I do a lot – sometimes a LOT-lot – of speaking as part of my job. I do workshops and big presentations and I talk to the media and I talk to clients and I talk on committees. In general, I enjoy all of it (in varying degrees) and it’s rare for me to feel outside of my comfort zone. The media is really the only spot where I still hesitate – not always knowing what angle the reporter will work, how my words will be used (in print), and feeling self-conscious if there’s a camera involved- but more often than not I’ll go for it anyway.
Last night I did a talk as part of a panel – and it didn’t quite sit well with me. This morning I spent some time dissecting that, trying to figure out why. Nothing was dramatically awful (I didn’t say anything offensive or fall off of the little stage) but it felt ‘off’.
I think I narrowed it down to a few things.
I don’t like talking about my job in a really superficial way – and this panel was meant to be a very brief and light discussion on a big, often heavy, topic. 6 speakers, 45 minutes (which had to include the moderator talking, the audience questions, etc.) We were all told ahead of time to keep our answers short (ha) and to make sure we gave a lot of space for the audience to ask questions. I struggled with that. Right now there are some huge issues related to the work that I do, and people are literally dying, and I can’t quite figure out how to articulate those issues in one or two brief sentences.
The audience was a mix of people from a variety of backgrounds – which is something I find challenging – and we weren’t given any info about that ahead of time. When I talk, I like to try to understand what the concerns/perspectives of the people are so I can address them a bit. I felt myself biting my tongue a lot and stifling some of the things I wanted to say – again, BIG topic, short time to address it.
I was asked to submit questions ahead of time that I wanted to be asked – none of them were used (which is okay) – and I also wasn’t given any idea as to what other questions the moderator would ask. There are so many facets to my job, and the work I do, and the team I’m part of, and the work that we do together.. I could (and have) literally talked for HOURS about just a tiny bit of that. So, I felt unprepared to provide brief answers without knowing what the context would be.
And I was tired. After a few days at a conference out of town, not sleeping well, I wasn’t fully on my game for this event. I’m not going to say that I shouldn’t have agreed to do the talk right after that, but I’m also not going to say that it was my best idea. I don’t know what the answer is to that, actually. (Probably more caffeine.)
I’m not upset about the event – just disappointed about how it went (for me). I’m also grateful that some of the other speakers had some good insight and good comments. You win some, you lose some.