Ski jumping is a truly bizarre sport. Fling yourself down a big ramp to take off into thin air with only a vast mountain to break your fall.
What’s always stumped me is how one would work one’s way up to the first jump. It’s not like swimming where you can wear arm bands or be in the shallow end. It feels a bit all or nothing, with potentially calamitous outcomes.
I’m a big fat showoff. I like standing in front of audiences, prattling on about things I’m in which I’m curious. It makes me nervous, but I like the nervous energy. I’m able to use it. Sometimes I can even be quite entertaining.
Although I’ve built up my professional speaking over the years, doing drama and music as a kid meant I was thrown onto the stage in front of audiences of hundreds from an early age. At 20 I spoke in front of an audience of 2,000.
Yet another thing:
There is a recurring theme in a number of the industries in which I work – that events and conferences have a tendency to have predominantly, or not infrequently, exclusively male (and often white and middle class) line-ups of speakers. This is an issue. Although it might represent current diversity imbalances within those industries, by not having diverse groups of speakers, those imbalances are being reinforced and there are no alternative role models.
Lots of the people who I know who organize conferences work really hard to try and address those imbalances. But it’s hard because there isn’t a surfeit of diverse speakers, so the risk is that it can end up looking like tokenism. Oh, and the idea of standing up to speak in front of a few hundred people scares the living daylights out of an awful lot of people. Especially if noone else speaking looks like them.
Just one more thing:
Yesterday I went to Silicon Beached, the first London incarnation of Matt Desmier’s successful digital creative event that’s been running down in Bournemouth for the past 5 years. It was the second time I’ve been to a Silicon Beach. It was wonderful.
It also happened to have a completely female line up of speakers. This was by design. But it didn’t mean we spent the whole day discussing “women’s issues”. Far from it. The topics of discussion were many and varied.
But one of the speakers, Lauren Currie, did have an novel approach to addressing what I will now refer to as the “first ski jump problem”. Whilst she spoke, eight others sat on stage. And when she finished speaking, they all got a turn to share some thoughts. It was a way for them to experience being on stage at a big event in a big venue, but without having the ski-jump pressure of having to do an entire presentation. Lauren calls it #upfront, and I think it’s a cracking idea.
So I want to see if I can bring a similar concept to some of the more IT-focused events that I attend. I’ve already been in touch with some of the event organizers that I know, to test the water. And I’d like to see if I can help to put some people who wouldn’t usually get the chance to experience being in front of an audience of senior technology leaders in a way that hopefully gives them the inspiration to start to speak at events. And, in turn, gives senior technology leaders the chance to hear the voices of people that they don’t, certainly at industry events, get to hear from very often – the people they are supposed to be leading.
So, if any of this is of interest because:
- from you wanting to offer some time at an event to do this
- you want to have the opportunity to be a participant to extend your own skills and experience
- you have someone in your team who you think might benefit
then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org