I work in Information technology – I am a technical writer for a software company. I write training materials for our products which are used for monitoring telephone calls over the Internet.
My job is mostly spent at a computer without a lot of interaction with others. My daughters often say “How can you sit at a computer all day? It must be so boring!”.
Last year I joined an industry group of technical writers (Australian Society of Technical Writers) and I attend monthly meetings near my office. People talk about aspects of their work and demonstrate products and techiques. Since I have been in Toastmasters since 2004 I thought this would be an opportunity to speak in a non-Toastmasters environment.
I offered to talk about my work in developing E-Learning which is training delivered over the web with animation and voice-overs.
Over the next two months I prepared my talk of 40 minutes and PowerPoint presentation. You may have heard the term “Death by PowerPoint” where presenters fill their slides with slabs of text arranged in lists with bullet points.
I am not one of those presenters. Instead, I use photos pictures or just a few words on my slides. (This is the method proposed by Garr Reynolds in his book Presentation Zen) I showed video clips of my work, and demonstrations of text to speech programs. It was a true multimedia presentation.
My talk was well received and I was surprised at the interest the audience showed. The organiser of the society’s annual conference was in attendance. She asked me “Could you give that presentation at the conference?”.
Naturally I said yes.
There are many benefits of presenting at the conference. You don’t get paid, but you don’t have to pay the conference fee.
The conference was not held in the Hunter Valley or on the Gold Coast but in a hotel near Central station. I was able to meet my industry peers. Instead of being just one of the delegates, after I had spoken, people knew who I was and started conversations. There was a perception that I was some kind of “expert” on E-Learning.
I wanted to attend the conference this year, so I created a topic. I am used to creating speech titles in Toastmasters!
I spoke about the role of illustrations in technical documentation – the sort of diagrams we see in instruction or assembly manuals. I spoke at a meeting earlier ths year and was asked to speak at the conference at the end of October.
Did I call myself an expert? No. But I told my story of how I used some software tools to get a job done. I used my Toastmasters skills to deliver with confidence and received positive feedback.
The reality is that many people don’t want to speak in front of a group. Volunteering to speak about your experience and areas of interest helps your career and establishes your reputation.
The Macquarie Dictionary defines an expert as someone who has “special skill or knowledge in some particular field”. I would add that an expert is someone who is willing to speak about a subject. It helps your career, is satisfying and adds variety to your work.
I challenge you to take your Toastmasters skills outside your club environment. Tell your story, share your experience and inspire others. Then you will truly be the expert.