Editor’s Note: This is part 2 of a multi-part series from BGC contributors on how they kicked ass in 2013. Want to tell us how you kicked ass? How you were your own girl hero? Send a note to email@example.com and we’ll post the best ones on New Year’s Day.
I will be the first to admit that I have unrealistic expectations for life. Now, I don’t expect to suddenly acquire magical skills. I don’t expect to actually go to the moon in my lifetime. I mean, of course I’d love for that to happen.
Being unrealistic is a hallmark of my personality. I am crazy enough to believe things can happen when you trust in the universe and work hard. Plan a party at San Diego Comic Con with a bunch people I’ve never met who live all over the globe and then sell said party out well before July? Hell yeah. Do that shit. Go to Ireland with absolutely no plans and just see what happens because it’s freaking Dublin? Um, yep. Set a goal to get a video I’ve directed on The New York Times? People… that freaking happened.
"I want to kick ass." - Me, literally, the other night when eating a burrito with my brother.
It’s been my motto as of late. It’s what inspired this whole freaking series of posts. (There’s more to come.) But there’s a bigger theme here and I’m getting to it. Sorry, I know it’s taking me a bit longer than it should.
In 2013, I decided to just follow my heart and trust where the universe is taking me. And then, I gave myself permission to be happy for being awesome.
It sounds so simple, but it’s inexplicably one of the hardest things to commit to. It can be so easy to get comfortable in a job, or in a city or even in a wardrobe and just decide not to change course even when all the conditions around us are trying to show us a different path. Not wanting to wake up in the morning: that’s not just the universe telling you something, that’s your body telling you something. And yet I freaking ignored it for years.
Before 2013, I made excuses all the time. Here’s a list of excuses I’ve made in the last few years while a big freaking cloud shaped like an arrow was pointing me in another direction: (okay, not literally, but it sounds cool..)
Yeah, that’s a narrative for a lot of people. It was my narrative. Until I decided it’s harder to be unhappy. Have you ever in your life once made an EXCUSE FOR BEING HAPPY? FOR KICKING ASS? I have yet to hear myself say:
Yeah, that’s what I thought. In retrospect, that’s what 2013 has been all about. Taking stock of the dreams in my head, making them real by admitting I wanted them, working as hard as I can to make them happen and then being bold enough to say, Goddammit… that was freaking great.
This has been such a revelation, I plan to carry it over into 2014.
Editor’s Note: This is part 1 of a multi-part series from BGC contributors on how they kicked ass in 2013. Want to tell us how you kicked ass? How you were your own girl hero? Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post the best ones on New Year’s Day.
The first time I realized I wasn’t good at public speaking it came as a surprise.
It was summer 2011, and I was invited to speak on a Facebook for Journalists panel in St. Paul. I hadn’t bothered to prepare much—at the time, nearly half my job involved talking about how journalists can use social media tools.
And yet, there I was, seated at a table with the other panelists, nervously fidgeting in my chair. I took my glasses off, to blur out the people in the crowd. I was acutely aware of the fact the session was being recorded. I found myself swiveling left to right in my chair, remembered that people could see me, and immediately forced myself to stop.
I honestly can’t remember the things I actually said.
A year ago, a group of women in tech I’m a part of was emailing around their new year’s goals.
I wrote: This year I’m hoping for a Year of Quiet Determination, in which I move forward on many fronts (work, volunteering, health) slowly but steadily. This year, I’m really hoping to embrace “grow where you’re planted.”
Part of this, which I didn’t write so explicitly, was to conquer my fear of public speaking. And as we close out 2013, I can say that I am about 99% there.
In 2013, I had two large speaking engagements, and two smaller ones. I spoke at two journalism conferences, and did two large newsroom trainings in Canada over the summer.
Looking back, I can feel good about the work I did at all four speaking engagements, despite feeling imperfect and somewhat flustered at the time.
A funny thing happened at my ONA talk. I was in a small room that was meant to sit maybe, twenty people. My fear was that no one would come, so I begged my coworkers and a few friends and my husband to come and fill it up. Instead, it was standing room only, with people spilling into the hallway (they eventually opened the wall between two rooms to allow for more seating).
