An #upfront conversation with Tony Mather
“I’m a UX designer with a lifelong fear of public performance.”
Although it’s easy to avoid the kind of exposure you’d typically think of nerve-wracking – say, speaking at a conference, there are everyday scenarios that are at a much lower level which don’t even make me consciously nervous but are nevertheless affected by my lack of confidence. Things like presenting work to stakeholders, facilitating workshops, team meetings. Things that are not only unavoidable for me, but crucial to doing my job well. It’s not that I can’t do them, it’s just that if I was more comfortable, I’d do them better.
I attend a lot of meetups, conferences and talks and have always been sick with envy at the casual confidence that a good speaker has. It’s something I’ve long wished to achieve.
“Being #upfront was pretty easy to be honest. It turns out that being on stage, under the gaze of many strangers doesn’t really bother me. It’s the expectation of me doing something, and the prospect of that being poorly judged that’s my problem.”
One of the biggest things I got from this experience was seeing a speaker up close, doing a talk with a lot of skill and confidence, and seeing the reaction of the audience. It turns out that the faces and reactions of an audience are pretty much the same regardless of what’s being delivered, or how well. At least until it comes to the point where they’re expected to react.
I’ve come to understand that when I’m talking to a large number, I’m expecting an interaction and reaction from the group that I’d expect when talking to an individual. Audiences don’t do that. Folded arms, blank expressions, silence and passivity don’t mean the same thing in this context and this isn’t a negative reaction to what you’re doing.
“I’m still working on my confidence. I’m routinely putting myself in situations that make me uncomfortable – pushing the level of what I can handle. My goal at the moment is to keep that up. “
I’m currently delivering a whole day training workshop to my division of the company I work for, probably 300 people in total. I’m hoping that by the end I’ll be relatively comfortable in that position. I’m hoping that by that point the jump to presenting a talk at a meet up won’t be such a leap.