I have a little less excuse to hide inside my moderate introversion. Yes, I do host a weekly podcast, a.k.a. an internet radio show. Yes, my yellow glasses say, “Look at me.” Yet, public speaking has never been my love or forte. I remain nervous and avoid it.
Somehow while attending my fourth or fifth BarCamp Boston, I did it yesterday. I went ahead and populated a Post-it with a topic I thought I could wing. I also figured maybe a few folk would attend.
For the gregarious and Toastmaster sorts, that is nothing. For us publicly shy types, it’s a big deal. When I went back to school to add a management degree, I found how stunted I was here. While I went to J-school, worked newspapers and magazines for decades, interviewed big shots and small, and represented my department in group meetings, there were safeguards. I had a notepad or PowerPoint to hide behind, to distract. Also, I was not the focus of attention.
The way these self-suggested sessions work is the crowd mills around those stuck in the WOULD YOU ATTEND? grid. Those that get four or more checkmarks are OK. The suggester is supposed to move it to an open block on the schedule board for a room and time.
Most presenters planned their sessions well in advance. Many created laptop presentations and provided lots of visuals and in some cases audio.
His session was brilliant, professional and accessible. He’d taken a few snaps with his smartphone that morning, posted some tweets and Instagrams and was ready to teach. He plugged his laptop into the overhead connection and created a Storify post in real time. He searched for and pulled in his elements, text, pix, Vine vids and such from various social-media sites. He saved to Storify and embedded it in several of his other sites.
It was a great show and I was one of those who had vaguely thought about using that site. I shall now. That what BarCamp should do.
In a pale contrast, I was now thinking after Steve’s presentation that I should go back to the WOULD YOU ATTEND? block and remove my Post-it. When I arrived, I had five checks and felt committed. Scary stuff for an introvert.
I sat at lunch and was not sociable much to the rest of the folk. I sketched my session ideas on four index cards. I wanted to speak to such things as:
- recap of my background, why I am at all qualified
- traits of bad online manuals and help systems
- two kinds of tech writers (the majority being literal sorts incapable of thinking like naive users)
- elements of good docs
- down-and-dirty usabilty
I fretted and even thought of removing my Post-it from the block where I’d stuck it — Mattapan Room, 155 at 2:40 pm. By then though, I figured I’d goof up, no one would show, people who drift out during, or just maybe it would be OK even without visuals and prep.
It was the latter. About 20 folk came in and nearly all stayed. I had the good fortune to have three who were interactive, commenting and questioning.
At the end, They applauded. I confessed my introversion. One of the active participants said if I hadn’t told them, they wouldn’t have known.
I’ll never be as smooth as Steve. Yet, I think I might do this again. I have to year to come up with a topic and then produce a show. Even a shy guy should be able to do that.