YOW’s New Voices in Tech Speaker Training

by Amy Kapernick, Evangelist

For the last 5 years, YOW have worked to increase the diversity of tech conferences by running their New Voices in Tech Speaker Training program which offers a full day of speaker training with Damian Conway (travel and accommodation included for interstate participants). For a full day, 10 women in tech from across Australia meet and perfect their speaking skills, learning both from Damian and each other.

Applications for the New Voices in Tech program this year are currently still open (closing Friday 11 May), and in light of this I sat down to have a chat with Julie Grundy about her experiences in the program last year and what she’s been doing since then.

What was the day like? How did you start?

I thought that Damian would start off with a bit of a lesson or instruction, but we dove straight into it. We started giving our presentations straight away, with time blocks for each participant. Damian continued to give advice throughout the day, and it was a relatively casual environment. It was really nerve wracking but worked really well, especially if you were speaking later in the day and could modify it based on feedback that had already been given.

So what did you have to do in advance? Was there any prep?

Part of the application process includes writing a talk proposal, but then we also had to be prepared to give a 10 minutes talk so had to be prepared with slides.

What format did you get feedback in? Was it written down or shared with the whole room?

Damian gave personalised feedback at the end of each talk, and provided us with his notes. But he also got us into the habit of analysing and giving feedback of our own.

I’m assuming that you were talking about Accessibility, but what about the other participants?

There was such a wide range of people in the room from all different areas of the industry and the talk topics included things like Machine Learning, Agriculture, React with both technical and non-technical talks being given.

You got to spend the day with 10 awesome women who know a lot about something you didn’t and you got to learn from them. It was like a mini casual conference and I’m glad I got to meet them all.

I follow a bunch of the other participants on Twitter so we can chat, and I can see that their careers are going well after the training. We’re all giving talks and getting recognised, it’s very confidence-building.

Was there advice on anything else, or just your talk?

Damian showed us how to identify our unique strengths and work with them rather than just to do what everyone else does. We learnt how to present in a way that makes the most of what you have to say, and how to interpret and develop your own style. Damian also gave a lot of practical pointers on things like what to wear (make sure you’re wearing something comfortable) and what to do with your hands.

You’ve also just spoken at CSSConf AU, how did the training help you with that?

I definitely credit my success at CSSConf from what I learnt from Damian Conway. I might have learnt most of it eventually, but rather than making the mistakes in public it was a chance to make them in a small group with an expert who was able to raise them for us.

Like the other participants, I’m now able to move forward with my career based on the skills that I learnt.

Anything else about the program that you’d like to share?

It was an incredible experience, a real pleasure meeting the lovely people in tech and remembering that you do have something to contribute to the industry. Damian has many years of experience and knows his s***, he makes people feel like anyone can do it. There were a lot of practical takeaways and the notes that Damian gave afterwards were very useful.

Damian was also very realistic about the fears that you faced and didn’t make you feel judged. Sometimes talks do go wrong, and he didn’t disregard that but reminded us that it’s ok. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can prepare for predictable things (eg. computer breaks, no internet in venue) and Damian shared with us how to do this.

I cannot recommend this program highly enough, people just apply

It doesn’t take too long to apply, and the payoff is so huge and valuable (also the food was really good).