My great friend Adam has been telling me to talk to Belina about her courses for years and I’m glad I did. The biggest barrier to me doing this course before now was my diary – I was very rarely in the same city for weeks at a time so I couldn’t commit but this year I’ve been travelling far less (phew!)
The reason I did this is I’m building a business that is about changing confidence. I spend a lot of time talking to others about being on stage, putting themselves out there and speaking up when it feels scary. This was an exercise of empathy for me and I’m building #upfront in a better way because of it.
I’m really good at talking to crowds and I love being on stage but I’m firmly in my comfort zone every time I do both of these things – even with massive crowds. Being funny on stage is a whole different ball game – no amount of design knowledge or expertise is going to guarantee you’ll make someone laugh so this is why I wanted to do it. The other big reason was making people laugh is a very powerful way to talk about things that matter – about scary problems and controversial subjects. One of the things I learnt very early in the course is that comedians have permission to tell the truth in a way that nobody else does.
Our class was diverse – different ages, genders, accents, professions, races. We all had two things in common in – firstly we were all driven by making a positive change in the world and secondly we all wanted to try being a stand-up comedian.
Half way through the 6 weeks we met the fabulous Steve Cross who filmed each of us practising our set. This was the night I performed 2 minutes of stand-up comedy in front of ten people. We then watched it back in silence – who do we see? What kind of person do you look like when you separate the performer with YOU? It was a really useful exercise- I forget how much dressing all in black impacts how people perceive me. You can look like a personality that is different from yours and you can use this to your advantage when trying to be funny.
A key learning for me was the idea of always finding the joy and the beauty in things. The first round of feedback I got was that I was coming across as angry. Damn right I’m angry! I wanted to use humour to talk to others about why I was angry so we could all get to work on taking action to tackle the problem! Boy, did I get this all wrong.
Comedians who are angry and have dark material have been doing this for a very long time. You can’t be angry when you are just learning because it disengages the audience and makes them feel bad. This was hard for me to get to grips with. The more I practised my material slowly it started to change. One week the group told me it felt like a public lecture with a few one liners in there – that’s something very different to a stand-up set. I had to learn how to talk about things that make me really angry in a joyful way. Next time you are angry, ask yourself what is the positive, joyful way of looking at this?
“If you can be kind when you are angry or afraid, you can engage people in a very powerful way.” – Belina Raffy
I learned you can control the audience with your face. Any personality test type thing I’ve ever done in the past has a whole paragraph dedicated to the pros and cons of my inability to hide what I’m thinking or feeling at any given time.
“Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds.” – David Deida
This was actually really useful when trying to be funny because I was making people laugh in an authentic way – what you see on my face is real! You can see pictures of the final show here.
I practised a lot. I really enjoyed the process of writing and rewriting and getting feedback from my very funny baby brother who definitely helped me with some of those cracking one-liners! Hat tip to Bloody Good Period who inspired a chunk of my material.
I used to think comedians we see on TV were just naturally good at being funny. The reality is that every single line, breath, pause and facial expression has been designed and redesigned one hundred times. It’s an art and a craft.
The original blog post can be seen here.
Also, Lauren will run a speaker training workshop with us later this year, details will be announced in due course.
What’s in a name?
We are changing our name! I came up with the name metsitaba and started using it without really testing it on other people. Turns out it’s pretty hard to spell, and thus sucks as a name. In true startup fashion, we’re “pivoting” to a new name. The transition will take a few weeks, as we need to update our website and all that stuff. I wrote a newspaper article about the whole thing if you want more background.
The mission of this newsletter remains the same: for speakers, by speakers, growing a community to help each other become better at delivering technical conference talks, and supporting the growing acceptance of diversity in technology.
I also wanted to write a note about your personal data. To send you this newsletter we need your name (so we can be polite) and email address (so we can delivery it). You’ve trusted us with that information, and all you signed up for was a newsletter, so that’s the only thing we’ll do with that information. A lot of startups have “newsletters” that are just sales pitches. I hope you can tell from the content of this newsletter that we don’t think that is cool or useful for people. This is a newsletter about public speaking, and it’s the newsletter I wish I could have read when I was just starting out giving talks.
Next week you will receive your newsletter from email@example.com.
What is your biggest challenge as a tech speaker?
