Terrified of speaking at a conference? Submit anyway!

Anita Singh on December 30, 2018

I never thought I'd face a room full of people and speak words out of my own free will, but here we are! This was my first year of submitting to ... [Read Full]
markdown guide

Great post Anita!

I'll add one thing, which you touched on slightly in theme:

Don't pre-apologize for how the talk is going to go or over-humblize yourself at the start. They're here to see you. Saying sorry, or letting the audience you just put the slides together last night is letting the air out of the room. If you're happy and excited to talk, the room will love the talk no matter what.


Absolutely, that is a great point!! It can also come across as bragging even if it is not the speaker's intention.


Great post!

Power Pose FTW!!!! I do that before every speech I give! And while I am power posing I run through THIS SCENE from the movie Cool Runnings and literally shout Jr's lines at a mirror 😃

I would also highly recommend watching Ben Orenstein's talk from Rails Conf 2013 How to Talk to Developers


Ahahaha that scene is amazing! Amy Cuddy must have had the idea for her TED talk from the movie 🤣


Wow I am totally going to do that next time :D. And this looks like a great talk, will check it out (and maybe include it in the post), thank you!


Nicely done Anita. I'm a big believer in preparing detailed outlines. Not only do they help with organization and sequencing of topics, but they are also great as speaker notes and to ensure that presentations don't stray from any accompanying articles.

I can't wait to see more from you on your speaking experiences. Thanks for posting this.


Great Post, very usefull for my 2019 goals :)

Because I'm little stressed by public, I have looked for ways to forget this problem in other conferences and here is my résult:
Stop + Loooong breathe + Water + Funny GIF on screen (a laughing audience is not scary)


How would you compare speaking at a conference vs speaking at user groups? I've given 3 user group presentations and I present internally at my company once or twice a month, but I feel like I'm ready to take the plunge to the local or regional conference level. I know my stuff and I'm getting more comfortable, but I'm not sure how I'll do with crowds over 40 people, things like lights and microphones, etc.

Additionally, I have some nerve damage in my feet from a freak neurological condition years ago and can't stand for prolonged periods of time. Can I still be an engaging speaker sitting at a tall chair at a podium?


Finding someone to present with you is one of my recommendations for new speakers. You then have someone who works with you to meet time goals, a slide deck with the creative input of two, and the audience gets more variety in presentation styles.

@pblatteier and I have a back and for presentation style but you could also switch off every 10 slides or something.


Wow that sounds amazing, that is a great recommendation! Thank you!


Anita! So cool to see you here :). Thanks for the post. I realllyyyy wanna start speaking at conferences but have too many fears. Your post is super encouraging.


Hi Nayeon, so good to see you here too <3. You'll do great, let me know if I can be of help in anyway!


Wow Anita, so much to think and ponder there + @BenHalpern, I'm with you also...
Anita, you’ve sure taken me back a few years and given me plenty to reflect. Tried pretty much all of those mentioned. And they so got me to that next level of OMG, when will I ever get good at this? Gosh,I’d almost forgotten them. Thanks. + I’d challenge them now tho… (in my current stage of ignorance), only because I had to work on, and thru, most of these. Maybe it’s all the practice or just maturing but when I look back at that me, all I was really trying to do was show up, be myself, and like me thru my own eyes before those of others… (now there’s a stack of $$$ in coaching mentoring and therapy in that line) but I feel it sits for me anyways.

"Just showing up"
Is it technique we need or is it to learn how to show up as ourselves without that bloody inner critique taking over? I'd say a bit of both aye? But as you know it takes a hot minute to have the courage to just be ourselves. I still find it hard. It’s like painful but as I kept studying and practicing over time it just got, (I just got) more comfortable with me…

Now if I’m asked that curveball Q, I’ll just reply with “hah, that’s a beauty, never thought about it, and what a great Q, I have no flipping idea. Wanna work that out together? And, yes, of course, they say yes… Even the ones that set out to mindfully trip you up… I love those ones now…

"The World's Most Nervous Stylist"
Get this, once I was even introduced as The World's Most Nervous Stylist. Brutal! But he was right. Not sure what gave it away, the sweating like a farm animal in the heat or that my knees uncontrollably trembling so much so that I seriously thought I was going to collapse. Can't remember ever feeling that again. (+ keep in mind, doing hair on stage, in front of hundreds and occasionally a few thousand peeps, is like having to sing, act, play the piano and remember the full choreography and do all that without screwing it up... I mean, it's just hair, how hard can it be trying to get a 100,000 moving targets to follow my direction. hah. easy!

Anyway, I no longer do hair but I still get nervous as hell speaking, and here are a few things I learned while trying not to do that.

"Nerves keep me cool"
One of my coaches told me straight up... "You never want to get rid of those nerves. A, they clearly show you care and B, it makes you relatable mate. You'll always present better nervous than an over-rehearsed vanilla boring as (bleep) speaker... and that's not you dude so stop trying to change it" ... I gotta say, that was some great advice and got me a little more comfortable being uncomfortable.

"Sweating like a bloody farm animal in the sun"
Then there was the wee issue of sweating... Not a pretty look. Then I read a piece of advice (Brian Tracey I think it was), that changed my life. He explained how the audience don't care if you’re sweating, in fact, it’s the lack of managing it that'll make you look like you’re not in control of yourself. Hah… I totally agreed and now I walk on, stage, in full view, with two fresh white cotton face cloths and a bottle of water. I place them down, take my time to fold them neatly, take a sip of water and just go for it… I’ve set the stage, literally. Then when I begin to sweat, I poke fun at myself, pat my forehead with as much style I can muster up and often without even taking a breath… Sweating... no longer an issue. It’s still there, and I’d be worried if not.

"No one has a fear of public speaking"
I’ll leave you with one more. One of my more recent mentors slammed this fear of public speaking thing in about 40 seconds. He said “No One has a fear of public speaking. Only a fear of speaking in front of those more intelligent than you.” I challenged him and he made it real simple, he said, “You’ve studied a good bit on human behavior and this quantum physics thing, could you speak for 10 minutes in front of a group of scientist and Nobel prize winners on the topic?” I was like... hell no! Then he said, “How about a class of first graders?” … Yep he got me! That was cool. He said it’s a perception of either self-righteousness or self-wrongeousness and just keeping my heart open and being neither will allow my message to be shared with those ready to hear and that the perception/assumption was as futile as guessing what’s in someone's wallet or purse. He said with so much direction… “Just go and teach them what you know… if you wait to know more, you’ll never be of service to the world.”

Way too long of a rant but if any of this resonates then great + open to be challenged. Like us all, I’m still figuring this out, Thanks again. What a wonderful memory explosion.


This is probably gonna help me next year during my college Tech talks 😎💪


This is one of my goals for 2019, so thanks for the article!


That's awesome!! My pleasure, let me know if I can be help :).


Great advice Anita!

What do you think of lightning talks?

May they be of help for first time speakers who want to get out there?


Yes, I think that's a really great way of getting started :)

code of conduct - report abuse