Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Going on the speaking circuit

Did you know that the term "speaking circuit" originated in 1800s, when it was literally a single circuit around the country and speakers like Mark Twain travelled along it on horses? Today the speaker circuit is a figure of speech (pun intended) as there are so many different way to spread information, and it would be silly to put all the speakers on the same route.

My personal speaking circuit started at San Francisco last night, when I spoke at Ignite Where. I was invited last Wednesday, and needed to come up with a topic quickly, so I went meta and talked about talking!

Ignite has a very rigid format: 5 minutes with 20 auto-advancing slides, 15 seconds each. To prepare for the talk, I made slides out of little pieces of paper and timed myself with a wrist watch.

It was hard to get the timing right. Sometimes I would go under, sometimes I would go over. The worst was when I went under and marched ahead into the next slide, and misremembered the sequence. I practiced maybe 6 or 7 times, and concluded that I would not transition to the next slide until the auto advancing happened. That way I know for sure what is on the next slide!

Ignite was at 7pm last night. There were 12 speakers, and we talked back to back. I was really, really nervous. Normally I am fine rambling on for 20 or more minutes, but the auto-advancing slides made me feel out of control.

I was second to go on stage, and the talk actually went pretty well!

A few people approached me today, telling me that they loved my talk. Not bad for my public speaking debut! Tomorrow I'm flying to Chicago to speak at WindyCityGo, and next week I will be in Philadelphia for Philly ETE. Both of them are tech talks, so they won't be as entertaining. But I hope people will love them just the same!

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