Holy shit, I actually just did a talk…“in front of” a few hundred people…for over an hour… 😱

I’m not sure you, dear reader, fully grasp the gravity of that.

See, fear of public speaking/stage fright (aka “glossophobia”) has been a thing that’s haunted me for…basically my entire life. Incessant school bullying and an emotionally abusive head-of-household with a particular enjoyment of telling a 7 year old child everything they did wrong during the school performance, plus dealing with the fallout from a spouse’s undiagnosed mental illness will kind of do that to a person.

Hell, I even talked about all that almost four years ago. Ironically, I never did take Cal up on his invites and I’ve since lost a large portion of that particular network, but the latter was largely because I basically outgrew a lot of those people. They were better than my at-the-time-current situation, by far, but once I got that foundation, I realized that many of them weren’t actually that great (and many others, I didn’t have a choice in the matter). So now, that support network is far smaller, but I’ve traded quantity for much higher quality. I can be myself in ways I realized I couldn’t before. I’ll take that trade any day.

But Back To The Talk… 

Last Monday, Rehgan Avon, the creator of Women in Analytics and organizer of its annual conference, messaged me about doing a tutorial on Github at the conference.

Almost before I could think twice, I basically leaped at the opportunity, pausing just long enough to make sure I could fit the available block into my schedule.

It really wasn’t until yesterday evening that I actually thought “what the hell did I get myself into?” Honestly, it probably didn’t help that after seeing several of the talks and keynotes by a bunch of women with “executive” and “director” in their titles at “big, well-known company,” I felt like a minnow in the freaking ocean.

But…I did it, and it was a success!

…and holy hell, I’m in a weird state of fatigue right now (because I literally just did it…like…this afternoon). I’m totally not used to doing a talk for 75 minutes and it definitely showed toward the end, when I started tripping over my words. I not have the stamina for that length of talk without some amount of conversational piece (like a panel or round table).

And It Wasn’t Scripted! 

What I’m particularly both proud of and astounded by is the fact that I didn’t feel the need to read off of a script. I created an outline and a slide deck (though I ended up all but abandoning the deck once I got into the hands-on part; if I ever do something like it again, I’ll probably nix that section entirely and just keep the rest as a reference outline to make sure I cover everything I want to), but the talking part was just…talking.

That slide deck is the first of a collection of Hugo+Reveal slide decks, by the way. 😁

So What Changed? 

This really just goes to show just how important psychological safety is, at least for me. Some conscious decisions on my own part to be more assertive and to go about things in the way that works for me has also helped tremendously.

Had she asked me 5 years ago to do this, my response would have been “hell. No” (more diplomatically and polite, of course). A lot of that has to do with the fact that 5 years ago, I was still super worried about what others thought of me and felt the need to do and say things that people expect, in an effort to gain their approval, and I had no social or psychological safety net.

Since then, I:

  • had a manager and mentor who was awesome at helping me gain confidence in my professional life
  • uncovered and fixed the cause of the psychological erosion in my home life
  • made the decision to just do my thing and if people like it, great, if not, that’s okay (why, hello, “own yo' shit” core value)
  • have put up a number of…shall we say, unapologetic posts on my blog, which have gotten a lot of positive reception (it’s part of “doing my thing,” but it’s still nice to see that it’s still attracting good people to my life)