At Artsy, sharing knowledge is heavily encouraged and so we write our code in the open, document using blog posts, and speak about our experiences. Many have bumped into us at various places around the world. And so I often get the question: “How did you get started? I’m interested in speaking too”.

In the name of sharing experiences with others, I can’t encourage this enough. Unfortunately though, public speaking is still considered man’s biggest fear.

I’d like to share with you the benefits of public speaking, tips on how to get started, and how to give great presentations.

Why do it?

Communication

Without necessarily realising, you’re publicly speaking all the time. At the heart of it, it’s the act of communicating and expressing your ideas and viewpoints for others to understand.

It could be as simple as ordering your morning coffee or as important as trying to convince your team that they should use a new technology. Regardless of the context, it involves restructuring your thoughts into words and metaphors that you think others can relate to in order for them to understand your concepts.

Public speaking is a skill that is always good to improve on. Misunderstandings happen all the time, and at the heart of that is often poor communication.

I know people have refrained from speaking up in meetings at work, because they struggle with speaking in front of others. There’s no need for everyone to be a keynote speaker at a conference, but if it’s hindering you in your career, it may be worth practicing. Everyone should feel empowered to call a meeting, participate in discussions, or ask questions at an all hands.

Learning

Another reason giving talks is 👍🏽 is that it will allow you to learn more fully. One of the best ways to learn is by teaching others. You grasp ideas better yourself and in order to communicate them properly, you get into the habit of restructuring your ideas and concepts.

Unfortunately, people often also consider this the blocker to public speaking. Not only are you afraid you’ll accidentally make a fool of yourself (“what if I trip?”) but also that it will be apparent that you don’t know something well enough. The only way to get over this is by doing it.

Chances are that you are actually very knowledgeable in certain fields, you just perceive that as normal. “Yeah, but that’s not interesting… everyone knows about that”. And I can bet that, well, probably not everyone knows about that. Definitely not as much as you might actually do.

We all have our strengths. This is the time to play on them. We can’t be experts in both Core Image, Core Animation, and the Objective C runtime, all the while knowing everything about Swift Protocols. Pick your slice from a much wider scope. It doesn’t need to be a full framework, even just a specific use case of it, like background transfer services.

Furthermore, see it as a learning opportunity. Speak about a topic that truly interests you and take this time to uncover things you’ve always wanted to know. It does not require you to be an expert up front — sharing knowledge gives you the chance to become one.

For example, I wanted to give a talk on the beauty of design and why beautiful things “just work”. I took this chance to read papers and books on the field of positive psychology and design, learning all kinds of fun new facts. Others have shared with me also that it wasn’t until they decided to write or speak about certain API that they fully got to understand all the ins and outs.

Ok you got me interested… now what?

That's great!

Next you'd probably want to figure out where you'd like to speak and how to prepare a good talk. This will be covered in the next two posts, so stay tuned.

Categories: community, learning, oss, speaking, teaching

Part of a series: Public Speaking