A couple weeks ago, my coworkers and I attended the re:build conference in Indianapolis. It was great, and included a lot of really fantastic speakers: Mig Reyes from Basecamp; Julie Ann Horvath from &yet; and Benjamin Dauer from NPR Digital, to name just a few.
One speaker who I was only marginally familiar with, Michael Lopp, “Rands“, from Palantir. He has a great blog, “Rands in Repose“, and recently he blogged about his speech at re:build. It’s great advice; I’ve been doing more public speaking in the past year than I have ever before, and he gives some candid tips about allowing yourself to freak out. His tips must work, because his talk was excellent:
I arrive at the venue 30 to 60 minutes before the talk, take a glimpse of the venue to get a sense of the audience if they’re there, head to the green room or equivalent, and then I let myself panic.
The point again: standing in front of a bunch of strangers and baring your soul is not a natural act. There are humans who stand up there up and make it easy, but I know two things about these humans: the first time they did it, they were terrified, and the best ones are still a little terrified.
With my double kamikaze, black shirt, and panic, I find somewhere quiet and start playing that Sigur Rós song on repeat. I pace and let myself freak out a bit. Yes, I’m nervous. Yes, I am going to screw up in some unexpected way. Yes, there will be some unexpected disaster that will mess with my flow, but I also know that nervousness is normal and authentic. I know that every screw-up is an opportunity to improvise and create something new.
There’s more, including a template slide that is the perfect way to troubleshoot a bad A/V setup, which I could have used on multiple occasions. And by “freaking out” about the presentation and being obsessive about it, for a time, means you’ll know the material well by the time you go on stage.