365 Days of Random

Random musings about nothing at all

Public Speaking

Does it make you nervous or excited to get up in front of a room full of people to talk?? Me, I get excited. Sure, in the few minutes right before I get up in front of the room I get the tell tale nervous butterflies in my stomach. But about 2 minutes into talking I settle in and truly enjoy the experience. It’s exhilarating to be up there in front of a large group of people talking about something you have a passion for – or at least a lot of information to share.

When I was in middle school I did a lot of public speaking competitions – in the school and in the local area. I never really won anything – but I was also never competing to win. I was always interested in the experience of standing up in front of people to say something interesting. It’s never about wanting to be the center of attention… at least not for me… but it is a situation where you have most of the room focused purely on what you’re talking about. I think, in part, that’s what makes a lot of people really nervous about getting up there and speaking.

I’ve never really been a shy person. I don’t have any trouble speaking to people I barely know. I make friends easily and am generally always confidant when I am sharing information with them. I’ve always enjoyed talking (shush to those of you about to make a snide remark about just how MUCH I can talk some times). But more importantly I’ve really just enjoyed having information to share with people.

This week a colleague of mine and I are attending the IA Summit in Denver Colorado. The IA Summit is a conference focused on User Experience, Information Architecture, Design and Usability for the most part. It’s a work thing and I am actually very excited to be going. I generally learn a whole lot when I attend events like this one. RF and I are leaving March 31 and return April 4. But on Friday (April 1) we are giving a presentation at the IA Summit about some work our organization has been doing related to the use of Design Principles in software development. We first gave this presentation in January at a local UX event here in DC – or at least we gave a variant of it. Our presentation has significantly evolved since then. Back in January RF, LN (another colleague of ours) and I pulled this talk together in about 35 mins and while it was really rough it was really really well received. In fact, one of our industry ‘idols’ attended the session and thought the topic and the story we had to tell was very compelling. It was this feedback from him that led to the evolution of our presentation and our ability to delivery the talk again at the IA Summit at the end of this week.

Once the presentation was accepted into the conference program we (as new speakers) were assigned a ‘mentor’. Turns out that idol of ours who’d first seen our presentation in DC had requested to mentor us. So for the last couple of months we’ve been working with him to hone the story we want to tell about our work with Design Principles and pull together and even more compelling session. I have to say, now that we’re only a few days from the actual presentation I am getting very excited about it. We did a ‘dress rehearsal’ for some people in the office last week and got great feedback and comments. Now it’s just about practice! We need to focus this week on memorizing our script so that we completely rock our 10:30 am session on Friday.

Even with it being April Fool’s day I am expecting a resounding success! Here’s hoping we don’t disappoint!

March 27, 2011 Posted by | Random | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Professional Idols

Professional Idols! We all have them, those people you hear about but never really think you’ll get to meet or interact with. The ones that are ‘legend’ in your professional world. The men and women that you read books by, or seek ideas/advice from.

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, I work in UX. What is UX you ask? UX = User Experience. It’s a ‘young’ (still maturing) component of the software and web development industry. There are lots of roles that can fall under the umbrella of user experience – I am what you might call an “Interaction Designer”. There are many, many names for this role but basically my job is to understand what someone is trying to do (outside of a software system) and translate that to the interaction within the software or on the web. Interaction Designers design how a user gets from point a to point b. The ‘user experience’ part comes in when you understand that every interaction should be simple, efficient and FUN to use. If people struggle to use something they won’t really want to use it again.

As a UX professional there are lots and lots of fantastic people that I consider to be among my idols. These are people I am constantly learning from. They are people I want to emulate in my professional life. Anyway, that’s not the point, the point is that while I have lots of these idols, I recently had the chance to MEET and interact with one such idol. As I am sure you can imagine, that was a great experience. What was even more mind boggling was the fact that said idol was incredibly impressed with work being done in UX at my company. So much so that he’s mentoring us on how to present about it in the industry. How did this all come about you ask? Well I’ll tell you….

A few weeks ago some colleagues of mine and I gave a presentation at a local UX ‘Bar Camp’ (google that if you don’t know what it is) about some work that we’ve been doing over the last year. We expected a VERY small turn out. Turns out that our provocative title did it’s job and coerced a solid 30 some people into the room. One of which was this idol of ours. He sat in the front row, pulled out his notebook and pen and settled in to listen. Of course this made us all just a tad nervous but we pressed on. Throughout the presentation he was taking copious notes and asking all kinds of questions. He seems sincerely interested and engaged in what we’d done, how we’d done it, what we’d learned from it and how it was impacting our work overall. When the session ended he continued with the questions and was expressing honest to god excitement about what we’d accomplished. I have to admit it was a huge highlight for me (and I think for my colleagues too). This idol wanted us to speak about it to a broader audience in the UX world and set about helping us get a presentation slot at the upcoming IA (Information Architecture) Summit in Colorado. In addition to that, he’s decided to help us shape the material and our presentation of the material to ensure a ‘home run’ of a session at the conference.

Right about now a few of us are floating around on both personal and professional highs. When you hear comments like ‘incredibly smart and talented people’ and ‘you could have huge success teaching others to do this’ and ‘you are doing some incredibly cool and innovative things over there’ from your professional idol – well it kinda leaves you speechless. But the coolest part by far – he added me to his ‘network’ on Linked In.

January 27, 2011 Posted by | Design, Inspiration | , , , , , | Leave a comment