“Hardening” the Architect

I have always been petrified of public speaking.  During my VCDX certification journey, the presentation was always my toughest task, I would spend hours and days stressing and freaking out about talking to the panelists.  Yesterday, I realised I was cured.  Now public speaking does not bother me in the least; no nerves, no second guessing, just the concise delivery of information to my audience.  How did this reversal occur?

Just over one year ago, I failed my first VCDX defence in Barcelona, where I spent a lot of time fidgeting and blathering to the panel.  If you had told me then that in 12 months I would be VCDX-certified, blogging, podcasting, presenting at VMworld and changing jobs to the largest ISP in the Middle East, I would have labelled you “loco”.

Yesterday, my General Manager asked me to present for 1 hour about the proposed architecture and the 5 year strategy we will be developing in the coming weeks to the Directors and Section Managers of our division (40 people whom I have never met before).  Our initial discussion led me to believe I would be presenting at the end of our monthly “gathering”.  So when I arrived in the morning, he asked me to kick off the event as first speaker.  Normally, that would have me wobbling like jelly, fidgeting, pacing and repeatedly saying “umm” and “ahh” as I flounder for inspiration.  Instead, I setup my laptop, connected the VGA cable to the projector, connected my remote clicker/laser pointer, loaded the presentation, tested the clicker and off I went.  One hour later, I answered a heap of questions and I was done.  How did I feel?  I felt like the master of my craft; I was in the zone and it was fantastic.

So if you have a fear of public speaking, how do you conquer it?  Like any fear, you beat it by facing it.  Here is my process of confronting my fear:

  • On-Stage Reference Customer at the Riyadh VMware vForum in 2013.  Just standing in front of an audience, speaking coherently and logically was a big step forward.  You can do the same at your local VMUG.  Most VMUG leaders will also coach you, just ask nicely.
  • 2 x VCDX Panel Defences with all of the requisite Mock Defences in preparation, including presenting to a mirror for countless hours, honing the concise delivery of content whilst eradicating verbal jibber-jabber.  This was the foundation of developing my public speaking skills.
  • Blogging forced me to develop and pressure test my opinions and ideas about technology.  Generating a lot of public content forces you to think critically and analytically about said content.
  • Being a guest on different podcasts was more practice for public speaking, albeit without seeing the audience.
  • Presenting a session at VMworld (including vBrownbag TechTalks) really proved I could be a public speaker.  For me, this was the pinnacle of competency.
  • I have room to improve, but now the fear is gone and I can enjoy the experience of speaking in public.

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Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist, 4xVCDX#133, NPX#8, DECM-EA.

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