by: Jen Willems @j3nwillems
“If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade” – Tom Peters
Women in Agile made a call for speakers to engage in their Launching New Voices (LNV) program. This was a unique opportunity that couldn’t be passed up! The prereqs seemed simple enough:
- Interested in presenting a short talk
- Woman in agile
- Little or no speaking experience
Check, check, and check!
Purely for entertainment value and a TL;DR of what happened, here’s the visual of my journey.
There weren’t any restrictions on presentation content – which, for a divergent thinker, presents a unique challenge. Several ideas came to mind, all topics I was enthusiastic about sharing. Shrinking it to a 7-minute presentation was the real test. The submission deadline was just around the corner. I realized just in time, jumping this first hurdle was more important than floating over it with grace. I took a leap of faith and submitted all my ideas in a nutshell, hoping at least one would ignite.
It took a couple weeks to hear back – my submission had been accepted. Hurray! One small risk turned into a big reward. I would be one of three protégé speakers launching at the Women in Agile event during the Business Agility 2020 Conference in New York.
As a new speaker, I had the narrowest understanding of how to prepare. Thankfully, part of being a protégé means continuous support and mentorship. A big shout out to my mentor Ryan Ripley. We collaborated remotely over the next couple of months, dissecting my stories and finding a pattern in my ideas. We broke through the creative blocks by setting a few criteria for success:
- Incorporate an experience that people can relate to
- Articulate lessons learned
- Pick a topic I’m passionate about (but there are so many!)
- The audience must walk away with a new perspective
- All in 7-minutes
On presentation day I met with the director of the LNV program, Jenny Tarwater, for a last-minute practice run of my presentation. It was nerve-wracking and absolutely necessary. With these few tips from my mentors, I was able to break through my doubts and jitters:
- Pick a few people in the room to talk to
- It’s just like having a conversation
- Combat breathing to calm anxiety
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four
- Hold that breath in for a count of four
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of four
- Get moving! Walking around the room helps with nerves
- Practice the punch line
- Let your personality shine through
Preparing the presentation may have been a gruelling process, but the delivery flowed naturally and checked all the boxes. In retrospect, being a protégé speaker for Women in Agile LNV was less about the spotlight, more about the opportunity for growth, and the chance to make deep connections with like-minded individuals passionate about making positive contributions to the Agile community.