Sunday, May 1, 2016

Speaking on Stage

About a month back, I gave a talk on women in technology. This is the blog edition where I pretty much describe how the day went.

First of all, I was very excited when I was approached to give a talk on something that I'm passionate about. I was also touched by the confidence the organizers had in me even though they had never heard me talk.

I started preparing for it, in true Indian student style, two days before the day. I had spent more time sharing pics than I had in actually preparing for the talk. That guilt surged in me and I worked hard to produce the best talk I can.

I enjoy talking on stage. I have a stage accent, that may be borderline annoying to people who aren't used to it, but to me, it sounds of dignity and assertion. I had thought-provoking questions, an element of comedy and a few slides. My theme was to point out that there is a requirement to reach out to women, give out true stories and present alternate societies in a compelling way.

With all these intentions, I arrived at the venue and predictably got lost. By the time I found my way, the lift wasn't working. Welcomed auspiciously thus, I walked into the venue. I was one of the first people to arrive.

Nobody is going to come. At this stage, I became nervous. No matter what the situation was going to be in front of me, a packed audience or a desert without a fly or a crow, I was nervous.

Finally, the event started to about a 120-member strong audience. The first speaker spoke so casually about her life and I was astounded by many similarities. But much to my chagrin, this was not a formal talk! There she was jumping on heels and pretty much connecting with the audience. I started taking mental notes. I realized my formal self is not going to fly with this audience.

However, I'm somebody who plans out every detail in my mind's eye. To change my approach completely in the last moment made my blood pressure shoot up! I delved into the chaotic mass of memories and pulled out bits of stand-up comedy, initial attempts at English and school and a bit of a gossipy voice I heard somewhere and strung together an accent. I think it made me more relatable.

Well, I started off without a mike and nobody could hear me at the back. Years of being appointed leader in school has given me a loud voice albeit it is often mellowed down due to a lack of confidence. With a silent exhalation where I imagined my fears disappearing, I started once again.

The rest is history. I was talking about me, things that matter to me. The words came effortlessly. Yes, the audience was laughing, they were catching my eye, they were paying attention, with every passing slide my confidence soared. Before this experience, any attempt at me being funny would be an abysmal fail because the intersection of the things I find funny and what others find funny is usually the null set.

At the end of it all, I enjoyed the questions. They brought out facets of my character that I had hitherto not explored.

I'm really happy to have had this experience. I had a lot of positive feedback after the talk. As a person, I also feel like I'm steadily improving my emotional stability with personal altering experiences like this.

Kudos to Swathi and Karthik from Skcript who invited me for the Google Women Tech Maker's event. Everybody was a winner that day!

To sum up, I am grateful to my parents and teachers who refused to give up on my painful shyness and pushed me on to the stage. It is on stage that I learned to face my fears and it is there that I learned that I can help conquer others' fears as well.

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