This newsletter is for you. I want it to include hints, tips and strategies that resonate with you.
So go ahead, hit reply and tell me what you find challenging as a speaker.
I will address the most pressing issues in each edition.
Ayah is a startup founder, not a public speaker, and she shows how far you can get on mission and passion. This is not a stirring speech. Its power comes from the fact that Ayah is on a mission, and you can see it, and you can feel it. The easiest way to give a great talk is to believe in the words you are saying. It makes everything else fall into place.
And she gives a killer demo. Notice how carefully composed it is. Just enough to show the idea. Just enough to get you interested. But she never falls into unnecessary detail. She never makes assumptions about the audience’s understanding. This is the winning move, and you can hear it from the audience’s reaction.
LEARN FROM THE BEST
“They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.”
Malala has a gentle speaking voice but uses her strength of character to help you see things from the child’s perspective.
For a full review of Malala’s speech see here.
For some this may be an uncomfortable read, but it is probably the most important book you could read, Audre Lorde did everything with passion, she was passionate in her anger against a system that was unequal, she was passionate about her struggle against homophobia, racism and sexism. She was passionate about her family and passionate about educating everyone, making them aware of their own prejudices and passionate about changing how we think and feel about each other.
Like many people, I’ve spent much of my life being terrified of public speaking. The second I heard my name, my hands would get shaky and a heavy weight would settle in somewhere deep in my stomach. After the dead man’s walk to the front of the room, I’d stand in front of the class, red-faced, nervously rolling my feet outward onto the edges of my shoes and back in. How did my limbs work again?
Everything felt like it was in the wrong place, not sitting right against my torso. And then I had to actually speak. My voice quavered, I quietly sped through what I’d written, tripping over words and pausing only when the last bit of air had been forced out of my lungs.
Data Innovation Summit, Stockholm, Sweden
- Data Innovation Summit
- Stockholm, Sweden
- Thu 22 Mar 2018 to Thu 22 Mar 2018
- Standard ticket: 4990kr
Ready to pack your bags and head to Stockholm? The third edition of Data Innovation Summit promises to be “bigger, better, more insightful and more exciting than ever.” With over 60 Nordic and international speakers on five stages, there are plenty of opportunities to learn, network and explore the expo area. Data Management, Advanced Analytics, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence are just a few of the topics that will be presented, so if this is your field of interest, you might want to check out the event.
CityJS Conf, London, UK
- CityJS Conf
- London, England
- Mon 26 Mar 2018 to Mon 26 Mar 2018
- City University of London, Northhampton
- Standard ticket: £160
Artificial Intelligence Conference, Beijing, China
- Artificial Intelligence Conference Beijing
- Beijing, China
- Tue 10 Apr 2018 to Fri 13 Apr 2018
- Beijing International Hotel Conference Center
- Standard ticket: YEN 5300
The Artificial Intelligence Conference Beijing is part of a series of events hosted by O’Reilly Media. This event focuses on the application of artificial intelligence – bridging the gap between AI research and industrial business applications. Listen to global AI experts from some of the top tech companies from Silicon Valley to China and check out the workshops too. Early Bird tickets are only available until March 9th, so be sure to get yours early and save a few dollars if you plan to attend.
These are the CFP deadline dates and submission pages.
- Sun 11 Mar 2018, QtDay, Florence, Italy
- Sun 11 Mar 2018, PyCon Ukraine, Kharkiv, Ukraine
- Thu 15 Mar 2018, Beer City Code 2018, Grand Rapids, Michigan USA
- Fri 16 Mar 2018, IT Service Delivery Forum, Brno, Czech Republic
- Open call, SaasStock 2018, Dublin, Ireland
Can I ask you for a favour? If you enjoy this newsletter, and if you find it useful, please consider recommending it to a friend who is learning to give technical talks, or who aspires to do so. I meet so many cool programmers who have brilliant things to share with the world—that’s you!
Thursday, March 15th 2018
This newsletter (and our company) will be supporting and hosting a World Speech Day event in Ireland on March 15th. This is a global event taking place in over 80 countries worldwide on the same day and celebrates the art of public speaking by hosting and supporting the voices of new speakers and young people all over the world.
If you’d like to participate, we’re looking for volunteers to help make this community event happen. We need people to help with preparation, as well as participate on the night of the 15th. Everybody is welcome.