Dublin Tech Summit Speakers — Tips on Building Confidence

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

By SummitSync

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Or not…

Another call for speakers popped into my inbox — it’s the third one this month. I made it a goal for 2017 to speak at one event this year and signed up for a ton of event notifications. Yet, I haven’t even been able to submit a proposal. Call it a case of imposter syndrome but I kept finding myself asking: how do I develop the confidence to speak at conferences?

Google soon discovered my lack of confidence with searches like “when am I qualified to speak at a conference?” and “how do you gain confidence?” and “am I ever going to feel good enough?”. What I soon realized is that this is a feeling many other blossoming business professionals can relate to.

Now that I knew I wasn’t alone, I wanted to learn how I could not only help myself build the confidence to speak at a conference but how I could help others. I figured the best way would be to interview a few speakers on building confidence and with Dublin Tech Summit quickly approaching I knew these speakers were prepping for the event on February 15 and 16.

Bruce Daisley, EMEA VP of Twitter

Bruce Daisley didn’t answer the questions I provided to him — he instead “wrote a block of text… because it was coming across a bit staccato answering the questions.”

Before I even read his block of text, I was already learning about building confidence. He contributed intriguing insights but not in the mold I provided. By being different and bold and he became the first person I wrote about in this Medium post — and if you develop that boldness, you might develop the confidence you need to speak in front of thousands like Bruce has.

“I used to hate public speaking. When I first started a job I wasn’t that crazy for talking on the phone if I’m honest.”

Me too, Bruce, me too.

“But a bit like Barack Obama said, the secret in life is ‘always act confident’…What I found was that when I presented something that someone else had written I was awful. So I made sure I wrote things myself. That was the first baby-step of progress. I found that when I wrote it a few weeks before, I’d spot little bits that I could add a joke in… So, basically across all of these things, I was finding what worked for me.”

Okay — but what if you still don’t have the confidence?

“I used to work at Google and all of us were always bewitched by the presentations that the Product Managers used to give to show their new work. These were deeply introverted people that would present in such an intelligent but enchanting way that audiences would fall in love with them.

One — Clay Bavor, who now is VP of Virtual Reality at Google, told me how they did it. “We rehearse word for word 13 times”…when you do anything that much it goes deep into your subconscious. It allows you to go off script with comfort, it allows you to lose your way and find it again, it gives you comfort that you know. No matter how bad a presenter you are. No matter how nervous you are. If you’ve done it 13 times you’ll at least know that you can say the words.”

And that’s when I called my mom to tell her my theatre degree will actually come in handy for something. If I know anything, I know how to rehearse the same thing over and over again.

Colette Ballou, Founder Ballou PR

Colette gave much more practical advice — which seems fitting from someone talking on women angel investing and female leaders breaking down antiquated barriers at Dublin Tech Summit.

What’s your best piece of advice for someone trying to build enough confidence to speak at a conference?

“…Think about whether you’re most comfortable in front of an audience of 1000, 100 or 10, and scale accordingly. I know many great speakers who are at their best in front of small groups of people. Second, speak about something you know, that you have stories about, and that you are really enthusiastic about. Everyone likes stories, and if you are keen about your topic, it will come through and make it easier for you… Finally, psych yourself into it through body language. Smile, make eye contact, stand up straight.”

Tony Corrigan, CEO TenderScout

Tony Corrigan might be the antithesis of Bruce Daisley as one of his first comments during our brief call was “I quite enjoy speaking to audiences. It’s probably the thing I enjoy most about my job” — which provided a great contrast in how people build the confidence to speak.

What’s your best piece of advice for someone trying to build enough confidence to speak at a conference?

“If you are going to speak at a conference it is because you know more than other people on a particular subject. People are generally forgiving for nerves, etc. Be confident in what you have to say & move up to bigger and bigger groups and articulate that in an entertaining way. The worst that is going to happen is that people aren’t going to find you interesting.”

You mean I’m not going to burst into flames if I stutter or if presentation slides mess up? That’s definitely a relief.

Jill Duffy, Contributing Editor PC Magazine

As a member of the media, Jill offers a unique perspective on going from attendee to speaker. She attended her first conference about three years before speaking which helped her develop the confidence in her field to begin speaking.

What was the very first conference you spoke at?

“The same company that owned Game Developer (the magazine has since folded) also puts on the Game Developer Conference… They approached me to give a talk about careers in video game development in London at one of the conferences.

Before the talk, I was prepared. I had covered the industry for a few years. I had reported on trends in the video game development business for some time. I had close relationships with people in the industry. I talked to hiring managers. I talk to schools that offered game development programs. I emailed with prospective applicants in the video game development business. I knew my shit.”

If you couldn’t tell, Jill is a pretty confident woman.

“During the talk, I was reading the room to make sure I was giving the audience information that was descriptive, accurate, and what they actually needed to hear…. My main concern was making sure I was giving information that was applicable and helpful to all these people of quite different backgrounds. I didn’t want to dumb it down for someone with a lot of professional experience, and I didn’t want to be over the heads of the less experienced people in the audience.”

By adapting to her audience and making the talk more about their needs than her own, Jill was able to provide the audience with confidence which empowered her own.

She finishes with “Some people like public speaking, and some people don’t. If you don’t like it, there are probably other ways you can achieve your objectives, such as by writing and publishing or having one-on-one conversations with the right people. Public speaking draws attention to yourself and invites scrutiny, and if you don’t want that attention, you need to find other ways to use the skills you do have to achieve your goals.”

Jill, Tony, Colette, and Bruce are all talking at Dublin Tech Summit on February 15 and 16. No matter how different their talks will be, they all have the same tenacity and grit for getting past their nerves and building confidence throughout their lives.

Now, it’s time for me to write that speaking proposal.

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