Monthly Archive for March, 2012

Public Speaking and Long Distance Running

So, on March 20, I gave my talk at Ignite Charlotte 4. It went really, really well.

When I first found out that I had been selected to speak, I made the remark on Twitter, “Not sure which was crazier, deciding to run a half-marathon or deciding to give a talk about it.” I now see some interesting parallels between the two. I’ll write some more about running in another post (There’s a lot of stuff I couldn’t get to in my talk), but here, I want to talk about how much my Ignite talk and my half-marathon have in common.

Something that I didn’t specifically mention in my talk is that when I started running, it was the first time I ran in about 19 years. Well, the last time I did something that could be considered public speaking, it was about 18 years ago. In the Fall of 1992, my Sophomore year of college (at N.C. State…Go Wolfpack!), I took a class called PE 100, which was better known as “PE Run-hundred,” and when I finished that class, I stopped running. As a Junior in the Spring of 1994, I took a technical writing class where we had to do a couple of presentations in front of the class, which had about 30 people. After that class, I never had to do any presentation for more than 4 or 5 people until Tuesday night. So, given my previous running/speaking experience (or the complete lack thereof), both the talk and the race were a little bit crazy for someone like me.

On the day of the race, I was pretty nervous. I didn’t know if I would finish the race, and I didn’t know if I would finish in less than 3 hours. Before I gave my talk, I was pretty nervous (although one of the volunteers said I didn’t look nervous). I didn’t know if I would get through without blanking out, forgetting something, or falling behind the auto-advancing slides. Well, I finished the race in 2:49:35, and I finished my talk without any screw-ups. Now, I’ll have to watch the video once it’s posted (about 2 weeks from today) to confirm this, but I’m pretty sure there was only one line that I skipped: “If you’ve trained correctly, the actual race with be tough, but not as bad as you expect.” (And I skipped it partly because I wasn’t expecting to hear a few laughs when I said that hearing Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” got me pumped up.) Replace “trained” with “practiced” and “race” with “talk” and it applies perfectly to my talk. Both the talk and the race ended up being more fun than I expected.

I must confess something, though. In my talk, I said that one of the most important things to remember on race day is to not change anything if you can help it. Yeah, I broke that rule, but I had a good reason. I wore a Tech-T with long sleeves that I ended up buying the day before the race, so obviously I had never run in it before. For all of my long training runs, it had been at least 45 degrees when I started. I can handle 45 degrees with a short-sleeved shirt. The forecast for race day fluctuated a lot the week before, but by the end of the week, it was looking like 35 degrees for the start, so I had to buy a new, warmer, shirt. And in my Ignite talk, I made a last second change on purpose. The way I wrote my talk, it started out with, “In June of last year…” For some reason, at the last minute, I was worried about taking more than 15 seconds to say what I needed to say on the first slide. So I started my actual talk with, “Last June…” Both changes worked out OK.

All in all, I think both training for and completing a half-marathon, and preparing for and giving an Ignite talk have more in common than you’d think. And I’m really glad I was able to do both.

Adventures in Public Speaking

About a month and a half ago,  I decided to submit an idea for a talk for Ignite Charlotte 4. To my surprise (I’ll let you know whether it was a good or bad surprise after it’s over), they accepted my idea.

In case you’re not familiar with the Ignite format, each person gives a talk with 20 slides that automatically advance after 15 seconds, for a total length of 5 minutes. I’ve attended the first 3 Ignite events in Charlotte, and true to the Ignite motto, “Enlighten us, but make it quick!”, I’ve found each one very enlightening.

The title, which it turns out is the longest title of any of the talks, and it’s not that close, is “Couch to 13.1: How an Out-of-Shape Nerd Completed a Half Marathon.” As I wrote on Twitter after I found out: “I was selected to give a talk at #IgniteCLT.Not sure which was crazier, deciding to run a half-marathon or deciding to give a talk about it.” I’ll definitely have more to write about the subject after my talk, since there’s a lot of stuff that won’t fit into a 5 minute talk. It’s definitely been difficult putting everything together, and being as shy as I am, the thought of getting up on a stage for 5 minutes with a slide show that goes on whether I’m ready or not scares the hell out of me. But I’ve been practicing, I’m making progress, and I think *fingers crossed* I’ll be ready.

Ignite Charlotte 4 is at the Neighborhood Theatre this Tuesday night, March 20. Admission is free, but you need to RSVP by Monday. If you’re not in Charlotte, I recommend checking out Ignite if there’s one close to you. You can go to IgniteShow.com and find one in your back yard, or just watch videos for past talks from around the world.

Even if my talk doesn’t go so well, I’m sure the 11 other speakers will be brilliant. Come check it out if you can.


I'm Speaking at Ignite Charlotte!

I’m a People Person?

For the last 3 and a half weeks or so, I’ve been working from home while my bathrooms are being remodeled. (This project is, of course, behind schedule and over budget, but I digress.) Yesterday, I went into the office for a few things, and I reached a startling conclusion.

I missed my cubicle.

Now, there are a few mitigating factors. In my cube, I have a pretty sweet setup with two monitors and plenty of screen real estate. And currently at home, I have to contend with various construction noises.

The thing that surprised me, though, was that I missed being around my co-workers. And this surprised me, not because they’re a bunch of obnoxious jerks, it’s because I consider myself an extreme introvert. Seriously, if I take the Myers-Briggs personality test and score any less than 90% introverted, I assume that either I misread several questions, or this version of the test is completely screwed up.

You would think that, being this introverted, working from home would be a dream come true. Once the bathrooms are finished, the construction noises will be gone. And I think I could rearrange things so I have a sweet dual-monitor setup at home. Also, I do like to work from home on occasion, especially on Fridays when I know the afternoon traffic will suck. But if I worked from home every day, I think I’d still miss the people.

It’s enough to make me question whether I’m a true introvert. Now, I’m very definitely a shy person, and I rarely come out of my shell around strangers (unless there’s alcohol involved). However, one of the characteristics of introverts is that they tend to be drained by being around peeple. I’ve never really experienced that. I may not get energized like an extrovert would, but I’m not drained either.

I’m not sure what to take away from this. My best guess is that I’m probably at least a little bit introverted. I do enjoy having some alone time, and, let’s face it, this post could be considered serious navel-gazing. I’m definitely shy. But I might just be more of a people person that I thought.

(Irony of ironies, I wrote the entire first draft of this in a crowded coffeehouse. In my defense, I sat alone at a table in the corner, listening to music with earbuds the whole time, and had almost no interaction with anyone who wasn’t an employee.)