She Loves Data’s Priyanka on
First-Time Public Speaking

Alexandra Khoo | 26/02/2019

Shortly after my post on public speaking, I learned that one of our She Loves Data volunteers, Sydney co-lead Priyanka, recently gave a public talk for the first time! In a post-event reflection, she shares how she overcame her fear, what she discovered about speaking from the heart, and why she would do it again. It’s wonderfully encouraging.

Read on to learn more!


What I did not expect from speaking about blockchain at Pause Fest 2019

A good way to think about Pause Fest is less conference, and more festival that fuses creativity, business and impact with technology as the underlying theme. Attended by an eclectic mix of audience demographic, some of whom would be hearing me talk.

I would be discussing:

  • the history of the independence movement of Bangladesh and where we are today in terms of citizen voting rights
  • my father’s role in that story from guerilla fighter to diplomat to social impact and then politics
  • and what those two topics had in common with decentralised technology and social impact.

However, public speaking for me has never made it to my resume as a skill set. I would go so far as to say, I have actively avoided any activity related to public speaking. I couldn’t think of anything more terrifying.

In a former life as a technology consultant for one of the big four firms, working for and with startups and before that practising as a lawyer, there actually were not many times where I had to get up in front of a stage and address an audience. And the times I did, I did not enjoy myself.

But then I thought about how, when I was performing those different roles, each time at the outset, I was thrown into the deep end and I eventually learned what I needed to, in order to do my job. I thought of all the Ways of Working that had been well drilled into my mindset and operational fabric:

  • Focus on the solution, not the problem.
  • Nobody can be perfect but we can keep learning how to address our weaknesses.
  • Bring structure to ambiguity.
  • Create an actionable strategy to implement change.

Not speaking at Pause Fest certainly was not an option. So I thought of those points above, bit the bullet and decided to learn how to face my fear. I was going to have to learn fast because in 2 weeks time, I was going to have to stand on stage and address an audience with an average IQ of 150+.

So here is what I did to learn how to become a public speaker:

I thought long and hard on what I really cared about and how that informed my personal story and the problems I’m trying to solve today.

I thought about the dark history of my motherland, the challenges faced by my family through their life journey and the dreams we built together to try to lift our Bangladeshi village, Chilmari, out from below the poverty line and towards their basic human right to a life of dignity.

It reminded me that this public speaking opportunity was not about me. It was an opportunity to get light on topics that are not, but should and now could be, getting visibility in the public realm.

It also reminded my of why I do what I do today: to drive impact through my work in things that are much bigger than just me.

It is why I became a lawyer. Then followed my head and heart into a completely foreign area, being technology. And started to learn that emerging technologies like blockchain had the power to help countries like mine leapfrog their way forward to catch up with the rest of the world.

Suddenly, my self-doubts didn’t feel as heavy. Don’t get me wrong, it was still ‘interesting’ to figure out how to explain blockchain in the simplest possible terms before an audience. But I realised that if I didn’t, then people would not really understand the point of the story that I so badly wanted to share with the world.

George Hedon, founder of Pause Fest, and I chatting about all things Ethereum, Web 3.0 and impact in industry and society.

And this is what I learned really went into speaking from the heart:

  1. Talk about what you care about.
  2. Talk about how that informs your story.
  3. Don’t be anyone else when you’re up there you because it makes the remembering part far easier.

I found out that if you do those three things when you are presenting on even the most complex concepts, like blockchain, you’re pretty much already 90% there.

The last 10% is for Q&A. Who loves Q&A? Not me. But there is always Q&A.

Here’s the thing, if you tell the truth, if you are only wearing a skin on stage that is actually yours, 9 times out of 10 you probably won’t be affronted with the hairy questions. You know the ones I mean. Where that goober in the audience has to prove their intelligence is equal to or greater than the rest of the group?

Luckily, I only received the types of questions that told me the audience was listening to and cared about what I had to say.

Post Pause Fest, a lot of people have been asking me, how was it?

Hands down it was an experience and delight for all 5 senses, and I would absolutely recommend anyone who has a curiosity for what is outside the square box, to go to Pause Fest next year if you can. I hear it will be extra special as it will be their 10 year anniversary.

My personal, key takeaways

I faced one of my biggest fears. I completely surprised myself with just how much fun I had when I was up there and even right now as I relive it.

At the end of the day, had I not stepped out of my comfort zone, I would have never realised I could come out of that experience wanting to do it again. Just like going on a rollercoaster ride.

So, if there is ever an opportunity for you to become a public speaker, go for it because everyone has an important story to share. And who knows? You might have so much fun that you too would be open to doing it again.

Thank you to the Pause Fest team for having me. And the engine that is Catalyst at ConsenSys, coming together to help throughout the journey: Brianna Davis, Riley Kim and Kelvin Lee.

Last but certainly not least, Shelley Laslett and Michael Priddis for your kindness, support and feedback that guided me through this journey.

I highly recommend anyone reading this and interested in public speaking to Google Shelley and Mike’s public speaking videos, they will not disappoint.

Reposted with permission from Priyanka. Original post on LinkedIn can be found here.

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