7 things we learned about Public Speaking when we talked to Alex Radu and Stefania Chaplin
As part of our series on Aspiring Women Speakers sponsored by Turntabl.io we caught up with Alex Radu (Senior Associate at JPMorgan Chase & Co.) and Stefania Chaplin (Solutions Architect of EMEA at Secure Code Warrior) to get their thoughts and top tips for speaking in public.
Don’t have time to watch the whole Q&A? You don’t have to. Here’s a roundup of things we learned when we talked to Alex and Stefania.
1. Keep to a small friendly crowd when your start out
It’s important to build up your confidence, so try starting out with a small group, with no more than say ten people who you know will be wanting you to succeed (something we can organise for you within the Aspiring Women Speakers group). Alex adds, for her own part, that she liked to have a buddy in the room, “so I could look at them, and see them smiling at me, which would make me smile, or I would know that if no one had a question, they would raise their hand!”
2. Don’t wait to be asked to speak at an event
Whilst invitations to speak will definitely come in time, don’t wait to be approached, especially at the start of your career. Look constantly for gaps and opportunities within your work communities. Stefania points out, that can start with your own manager, “because then that will align with personal development goals — it’s like you are saying ‘Hi, I need opportunities, so please think of me.’”
3. Use your platform to be an ambassador
As our panel all agreed — visibility is so important when it comes to championing women in tech, and public speaking provides this platform. So take full opportunity and the challenge of being a role model. As it dawned on Stefania whilst working for a predominantly male company “I remembered when I had first got into tech and how I didn’t have any women tech super heroes, and I thought ‘I am going to have to be a tech super hero now.’” By getting into speaking, you will one day be looked at by young women entering the industry as someone they want to emulate — it’s a powerful thought.
4. Talk slowly, and try not to read off slides
You will almost always speak faster than normal, perhaps out of nerves or adrenaline. So practice speaking very slowly — in reality this will come across at about the right speed for your audience. It’s also tempting to read off your slides so try keeping content on each one brief and to serve more as a thought starter before you launch into the subject. As Stefania relates, “I would make my slides really visual” (her top tip is go to Google images) “so then people would focus on me and what I was saying.”
5. Don’t feel you have to say ‘yes’ to every event
First of all, you may not have the time, and you do have to make sure you don’t “burn out” as Stefania says. But you also need to think carefully about whether the topic interests you enough to put in the prep, and finally, what your participation says about you? Alex tells us “In choosing what talks to do, I would go for something that aligns with my values and something I am passionate about” we thought this was great advice.
6. IF you do experience negativity, stand tall and use your tools
It happens — luckily not very often — but it happens. Either in virtual talks or in physical events you may find just one audience member seems to be ‘gunning for you’ and asking combative questions. Our panellist’s advice was to try not to take it to heart and to use what you have to hand. As Stefania relays in one incident with a persistent heckler, “the audience actually starting sticking up for me! So having a moderator and also having the audience — they can be your greatest asset.” Though we would point out thankfully we don’t see this regularly in the talks we organise.
7. You don’t have to be an extrovert to be a terrific public speaker
It is universally accepted that introverts possess important skills in this area, “because they reflect a lot, and they think a lot” as Alex point out. If you are more introverted, you will almost definitely have an aversion to getting started and may find in fact that the biggest hurdle is getting yourself on to that stage or webinar in the first place. In that case, make that a comfortable, safe place to be. (Refer to point 1!) Many of the tech industries best presenters are self proclaimed introverts.
If you are interested in gaining experience and confidence in your public speaking please get in touch and join The Aspiring Women Speakers group — it’s just one of 14 tech communities founded and organised by tech recruitment company RecWorks under the #ByRecWorks brand.
For a full list of those communities check out our page here.