Seven of us showed up at the start. We were at a week-long Open Space event in Oregon, and Jenny Tarwater offered “Launching New Voices” as a session to a group of 29 people that included experienced speakers, mentors, and conference volunteers. Jenny wanted to tap into the wisdom of this amazing group, and seven of us chose to participate. As is often the case in Open Space, what happened in the session was a surprise from what she—or any of us—thought would happen.
Jenny gave a quick overview of the Launching New Voices program and invited us to introduce ourselves and our experience as speakers and mentors. Within minutes, something stood out: we had a protégé in our midst! Someone who has little speaking experience and is interested in doing more of it in the future. Whatever plan might have existed at the beginning of the session was pushed to the side: we became a mastermind group to help this individual by answering her questions and providing the advice she needed.
Part 1: What do I talk about?
Many people are interested in speaking at conferences “someday.” It’s not something they are looking to do immediately. They feel like they need more experience, significant accomplishments, or a new model or technique they’ve developed in order to be “good enough” to present.
Here’s the truth: you have a story to tell today. Every day you are gaining practice and experience that could help someone else in their journey.
The best topics are those that are timely and familiar to you. Where are the problems that you address in your work? What do you want to learn more about or practice more deliberately? How would you help your past self if you could?
Look for a topic that you can wear comfortably—an area that you’re experienced and knowledgeable in. Maybe it’s what you’re passionate about. Or the idea someone heard you talking about and asked questions to learn more. Could a foundational concept or practice that newer practitioners need—these evergreen topics continue to be needed as more companies adopt agile and new people learn about agile each year. You might ask conference organizers for suggestions of what their audience might be interested in.
Another way is to find a co-presenter and explore, “what will we talk about?” Interview one another on what you’ve been doing at work lately, what you’ve been reading, and your past experiences. An area of overlap or complementary ideas often emerge in these conversations.
Please continue to Join us for this multi-part series, published weekly.
Part 1 – What do I talk about?
Part 2 – How do I submit to speak at conferences?
Part 3 – What can I do to practice?
Part 4 – What should I do the day of the event?
Part 5 – Then what? After the talk!
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