10.11.2011

Maybe next year I'll aim to save the whales.

Prepping for the talk with my study buddy.
One of three goals I set for myself this year was to speak publicly about my work. Why did I pick that? I don't have a real fear of public speaking. I've done it before. The reason that goal was a big deal was because I'm slightly unsure of myself in the tech industry. Having a background in the humanities, I've found it hard to find a credible voice among technologists. And all that said, I thought that the experience of speaking publicly would seal the deal once and for all: if I got accepted to speak somewhere and I was able to pull it off, that meant that I had something credible to say.

OH. IF ONLY IT WERE THAT EASY.

I applied to speak at Web 2.0 this spring and heard back early this summer. Accepted. My funky little talk on ghosts and user experience designers, slated for 3:20pm on Wednesday, October 12. Of course at that point, it wasn't a funky little talk. It was a title and a paragraph description.

I can honestly say that creating this talk, a 20 minute talk complete with slides, has been one of the hardest things I've done in my adult life. Last week I was completely paralyzed and didn't open the document for 7 days. The fear that I don't have anything of value to say was alive and well. Kicking me in the gut, day after day.

"What the hell am I doing this for?" I kept asking myself. "This is not even part of my job. It's extra-curricular to the Nth degree. There is no need for me to do this."

And yet. I think it's pretty clear that there is a need for me to do this. Not because it's an expectation at work and not because I wrote about it on my blog and not even because it's holding to a commitment I made. I need to do this because this is the kind of person I've always imagined being, no matter what industry I ended up in. Speaking about who we are in our jobs, the metaphors that are most apt, the motivation and inspiration that can push us to be better at what we do on a daily basis. Whether I ended up in French education, marketing, technology or fly fishing, speaking publicly and coaching others was going to be part of it. Ignoring that instinct means ignoring an essence of who I am.

I spent the day writing index cards, rehearsing and finalizing slides. When Chris walked in the door tonight, I practiced for him. And now that I'm less than 24 hours from my talk, I am no longer afraid. Instead, I feel... excited?

I am! I have a new outfit! And most importantly, I believe what I'm going to speak about tomorrow. Yeah, I'll probably give a better talk in 5 years once I've had the opportunity several more times. But for a first talk in the tech industry, it feels finished enough. It feels ambitious enough. And at the end of the day, showing up and giving a talk, regardless of what anyone in that room takes away, will mean that I was successful in my goal.

Oh. And if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, it should come of no surprise that I've gone and thrown myself in the deep end of the pool. Cause I'm giving a longer version of this talk next Wednesday at a conference in Asbury, NJ.

Uh. Hooray? It's a little tiring to be this unafraid of life.

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