Why you should try public speaking

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JS Kongress — (r)evolution of JavaScript. March 11–12 2019 in Munich, Germany
  • Presenting is a skill that is often required in one’s professional life, especially in the ICT (information and communications technology) sector. Every time you explain something to a group of people, you are, in fact, speaking publicly.

What’s keeping you from public speaking?

These are a few things that may keep you from public speaking. In each case you can do something about it:

Overcome your fear.

There’s enormous power in mastering and overcoming a fear, whatever it is. I can recall the smile on a new rock climber’s face when he conquered his fear. “I have never felt so alive and free,” he said to me soon after completing his climb. That same feeling happens if you overcome a fear of public speaking, and — at least to me — it’s a whole lot easier than climbing a mountain.

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak, and to sit down and listen.” –Winston Churchill

I’m too nervous.

According to a study, “75% of all people experience some degree of anxiety/nervousness when speaking publicly”. In other words: it’s normal. Most audiences appreciate nervousness, because it means that the speaker cares — nothing is worse than a speaker who doesn’t care. Nervousness can also add energy to a talk. Lastly, don’t forget that nervousness is often a sign of intelligence. Less intelligent people tend to be over-confident; it’s called the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The best antidote against nervousness is preparation: You can practice on your own (speaking aloud!) or in front of friends. Going through the talk several times will make you feel much safer.

I don’t have enough experience.

Everybody has to start somewhere! The best way of learning is by doing. Public speaking is not much different from having a normal conversation. The main things to keep in mind are: breathe properly and slow down (talk slower than you would in a conversation).

Additionally, there is a lot of material on speaking available online. Simply do a web search for “speaking tips” or something similar. I have also included a list of resources at the end of this blog post.

I don’t have anything to talk about.

Anything you have tried out or discovered can make a good talk. Aspects of your work that seem unremarkable to you may well be interesting for others. You can also use a talk as an opportunity to research a topic that you have always wanted to know more about.

The audience will criticize me.

Technical conferences are increasingly making efforts to create safe environments for public speaking. Therefore, you can usually count on being protected from malicious reactions. In my experience, most reactions are well-meaning and genuinely interested. Keep in mind that no one knows everything! Therefore: don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. You can even pass questions on to the audience (“I don’t know — does anyone in the audience have an idea?”).

Then there is feedback that is negative or angry without being truly malicious. This can hurt, but I’m trying to approach it with a positive attitude: it is often better than no feedback at all and can contain valuable information (which is what I focus on, not the negativity).

I don’t have enough time to prepare a talk.

You don’t have to finish a talk in order to submit it. Creating an abstract and a title is enough. The detailed preparation can follow afterwards.

I don’t know how to write a talk proposal.

Check out the JS Kongress blog post “Tips for submitting a talk to a conference”. It gives tips for finding a topic, creating an abstract, etc.

Reasons for speaking at JS Kongress Munich 2019

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The deadline for submitting contributions to JS Kongress is November 14. So there is still time! These are a few reasons why you should submit a talk or a workshop to that conference (taken from a previous blog post):

  • In 2019, JS Kongress is the largest JavaScript conference in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland).

Other open calls for talks

These are lists with conferences that are currently looking for speakers:

More information on public speaking

This article was initially created by Axel Rauschmayer and published at 2016.js-kongress.de. It was updated by Johannes Weber: remove broken links, add new ones, added some citations and additional points.

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