High on Public Speaking.

Posted on Apr 9, 2015 in events, lessons
SXSW Speaker View

Yep, I took a panorama of the room.

Last month I spoke at SXSW Interactive. My first real speaking opportunity. I co-lead a “core conversation” called Social Media Strategy Swap* with Martin La Rocca from Social Factor. As a core conversation format, Martin and I were to provide our own expertise while guiding an active chat among our session attendees.


I am a stress machine. I had dreams about public speaking the whole week prior to my session. How the heck was I going to do this?

I was in the prep room by 8:30 AM the morning of my talk. After days of pounding, my heart finally felt some relief when two former co-workers waltzed in with my favorite splurge coffee drink (ahem, dirty chai). They pumped me full of caffeine and words of wisdom, and they assured me that if no participated in my session, I could relentlessly call on them.

Then we walked over to our room. Outside the door was a line of people stretched down the hall, waiting to hear what Martin and I had to say. I couldn’t believe it! As they all filed in, Martin was just chilling in a chair like a boss. Meanwhile, I bopped around the front of the room like a fool, nervously drinking water and rambling to the folks seated in the front.

The room filled up. Literally, filled. People stood in every corner. While I thought this would make me more nervous than ever before, it did the opposite – I was pumped. And as soon as I introduced myself, any lingering nerves washed away. Everything came naturally. I was smiling, joking, confident and relaxed. I felt professional while also being myself.

After the session, people bombarded me and Martin with “That was my favorite SXSW talk so far!” and “I loved the Lingo Bingo** cards you made!”


I was powered up for the rest of the day, eager to keep that feeling alive. Could I build public speaking into my future? I have loved to teach ever since I was little – I’d often make my brother play “Kindergarten” with me. I find it invigorating and fulfilling, and after this experience, I think public speaking may be a similar outlet. I will always bubble with nerves, but they will dissipate as long as I treat everyone in the room like a friend, be candid, flexible and trust that I at least know a little of what I’m talking about.

Cheers to breaking through a major fear and finding a new potential passion!

- Jess



*While I am no longer an active social media pro, I do have my fair share of expertise. When you submit a speaking topic to SXSW, you do so in July of the year prior. That’s plenty of time for your expertise or interests to shift.

**I designed social media Lingo Bingo cards (below) and handed them out as an activity during our session. The first two people to get Bingo won a book about social media and content marketing. There were also expert tips from fellow social media pros on the back of the cards. Success!

Social Media Lingo Bingo

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