A while back, I wrote a post on the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone. To summarize, branching out and doing something new causes you to learn new things, and to grow as a person.
In the post, I recounted my fears of speaking in public. As many of you reading know, I have spoken at dozens of events (seminars, lectures, classes, conferences, conventions). It must be crazy to imagine, but at one point in time, I was utterly petrified of the thought of speaking in front of a crowd of people.
Speaking has given me a lot of confidence in myself. I get to constantly re-establish my knowledge, while learning new insights from the people I’m speaking too. The best part about speaking at events is that you get to demonstrate your expertise in a subject. Having a successful talk at an event, whether it’s a small meetup or a larger conference) will garner you respect from your colleagues. I have actually met many awesome people in the games industry as a result of my speaking engagements. Some of these meetings led to me getting gigs, both creating audio for games, and other speaking engagements.
What Do I Even Talk About?
So if you’re not sure what to even speak about, just think about what you do. Chances are, you’re already doing some work in the games industry. Did you just release a game that involved some special techniques for the audio/art/programming? Talk about that. Do you have an opinion on how teams can better work together across all disciplines in game development? Talk about that. Are you transitioning from another career into game development? Then talk about that!
You definitely have something you can talk about. In my experiences, my talks are accepted when they’re about something specific. To give you some examples, my most recent talks have been “Making The Most Of Your Game’s Audio (On And Indie Budget)”, and “Competitive Gaming: Personal And Professional Development”. Both talks hone in on a specific subject. And they are unique things to discuss.
Where Can I Speak?
There’s a myriad of venues available for you to speak at, you just don’t realize it yet. Try applying for a conference, such as ECGC (which will take place April 17-19th, 2018). Or look up “game development conference” through Google. You’ll definitely find a conference that is a good fit for you to speak at.
If you’re just getting started, or are still in school, try seeking opportunities in your local circles. As the organizer of your local game development meetup if you can deliver a quick lightening talk (which would be a very brief talk, great for getting you to learn to speak in public). If you’re in school, talk to the eboard at your game development club and do a presentation, or see if your professor will allow you to present your game in class (which is usually the case). See if there are opportunities in your local scene to teach a class. If there are no meetups by you, but perhaps you have a social media circle, I would even say try streaming a talk on Twitch. That way, there’s no restriction for who can see you talk! Point is, just find a place to talk and do it.
How To Make My Talk Successful
The elements I find that go into a successful talk are presentation, preparation and practice. Now the latter comes in two forms- you can run through your talk in front of a few friends (or the mirror) before your talk. You can read your slides aloud and practice your talking points as you’re writing them (but never just read off your slides verbatim!).
Practice also comes from doing talks over a long period of time. My first talks were pretty awkward. A lot of them are still awkward. But over time, I got used to speaking in front of people. In fact, I can even take the “awkward” moments and make it my thing. In my talks, I strive to engage the audience with meaningful insight, and by comedy.
Sometimes, you may feel nervous or scared. I recommend reading “The Inner Game Of Tennis” in order to get these nerves under control. By practicing, you will naturally feel a little more at ease.
Preparation goes without saying. Don’t just do all your research and make your slides the night before a speaking engagement. You need time to plan and practice your talk, and to absorb the information you want to convey. Make sure that before you speak, you have water on hand, and a good night’s sleep too! Make sure your computer is working, and is charged just in case. Also make sure, in case you’re using Google docs for your slides, that you have a version available on your hard drive as well (in case you can’t access Wifi).
Presentation is another huge aspect. As I’ve been giving more and more audio talks, I’ve found the huge importance in actually playing audio during these talks. So I strive to show off examples of my work that go hand-in-hand with the points I’m making. Most recently, I even played some guitar in order to demonstrate how playing an instrument over a MIDI backing track makes tracks feel more lively as a whole. Suffice to say, rocking out in front a crowd of people (who filled the room) went over really well.
Basically, you want to exude confidence and presence. Being a rather small person, presence can be difficult to portray. At least it used to be. I’ve learned to slow down what I say and to deliberately speak clearly. I’m pretty excitable, so I have to force myself to speak slower. This also makes me seem more thoughtful, and it helps me gather my thoughts so I don’t blurt out something wrong and have to correct myself.
All in all, this makes my expertise clear to the audience, and they take me seriously. The last thing you want is for a crowd not to take you seriously, or doubt what you’re talking about. So be confident. And smile! Look around at everyone in the room as you talk, not just at your notes or at one person.
So after reading this post, I would encourage each of you to seek out an opportunity to speak to an audience, whether it’s at a conference, your school, your local meetup, or on a stream. In my experience, I just want to keep speaking more and more. I never saw myself as someone who would have the courage to speak in front of a bunch of people, but my fears eventually diminished as I found myself having fun doing this. I promise that you’ll meet a lot of new people, that you’ll strengthen your knowledge, become more confident, establish yourself as an subject matter expert, and have fun!
Are you planning on giving a talk sometime? Or have you done one already? If so, I would love to hear about it on Twitter!