Public Speaking: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
If you watch Xena Olsen deliver this gem of a talk, or have ever seen her present live, you’ll admire her knowledge, enthusiasm, and naturally compelling speaking style. She’s genuine and personable enough to be relatable, but smooth and poised enough to convey how confident and comfortable she is.
But is she really that comfortable? The creativity and frequency of her infosec talks might fool you into thinking Xena is cool as a cucumber at all times, but the truth is she gets just as nervous as we mortals. Public speaking can leave you vulnerable to criticism, negativity, gossip, and even pushback from unsupportive managers.
So, why do it, and keep doing it? In the video above, Xena outlines a couple dozen reasons to undertake public speaking.
Here are some of the top takeaways:
- Writing compelling Call for Presentation (CFP) proposals that get selected is an art. This is a great way to practice and refine your writing skills. (Katie Nickels’s step-by-step guide to writing infosec proposals is a must-read.)
- Representation matters! If you are a member of any underrepresented group, your presence on the stage or screen at an infosec conference can make all the difference to someone who needs to see someone who looks like them.
- Stay sharp. Whether your day job isn’t challenging enough or just doesn’t allow for the opportunity on a day-to-day basis to research slightly tangential topics of interest, delivering a talk gives you the perfect excuse to dive into that research and build or refine additional skills.
- Build your brand and bypass the HR firewall. Even if you’re in your dream job right now, you never know what the future holds. When you put yourself out into the industry through public presentations, you’ll develop connections (and often friendships) that can lead to other opportunities - or get your resume on the top of the pile when the time comes.
- See it as a life hack for getting stuff done. If you generally struggle to complete projects and need a deadline and goal to motivate you, there’s nothing like the fear of showing up to your presentation unprepared to get you moving.
- Teaching is a powerful tool for learning. Xena cites the Feynman technique, which essentially holds that if you want to understand something thoroughly, you must be able to explain it simply. (Here’s a quick video that expands on this idea.)