Public speaking – 5 reasons why you should try it

In more than two years ago I started my journey with public speakings. And it went better than I expected. I want to share my feelings why is worth to start your own public speaking journey in your company / community group / work team.

In term of public speaking I am not talking only about standing on the stand and shouting towards people but all activities like:

  • giving a presentation or lightning talk in your project / company
  • being a trainer during a workshop
  • present your ideas in meeting in front of your superiors / managers
  • sharing your knowledge in podcast / youtube videos

Therefore, all these events when you are heard by a group of people and they only listen to you.

I grouped advantages of public speaking in 5 points:

Self confidence

Showing yourself ahead a group of many people can be stressful and leaving-speechless. It is a really tough thing to do if you haven’t been doing it before. You will find plenty of excuses why not do it and only a few why to do it. Especially when you are quite shy and introvert person.

But at the same time, speaking to the people will increase your self-confidence and skills to convince people to your ideas. It expands slowly, a speech after speech. But it does. You start to get more practice, fluency, more courage and determination. You understand how to cope with pressure and tough audience. How to propagate your thoughts in a way that people will understand.

And you find that it helpful in other situations in your life – in arguing with your boss, with complaining about the invalid product in the store, during an interview meeting etc. In every condition, that needs you to stand firm in your opinion. It’s much easier to do it after few sessions where you tried yourself in hard situations, your stress level increased but you stayed calm.

It helps to start your journey in a friendly environment, which will not focus on some unnecessary details and provide proper feedback after a talk. I remember my first Lightning Talk in my company, about Gulp pipeline. I was really nervous about this speech. During the talk, I was shaking really much. I thought that it would be a disaster. But people were listening how this technology can overcome their problems, focusing on value from the new framework and not concerning about my behavior. At the end, it turned out that speech was a great success and friendly faces were congratulating me for my first lightning talk. It told me that you need to make the first step to overcoming your primal fear. After that, it is much easier.

Knowledge sharing

Typically, you run public speakings to share your knowledge with other people. You want to distribute new ideas, thoughts, new look on some topic. Or maybe just teach your folks about technology that they need to know, being on your current project. But in every this situation, you increase their level of wisdom and they start to be more competent in the area you describe. They start doing their work in a more effective way. They find some interesting way of using your ideas. Sometimes nothing happens for a quite long time and then – boom – a moment of clarity changes people minds.

Giving them broader insight has one more additional advantage. People have to understand an idea to support and justify it – without this knowledge, you won’t find allies to advocate your choices.  You won’t introduce a better framework or library into the project. Pattern, that you know that will help in your current situation, won’t be established because people will reject it due to low understanding of its value. To recommend implementing new technologies in your company you need to have competent people around you.

For example, I was (still am) a big fan of LinqPad. To interest people in my company in this tool and make company buy a license for it I presented LinqPad in lightning Talk and then wrote few use-cases how to use it. People got more familiar with this tool and company was more eager to pay for it. Without it, my employer wouldn’t see a value in buying this tool.

Deeper learning

To be able to teach other people / present something you have to get a deeper knowledge about your topic. It’s easy to recall some info, google it and then use it, but it’s much harder to spread this knowledge between other people. Just look at the Bloom’s Taxonomy of learning.

To be able to teach other people you will need to go higher in learning ladder –  evaluating or defending some technology, comparing it to other fields, demonstrating it to end users. But during preparing for the presentation you will get this knowledge seamlessly:

  • You will try to answer questions that you assume someone will ask
  • You will think about connections to other technologies / patterns
  • You will get arguments to defend / critique your case
  • You will show how to use this technology in real use-case scenarios
  • And plenty of more

Chad Fowler (Chief Technology of Wunderlist which currently works for Microsoft), told at DevDay conference that he used writing a Programming Ruby book to deepen his knowledge in Ruby language. He wasn’t an expert but he became after this book.

For me, my Azure Functions lighting talk and Angular training gave me an opportunity to master this technology area and spread this knowledge in the company.

Become a tech leader

Public speaking gives you very good opportunity to show your knowledge in front of a group of people and convince them to your ideas. For few moments, your words are everything they hear and analyse. You are proving that your idea / recommendation is so valuable that you decided to share it publicly.  It’s the best way to get people attention and interest in your ideas.

Showing yourself gives you an option to prove your skills in particular technology, respond the critiques or provide arguments to common doubts. If you can answer people questions and provide high quality responds people start to rely on your opinions. They will perceive you as an expert in particular topic / technology. They will ask for help when they got a problem or catch you to discuss some new ideas. Giving a presentation provides you an option to find people thinking just like you, having the same opinions and doubts. You will be more visible, more approachable to people, and definitely better known as a professional in your subject.

The process of becoming a tech leader won’t be succeeded by a single talk, but public speakings are one of a great component to achieve this goal.

Increase your market value

During my explorations about how to speak well to the public, I found such a simple but interesting and genuine equation how to calculate your market value:

Your market value =

Knowledge & skills *

Ability to present your knowledge *

Contact network

Of course, it basis only on author experience but I found it really worth spreading – let’s assume you have 8/10 points in knowledge and 2/10 in presentation skills. Improving from 8 to 9 in knowledge is really hard and will only increase your value by 12%. At the same time, boosting your presentation skill, from 2 to 3, will be much straightforward and will result in 50% better result in the market value.

Ability to sell yourself, your knowledge, skills and competence is a crucial factor to be able to be better heard in your team / company / market. Without it, people will overcome you and your good ideas with their wrong ones, just because they are more experienced in presenting them. You won’t be visible in your current project and, in the result, you won’t get promoted or moved to a better one. You could be even disappointed that you are so competent but you are always being omitted during discussions or meetings.

So expertise in particular technology and spending more and more hours to being aware of any details of your framework won’t result in a better position in employee market and a higher salary. After some point, you must also expand your public skills to achieve greater results.

2 years ago, when my new project was starting, I wanted to try Event Storming as a way to discover new business domain. Unfortunately, I was so weak in selling this idea to my colleagues that we eventually haven’t used it. It told me that having a knowledge and selling are two different things, and we need to develop ourselves in these two topics at the same time.

Summary

I hope that my thoughts will inspire you to start public speaking, or at least think about it. It is really hard to start, but from that point, everything goes like a snowball – every another step comes easier and easier. A few years ago I wouldn’t imagine that I will be able to stand in front of few hundreds of people and not to die of a heart attack. This year I did it at Programistok and it was great. So if I can handle it, you can do it as well!

If you know other advantages, that I haven’t described in this post please write them below. I will be very grateful 🙂

  • Clagoos

    Can you recommend a strategy to improve the skill of presenting ideas to other people? How did you personally improved in that regard? Any books you read, helped you in this task? 🙂 (my first time was at Programistok 2017 ^^)