Talk about being blown away.
Afterwards, people asked me how my talk had gone and I honestly didn’t know how to respond. Is it OK to tell people it was standing room only and they had to open up a wall to fit more people? I didn’t want to sound overly arrogant. Because imposter syndrome gets us all, I mostly rambled on about how awkward I had been.
Despite my brain understanding that “too many people to fit in the room” was a strong indication of success, I couldn’t quite shake the nervousness and anxiety I had been feeling all week about it.
So, now having had some time to think about it, here are my best tips for conquering your fear of public speaking:
Decide what is easiest for you to talk about. You should know your topic inside and out, and be able to answer questions about it on the fly. Think about the kinds of advice you’re asked for over and over again and go with that instinct.
Just do it. Raise your hand to volunteer to give presentations at work meetings or talk to college classes about your field, etc. I’ve found that talking to students is significantly easier for me than approaching an audience whom I perceive to be “real grown ups.”
Speak slower and louder than you might otherwise. I frequently forgot to talk into the mic and know that I have a tendency to talk quickly when I’m nervous.
I always take my glasses off when I’m speaking. It helps to kind of blur everyone out and make it harder to see their facial reactions, which can be distracting.
Pharmaceuticals can be useful. If they’re not your thing, try meditating or doing relaxing breathing before you start to clear your head and lower your heartbeat. Drink water while you’re speaking, but don’t load up on it too much ahead of time (having to pee during the last 15 minutes of your talk is not awesome).
Don’t let imposter syndrome get you! When you go back to evaluate your performance later, stick to the evidence: Did 1 person leave early or did 30 stay through the entire speech? Did you get a dozen questions or crickets? Did you get hate tweets? How about lovely tweets? If you had a bit.ly link with your slides, are people clicking through on it?
So, readers: tell us what you conquered in 2013 — or your best tips for becoming a public speaker.
(Part of this post is adapted from emails I posted to the Tech Lady Mafia throughout 2013.)
Recipe by Emma Carew Grovum. She is a data journalist working at the Chronicle of Philanthropy in Washington, D.C. She previously worked as the Digital Editor for The Cooking Club of America and blogs at kitchendreamer.blogspot.com Emma loves Star Wars, pandas and all things Joss Whedon. Find her on twitter at @emmacarew.
Meet Meghan Wilker (@irishgirl). She’s a spectacle-wearing, kick butt tech and content strategist and sometimes Bollywood dancer. During the day, Wilker oversees the planning and execution of web, mobile, and application development projects as the COO of Clockwork Active Media - an über-hip, Minneapolis-based digital design/communications/interactive agency. Wilker and her Clockwork colleagues excel in solving clients’ complex problems with smart and engaging strategies.
Pretty cool, right? But there’s even more to this Lady Geek of the Week. She’s the co-author of Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process (New Riders 2012), and was named a “Woman to Watch” by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.
Wilker’s also co-founder of the Geek Girls Guide, a blog dedicated to making web technology accessible and exciting and cultivating a movement of tech-energized women (and men!) online.
Oh, and Wilker’s resume is chock-full of public speaking gigs. She’s on a mission to change how people think about interactive work while empowering her fellow lady geeks.
Wilker took an unconventional path to the amazing career she’s carved for herself today - which included dropping out of college. Check out her interview with Being Geek Chic and she’ll tell you more!
Q: How did you discover your passion?
A: For me, it was a long, slow process. My passion is partly about technology and geeky stuff — but I also have this innate ability to see what needs to be done, and make it happen. It took me a long time to realize that those were a unique combination of skills, and that I could make a career out of it.
As a kid, I was exposed to computers (I remember playing on a Commodore 64 at our kitchen table) — and I took all of the computer courses offered in high school (okay, the ONE course offered at my high school), but I don’t come from a very technical family and didn’t really have anyone around to direct me down a more technical path. I was always very strong at writing and communication, though — and among my friends, I was always the organizer: the kid who decided we should all go to the mall, and figured out whose mom would drop us off, who would pick us up, and when.
