2018 Launching New Voices – Suzi’s Experience

By: Susan (Suzi) Webber @SuziWebb

What I Learned About Speaking from Launching New Voices

I’m an introvert.  At cocktail parties, I’m the one over on the couch by myself talking to the dog. I pin the needle WAY over on the introvert side. Giving presentations is not something I usually feel comfortable doing. And I’m never the person that people recognize at conferences and want to talk to. Agile 2018 was different, and it was all because of Women in Agile.

Embracing Uncertainty

When I submitted a proposal for Launching New Voices, I had a vague idea floating around in my head, and I thought that being given a deadline would help me clarify my thinking. I thought it might also give me the opportunity to develop relationships with some kindred spirits, something I felt was lacking in my life.

When I received the email saying my proposal had been accepted, I was excited, but more than a little frightened.

Would I be able to create a good presentation?

What if I freeze in front of the audience?

What if they don’t like it? What if they don’t like me?

Not the most powerful self-talk when you’re about to embark on something that requires you to take a leap. But I was in it, and I wasn’t going to give up before I even got started.

Being Vulnerable

At our first conversation, my mentor Llewellyn Falco jumped right in and said: “Ok, give me the presentation”.

“I don’t have a presentation yet. I just have an idea.”

“That’s ok, we’ll iterate.”

He wasn’t kidding. The first run through was a rambling mess. But approximately 30 iterations and many hours later, I had a presentation. And not one with a few slides with bullets. An ACTUAL presentation that I felt had a strong focus and would engage the audience.

Llewellyn was a taskmaster, giving me homework, asking me to develop a story, then helping me to distill the most important idea. He encouraged me to think about how to build a relationship with the audience and help them to make a connection to their own lives. It required me to be vulnerable in a way that was uncomfortable but was the key to being able to present something that was authentic and engaging.

I could not have done it without him pushing me to stretch and giving me not only the practical tips he had from speaking, but also the encouragement to keep working. But one of the most important things was that I wasn’t doing it alone. I had someone on my side.

Finding My Voice

When it came time to present, I expected that I would get up on stage, give my talk, and that would be the end of it. I thought I’d be relieved it was over.

I was wrong.

I immediately wanted to do it again! Maybe it was just adrenaline, but three weeks later I’m still energized by the experience. I still want to pursue other opportunities to present the talk, and I still want to expand it. Every couple of days I jot down an idea for a new viewpoint or concept to add to the presentation.

Enjoying the Afterglow

It never occurred to me that people might recognize me later on and go out of their way to mention how the presentation resonated with them. It felt like every meal, every elevator ride, every session, someone would tell me that they had a similar situation, and appreciated my perspective.

I confess that I spent the rest of the week trying to recapture the positive energy and camaraderie that was present that afternoon and during the conversations that were sparked by the event. It allowed me to have a much richer experience at Agile 2018, and make genuine connections with people that I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to create.

Was it a ton of work? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

When you’re trying to juggle a family and a job, it’s so all-encompassing that it’s hard to make the effort to do something that forces you to paint outside the lines. Launching New Voices did just that for me. And I’m a lot more colorful for it.

Check out a video of Suzi’s talk here.