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Stand Up and Say Something

I recently came across an article encouraging people to overcome their fear of public speaking and submit proposals to present at upcoming shows. Makes sense. I’m sure the people who regularly attend these events are getting a little tired of watching, and listening, to the usual suspects talking about increasingly esoteric subjects that make the average attendee start checking their phone to see if they can catch the earlier flight home. I heartily applaud this effort to get some fresh meat up there, and, unfortunately, I agree with their premise that too many erstwhile orators are hiding their light under a bushel due to a variety of neurosis. So, in the interest of greater presentation variety, and because I’ve sat through more presentations than I care to admit, I’m going to provide all you potential Cicero’s out there with a few tips drawn from my own personal experience.

Tip 1– Remember everyone reeeeaally wants you to do well. Other than the occasional ex-wife or Bernie supporter, we are very forgiving people. What does this mean? While no one wants to sit through the cringe inducing experience of watching someone deliver a, shall we say, sub-par performance, many of us have had similar experiences—not me of course, but I’ve heard stories. Because of that, people will always find something nice to say about your effort, “Don’t worry about it. I’ve seen larger sweat stains”. So, while you may never be invited back, everyone appreciates the effort.

Tip 2– It’s been reported that speaking in public is the most common fear in the world. For me, it’s having to fully assemble a gas grill, but to each his own. How does this pertain to you? Don’t think of the audience as strangers. Think about it. Over all their other options, they chose to come to Ballroom D to hear you speak. They aren’t disinterested spectators; they’re kindred spirits who have come to enjoy the opportunity to partake in 60 minutes of fellowship and collegial discourse between colleagues. Heck, if these shows let attendees bring in beer you’d all probably be sitting around downing a few cold ones. Of course, if that guy in the third row, who has tried to squeeze an XXL body into a medium complimentary Cisco T-shirt, decides to vigorously object to your position on the use of flywheel technology during the Q&A, that’s on you.

Tip 3– They wouldn’t have picked you if they didn’t find your proposal compelling, am I right? Sure, I am. You’re the man. The subject matter expert that, just by deigning to share your knowledge, has people flocking to get a front row seat to watch you stand on the shoulders of the great teachers that have preceded you like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato to impart the wisdom that will make a profound impact on their lives. It’s either that, or your company is a sponsor at the show, but the point is, they came.

Tip 4– Show no fear. Giving a presentation is a lot like being faced by a hungry predator. The audience can sense your discomfort from the farthest reaches of the room. It has something to do with pheromones I think. So, wear some cologne and keep repeating this mantra, “The confident person is the respected person”. I don’t know how much it will help, but Tony Roberts charges $250 to say the same thing.

Tip 5– What do you have to lose? By now you’ve probably attended enough trade shows, conferences and seminars to realize that, for the most part, when it comes to data center presentations, the bar is a little low– if you know what I mean. Nobody in the audience is expecting Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg address. People will sit politely, look at your bevy of PowerPoint slides and give you a nice little golf clap at the end. They may savage you on a survey card later, but you’ll probably never know, so everybody parts as friends. And, on the upside, you’ve gotten out of the office, went to a different city and enjoyed some nice accommodations. Does it get any better than that?

I for one heartily support this appeal for new speakers to arise from our midst. For too long we’ve squelched the opportunity for unheard voices to be heard. Put aside your fears future industry visionaries, and take your place among the Pantheon of trade show presenters. Get a head shot, write up your 100 words or less bio, submit your proposal and pack-up your PowerPoints and let your voice be heard. And remember, coffee, cookies and cold beverages will be served during the mid-morning and afternoon breaks.