7 Reasons To Present At a Podcamp Near You

This week, I put together a presentation called Get Klout: An interactive tutorial so that I could unveil my ideas at the fourth annual Podcamp Halifax. It was a lot of fun, and I think people really enjoyed the interactive part – we did an experiment to see how much we could improve three people’s Klout scores (to see the results, check this blog tomorrow). A lot of people showed up to listen to what I had to say, and I’m pretty happy about it: this was the first time I’d really put myself out there in the Halifax tech community, and no one booed me off my pulpit.

I’m incredibly happy about how it all went (seriously: I’m glowing. Haven’t stopped thinking about the day), so I thought I would share a few reasons why the experience was so awesome for me.

1. Practice. Or: Podcamp is the nicest way to fail.

I really enjoy public speaking, but please don’t think that if you don’t, that there’s no point for you to present. There is no better way to get better at public speaking than by practicing in front of live people. For me, I know there are a billion things I could improve. I wave my arms extravagantly and answer questions in really roundabout ways. I read slides until I remember what the hell I was talking about, then I talk off the cuff. My jokes are super lame. I prefaced my presentation by saying that what was to come would be deliberately bad.

Putting myself out in front of an audience is a fun sort of stress for me, and every time I do it, I get less terrified and manic and more and more focused and relaxed. I learn new lessons with every talk, and I really believe that knowing how to keep people’s interest is an important skill. And you can hardly beat the atmosphere at Podcamp: your audience is encouraged to use their phones, walk out on talks, and ask questions. They’ll let you down easy if your talk isn’t what they’re into. And you don’t have to worry about being good enough to make their conference fees worth paying, since Podcamp is free. What’s best is that it’s really democratic: anyone can be where you are. You don’t have to be a super-guru to be heard. You also don’t have to have a super-polished talk. You just have to have something worth saying, and if you do, people will seriously reward you.

2. Research. Or: excitement is contagious.

Unless you work exclusively in social media, you won’t often have either the opportunity nor the motivation to investigate a single topic for long enough to put together a 45 minute-long presentation on it. Here’s your chance. You get to focus in on something so damn interesting to you that you won’t be able to help but get excited about it. Believe me, this translates to actual excitement in the presentation, so let your own interest lead your efforts.

3. Friends. Or: to join a group, talk to them.

Don’t you hate that “making friends” has now become “building networks”? Jesus, why not just have some fun with people? Podcamp is a chance to do just that by putting your ideas out there. I talked about Klout and got to meet a whole ton of people who cared about what I had to say. I got to convince people that what I had to say was actually worth their attention. That sure beats sitting online and wondering why I’m not part of a community I care about. If you find yourself on the outside of a group you want to be a part of, then talk to them about something they care about too.

4. Enemies. Or: if someone likes what you’re saying, there’s someone else who doesn’t.

They’re probably not the ones attending your talk, but they’re out there somewhere. Learning how to deal with critics graciously is one of life’s toughest and most rewarding lessons, so let Podcamp’s otherwise encouraging setting be the place to learn it.

5. Dialogue. Or: the best way to convince someone is to give them a voice.

Social media’s supposed to be about listening and speaking. It’s totally changed the way we do things online, so why not change how we do presentations? Whether or not it was an effective means of communicating, my presentation felt like a conversation instead of a speech. Since it would be ridiculous for me to pretend I’m an expert on anything, I’m glad I got to at least bring a few people into a dialogue on something I care about.

6. Spontaneity. Or: how to have an awesome weekend with just one click.

I saw the Podcamp page on January 6th, and figured: “holy shit! It’s time to make an awesome presentation about Klout!” My most intense brainstorming session involved a few texts between me and my aunt. The commitment is minimal! Just make sure you commit, because otherwise you will never do it.

7. Fun. Or: let your freak flag fly.

The thing I’m most proud of, though, is that I got to let my personality show. I used profanity and spoke openly about why Klout sucked, and backed it up with a few good reasons about why Klout was worth using. I made bad jokes about science. I used clip art and Comic Sans. I had fun. I think the people who watched my presentation also had fun, so it was a win-win!

Bonus reasons (Or: the “what made my first Podcamp Halifax so rad” reasons):

  • Delicious food from The Local Source. For $11.75, I got an endless grab bag of local food. I’m pretty sure there were three whole courses in there plus apple cider and a pear.
  • Keynote from Julien. He’s got lots of amazing content flying around the web at a viral clip, but most important right now is his book, The Flinch (currently free for Kindle), and this blog post on 100 Tips About LIfe, People, and Happiness.
  • This ridiculous shirt, which was thrown into my welcoming arms before the keynote:
  • This review from Blog Nova Scotia, which has ranked me as somewhere between a Jedi Knight and Jedi Master for my presentation! Aw shucks!
  • All the super duper awesome people who attended my presentation. Check back here tomorrow for an update on our Klout experiment!
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