Beyond My Comfort Zone: Presenting at Synergy!

By Bas van Kaam posted 04-04-2016 09:02 PM

  

This year’s Synergy is right around the corner, and for me personally, it is going to be an (extra) special one. First of all, as a freshly instated Citrix Technology Professional, class of 2016, I will attend my first ever CTP meetings, on the Sunday and Monday prior to Synergy, which are known for their high intensity levels. Secondly, and this one is just as huge, I have been granted two presentation slots at this year’s event. Two! And while this is seen as a privilege by most, me included, I also find it somewhat intimidating, nerve-racking and scary even, to be totally honest. I don’t mind admitting this at all, as I know that a lot of you can probably relate.

Although I don’t "fear" public speaking as much as death itself (public speaking is often placed at the top of various anxiety lists), I do find it "challenging" to say the least. It’s just one of those things I find hard to get over. My first public speaking engagement dates back to February 2015, so it has only been 14 months give or take, since I first took the stage. And I can tell you, I remember it vividly. It was at one of the Dutch Citrix User Group events where I did my first 45 minute presentation in front of at least 130 people. And since I knew that I was going to be very *understatement* nervous, I prepared myself the best way I knew how. I did my research, spent a couple dozen hours on my slide deck and practiced my presentation out loud at least 20 times in total. I’m telling you, if my furniture could talk you’d hear some interesting stories! ;-) During my initial rehearsals I would often finish after around 44 to 45 minutes, but of course that was without any interaction from the audience. You can probably guess what happened once I was on stage right? I finished with almost ten minutes to spare!    

I know most of this is probably nonsense and a waste of energy, but some general thoughts that tend to take over leading up to a presentation might include: Is my (main) topic interesting enough? Will my audience appreciate the effort I put in? What if they know more about the subject then I do? What if they ask questions I can’t answer? What if I blackout and forget what I want to share? What if they notice I am nervous? What if, what if… Sound recognizable? 

This is only going to be my second Synergy ever, and although I really love the atmosphere, the people and technology involved, attending as one of the guest speakers does impact the way I experience the event as a whole. Not in a bad way per se, but the pressure that–at least for me–comes with the upcoming presentations will constantly be there, as well. I do realize that I am privileged to be in the position that I’m in today and as such I am very much looking forward to both presenting as well as attending the CTP meetings. It is going to be a very interesting week for sure, and as they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone!  

Luckily during 2015 I had the opportunity to present on multiple occasions throughout the year, which really helped in building my confidence and general approach in the weeks leading up to a presentation. And while I still spend a significant amount of time on putting together my slide decks and going over my main topics, I do somehow feel a bit more relaxed. Though I’m sure once I get out on stage, as part of my Expo theater session or together with my partner in crime Wilco van Bragt during our breakout session on Thursday, the nerves will strike again and probably sooner that. 

As far as advice goes to those of you who would like to present as well, all I can say is just do it, no matter how intimidating or scary it may seem. And I realize that sounds easier than done; I’ve been there. Come up with a topic that interests you, perhaps talk to one of your local CUGC leaders to hook you up with a presentation slot and off you go. Once you are past that stage it will only get easier, and after you have finished your first ever public speaking engagement you will be smiling from ear to ear, I promise. Try not to worry about how good or bad you will do as the audience will appreciate you being up there and putting in the effort, period (or at least they should). Of course asking for help is always optional and a smart thing to do, there are tons of experienced public speakers out there and many started out the exact same way as you did–remember that. 

To finalize, I hope to see you all at Synergy and I wish everybody a great time, which probably won’t be too big of an issue being in Vegas and all. Stay tuned for more details about myCUGC user group activities and opportunities at Synergy, and make sure to subscribe at mycugc.org if you have not done so already.

Thank you for reading.

Regards,

Bas

Comments

04-23-2016 05:20 AM

You'll be fine!

I remember it took some encouragement to get you on stage at the Dutch Citrix User Group but you did great!

This is what's cool about local user groups, you can start in your native language with at least some familiair faces in the audience.

Will definitely be in the audience at Synergy!

04-15-2016 05:08 AM

Have fun with it...

Last year was my first Synergy also and I was lucky enough to be presenting a session. It was made a bit easier though as it was a joint session so I was able to take breaks and allow my co-presenter talk. I remember being so nervous, my mouth was constantly dry!

I am presenting a session again this year, once more with the same person, but I am not feeling as nervous. Having the experience of year year under my belt really help. I keep reminding myself also, the audience are there becuase they are interested and want to hear what you have to say, there is no reason to worry... That being said, I'm sure once I am up there and the first slide is up, there will be some nerves... :) But enjoy it as it is a fun experience... 

04-10-2016 10:09 AM

Thank you!

Thank you both Laure and Sacha for your comments and tips, looking forward to some real-life conversations :)

See you at Synergy!

Regards,

Bas. 

04-06-2016 11:30 AM

being nervous is natural ...

Bas, this is a very good article. Present in front of public is always nerve-racking and I'm sure everybody want to give the best to his audience. People who present have always keep in mind, the audience mostly don't notice or don't mind when the presenter is nervous, that's natural. If you know your business so you are hardly a bad presenter!

For me as a Swiss guy who speak german and learnd as first foreign language French, it's just a bit more difficult to present in english because of the language barrier. But who knows, perhaps in one of the next year I have a topic to present at Synergy, it would be a great honor and be so nerve-racking to get out of my comfort zone ... Oh I did'nt forgot  the CTP meetings, maybe it's already in the direction of leaving the comfort zone, but I look forward and I'm happy to have this chance! 

04-06-2016 11:03 AM

Thank you for the tips

And congrats for being selected to present at Synergy!

I agree with you Bas. The more you present, the less you will be anxious and the better you will become. I'm still working on this myself ;-)

I had the chance to work with a coach last year for a Citrix presentation and here are the main takeaways that worked for me:

  • Rehearse many times, out loud. Own your content so that it flows naturally (very helpful for a non native English speaker right?)
  • Go to the room where you will present and look at all the aspects of the room in order to "own" it and be less nervous
  • If you freeze on stage, remember to breathe. It will bring oxygen to your brain, get you back on track, and improve your performance

Good luck to you and all the other speakers at Synergy!

Laure