As technology evolved and the internet emerged, I started becoming an avid user of technology. I especially loved the ability to connect with people from all over the world and in the late 90s spent a lot of time in Yahoo! chatrooms and on IRC. But, again, I didn’t really have an understanding of how I could turn what I was doing into a job.
I dropped out of college after less than a year. After spending a few years working, I went back to school and was planning to become a copywriter. During that time, I was working as an account executive for a marketing firm. The project I was working on involved working with a team of developers and end users. I was writing documentation to help the developers understand the changes I wanted to make to the database and user interface. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing use cases and creating information architecture documents. I knew what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t have the language or formal education to know that what I was doing was an actual discipline. I was just doing it by instinct at that point. I also worked for a boss who had really high standards for communication and precision; she helped my hone my attention to detail, which was invaluable.
While I was at that job, I met Nancy Lyons, who at that time was the President of Bitstream Underground — an ISP and web development shop. She gave me my first job in the interactive industry and that really changed the trajectory of my career. All of a sudden, I felt like I was home — like I had found “my people.” Suddenly, these seemingly unrelated skills that I had — a love of technology, an understanding of the end user, the ability to figure out what needed to be done and do it, good communication skills — all fit together like puzzle pieces.
I’ve had many job titles in the 13 years since then, but the core of what I do has remained the same: I help lead teams that get things done, and have fun doing it.
Q: In addition to co-running Geek Girls Guide and excelling as the COO of Clockwork Active Media, you also lend your smarts and speak at various events. What’s your favorite topic to discuss with your fellow lady geeks? How do you empower them?
A: I think one of my favorite topics is probably also the thing that makes people feel empowered, and it’s that you don’t have to have everything figured out. Sometimes our career path is a long and winding road and the most important thing is to listen to your gut. When I took that first job at Bistream 13 years ago, it was a step down in pay and in title. Not only that, the dot com bubble had just burst, so the industry that I was about to move into was in the throes of a major bust. On paper, the decision made no sense. But I knew, in my gut, that I needed to take the job. And it was the best decision I ever made — it was a literal turning point in my career.
Q: When did you discover you were “geeky?”
A: I guess it depends on how you define the word geek. I’ve mostly just liked what I like, whether or not the people around me agreed. (Translation: I was really not cool in high school.)
Q: You can choose one superpower. What is it?
A: Okay, so being a project manager-type person you have to know that I really pondered this question and (of course) had to do some research to make sure I was picking the best possible choice. This list kept me busy for a while.
And while teleportation is really tempting, I didn’t see the superpower I want on this list: the ability to operate without any sleep. That way I could do more stuff, but not be tired.
Q: What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
A: Stop begging your mom for a perm.
Emma Bauer is a Being Geek Chic Contributor. Clearly, she’s got great taste. She is a PR enthusiast, history scholar, tea drinker, fashion devotee, and of course, aspires to Be Geek Chic. Follow her on Twitter: @emmalynnbauer
The lady geeks we feature here each week always answer our questions with brilliance, courage and excitement. It’s always great to see what they each have to say. But there’s one question that always brings out the best answers: What would you say to your 13 year old self?
I decided to pool the advice of the ladies from the last 6 months and compile it in a visual format - as a reminder and a boost of confidence. The truth is, the things we say to ourselves when we’re 13 are still true when we’re 30 or older.
This is one of those cool things I get to make from time to time. I worked on this video for a client, but I wanted to share it with you because it combines so many of the things we talk about here: science + art + music + inspiration. Oh, and NASA. In this case, NASA’s global temperature data.
Dan, the student featured in the piece, is a welcome reminder to scientists everywhere that thinking more creatively about the presentation of dense data and scientific analysis can be beautiful. He took NASA’s temperature data and charted it to music, which he could then play on his cello. He named it A Song of Our Warming Planet. And it’s lovely.
Shameless plug time: If you know of someone in need of video services, please direct them to my business website: lizgiorgi.com