Speaking to a Room of Mostly Strangers

Last week I presented my five minute talk about creating a custom setting to disable validation rules to the London Salesforce Developer User Group. It was the graduation from Speaker Academy, which was taught by co-founders Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden.

To prepare, I watched the video Keir took of us presenting to the class. I sounded confident and entertained the audience. I practiced presenting alone and once to a friend. I re-read my slides and notes.

When I arrived at the user group, I wasn’t super nervous. I knew some people and found my speaker academy classmates. When I got up to present, I was definitely nervous. My brain got unfocused. Presenting to a room of mostly people I didn’t know was much harder than presenting to the class, who I’d gotten to know over the course of 6 weeks.

One of the first things Jodi taught us was that we shouldn’t act nervous while presenting. It really does make it harder for the audience to enjoy what you have to say. Keir mentioned that the last class seemed to be much more comfortable presenting to the class versus a large group of strangers. Logically it makes sense, right?

I spoke quickly, I didn’t pause for dramatic effect,  I stumbled over my words, and I didn’t make eye contact enough. It was definitely not my best.

Since I want to keep speaking, it’s  important to move forward and focus on what I learned:

  1. People didn’t do anything horrible to me for not being perfect. There were no rotten tomatoes thrown and no one booed me. Jodi gave me some good feedback and encouraged me to keep presenting. I got offers to speak at other user groups.
  2. Relax! It’s much harder to do in practice, but next time I’m definitely going to have more fun presenting. I like talking to people, so I’m going to try to remember that speaking is very similar to meeting new people at an event.
  3. Practice! I did practice some, but I think practicing more would have made me more confident.
  4. Make recordings of myself presenting. I did this for another presentation and it helped me learn my “speech.” I used Voice Memos on my iPhone and I listened to myself while walking or commuting. It wasn’t as fun as listening to a podcast or music, but it taught me about my speech patterns and what to fix in my talk.
  5. Talk about soft skills. I really liked Alejandra’s talk about her transition from developer to consultant.

I’ll keep everyone updated on my speaking journey. Until next time!


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