Public speaking is a huge fear for many people, including editors. However, if giving a talk at a conference is a skill that you are interested in developing, then the 9th IPEd national editors conference in Melbourne next May is the ideal chance to get started.

Our minds are powerful and can convince us that something is a fact when it is actually just an opinion. This, coupled with our ability to be our own harshest critic, means that we can pretty easily talk ourselves out of presenting at a conference, convinced that we’d do a bad job before we’ve even tried it.

Would you be able to talk to one other person about this topic? If so, you are qualified to give a talk at the IPEd conference!

In this week’s blog post, I address a few specific fears you may have about giving a conference presentation. I encourage you to look at any fears that resonate with you and see if you think they are legitimate concerns or are simply excuses to avoid getting out of your comfort zone.

Fear 1: I don’t know enough about a topic to do a presentation

Have you ever learned something new at a conference? I’m guessing that you have!

We tend to assume everyone knows the same things we know. But that’s simply not the case. In fact, I think we’d all admit it would be a strange world if everyone on the planet knew all the same things. Even within the profession of editing, we all know colleagues who are knowledgeable about things that we don’t know much about. So it seems reasonable to assume you also know things that others don’t.

When I worked in-house, I loved learning little things here and there from my colleagues, even if it was just a simple shortcut in Word. However, since becoming a sole trader and working alone at home, it has become more difficult for me to gauge what skills others have. This can turn into self-doubt about our own skills. Just remember, though, that many of us have come to editing from other careers and therefore come to our profession with different skill sets.

Fear 2: I don’t know what topic to choose

It can be overwhelming trying to pick a topic. The first rule is to choose a topic that you have a keen interest in and feel confident talking about. Here are some topic ideas to get you started:

  • an editing project you have worked on that you could use as a case study
  • software you use that could be useful to others
  • the business side of things (e.g. marketing, finances, admin)
  • experience from a previous career that could be usefully applied to editing
  • an interview with someone who works in a different part of the publishing process (e.g. author, indexer, designer).

Once you have listed a few possible ideas, consider each one individually. Would you be able to talk to one other person about this topic? If so, you are qualified to give a talk at the IPEd conference!

Woman giving the thumbs up
You got this!
Photo: Robin Higgins

Fear 3: No-one will be interested in my topic

The conference committee is unlikely to choose your paper if they think it won’t be of interest to the attendees. So, don’t let this fear stop you.

This is an example of a fear that is unfounded – after all, how do you know that no-one will be interested in your talk? You haven’t even written it yet. So, put in an abstract and see what happens …

Fear 4: I’m worried about getting negative feedback

IPEd conferences are friendly affairs. Most people in the audience will either admire you for getting up and giving a presentation or will be experienced presenters themselves and therefore will be empathetic to your situation. It’s true that the conference organisers ask for feedback at the end of the conference, but most of the feedback will be focused on general aspects of the conference rather than on one particular talk.

And even if someone leaves negative feedback, does that really matter? I have learned over the years that it is impossible to please everyone. I can give a workshop to 20 people and get 19 glowing reviews and one not-so-favourable report. Should I stop giving workshops because that one person didn’t enjoy it? Of course not, because I am still providing a benefit to all the other participants. So, don’t worry about negative feedback – it happens sometimes. What’s more, I’m confident that you won’t hear any harsh words from your fellow editors.

Barack Obama speaking at a podium
Maybe you’re an Obama-level public speaker? You won’t know if you don’t try!
Photo: Pixabay

Fear 5: I haven’t given a talk before, so I don’t know how to prepare

Closer to the conference, I will share some tips on how to create a great presentation. But in the meantime, my biggest tips are to plan carefully, to make sure that your content will fit into the time limit; keep it simple so as not to overwhelm the audience with too much information; and practise so that you are confident on the day.

Not convinced?

In the end, only you can decide whether you are ready to give a talk. But I do encourage you to examine your fears. Are they reasonable or are they based on your own beliefs about your ability and knowledge?

Dr Malini Devadas
Coach, Edit Boost

Dr Malini Devadas is presenting the Money Matters pre-conference workshop.

The Call for Papers to present at the conference closes on 30 November 2018.