
  • Make the most of your network and ask any colleagues who have spoken in the past where they have spoken and how they prepared for it. Any acquaintances in the industry are also a great way to get considered for a speaking event, especially when you have ready-made content to persuade them with.
  • Embrace social media, especially Twitter and LinkedIn, and post about the topics you want to speak about and see if your contacts get in touch. Make sure you ask your connections to share posts so you get yourself out there and in front of the people who can help you out.

Help! I’ve been asked to speak

Ok, so you’ve landed yourself a speaking slot, what now?

  • Make sure you have time to prepare, it really will make a huge difference in your delivery and confidence on the day.
  • Try not to feel intimidated by the speakers you see at big events - public speaking doesn’t come naturally to anyone - therefore you can make it work for you, too.
  • Asking for guidelines is always useful to make sure you’re fully prepared. You’ll need to know about any formats for material, whether you will need to prepare for a Q&A session and perhaps what the timings for your presentation will need to be.
  • Get the opinion of someone you trust by sitting them down and presenting to them to gain some honest and constructive feedback. This will not only help you to streamline your presentation but also feel more confident and prepared because you’ve been able to have a run through with a ‘real’ audience.

Check out these resources:

  • Have a look at TED for inspiration on public speaking. Before you have a go, it’s probably a good idea to see the way people approach these events before you start to practice.
  • If you have a creative-type role, it’s a good idea to check out Glug, it hosts plenty of events aimed at promoting the creative industry.
  • Have a look for events that suit you on Eventbrite & Meetup.
  • To make your presentations look amazing, use high quality and royalty-free images from Unsplash, Pexels and Pixabay.
  • For any speech-related resources, have a look at Toastmasters for a range of tips and ideas.
  • Read about what makes a “perfect” keynote in this LinkedIn article from IBM’s Watson.
  • Watch this TED talk for feedback on what features make a good PowerPoint presentation aimed at public speaking.

Events which accept speaker submissions: