Three years ago, I took the plunge and volunteered to speak at an event being held in Glasgow, I was scared, nervous and worried I would embarrass myself. However, I had picked a topic I was confident about and was actively talking to customers about at the time, so I knew my subject material inside out.
And guess what? I survived! And I also received a lot of support, before, during and after that talk. Since that day in 2017 I have now spoke at 33 events in thirteen different cities and six different countries.
Over the last three years I’ve been approached by several colleagues, members of the community and friends asking for guidance on how to start speaking at events. A lot of these people have to take a day off and use their annual leave to attend or speak at events held locally during the week and I’m always saddened to hear that they say that, I really believe employers should be supporting their employees who are looking to share their knowledge and develop a new skill.
In this article I want to touch on five reasons why I think employers should support their employees who want to speak at events.
Having one of your employees share their knowledge and being able to mention your organisation during the gives your organisation free advertising. And if your employee is sharing knowledge of a project that been recently deliver in your organisation (albeit without any confidential information), it’s showcasing your organisation and the projects that you work on. Which is a great showcase for attracting new talent into your organisation.
But regardless of what their talk is about it’s a great opportunity to show off your organisation to a different or new audience. However, this is one to be careful of, your employee shouldn’t be attending these events as a marketing exercise, but there is the opportunity for them to have the company logo on slides etc that can help drive visibility.
This one is related to if your employee is talking about a project or a scenario your organisation is working on or delivered. There is a chance that someone in the audience might be doing or have done a similar project so it could be a great opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other.
I’ve always found people at user groups, conferences etc are willing to share some of the knowledge freely to help others. Helping to share these learnings within your industry will ultimately result in a better industry.
And the other feedback is the feedback the speaker will receive from their talk, things they did well, things they need to improve on etc. This will all help them develop as a speaker, person and employee.
3. New Skill Development
There is a lot to public speaking beyond the delivery of the actual talk. Learning how to communicate your message in a coherent way is a skill, as is being able to construct a slide deck with the right message. Rehearsing your talk at home or in front of others to takes a lot of time and discipline to do.
Having an employee in your team that has a growth mindset and is always learning is a great asset to any team and something that is encouraged.
Having someone in your team that can communicate effectively to an audience, both verbally and with a slide deck will be a bonus at something as simple a team meeting, or something as important as a project stakeholder meeting.
At events, even just local user groups, a great cross section of the IT community attend. Giving everyone the opportunity to build up their network of colleagues and even develop new friendships. And again, having your employee speak at these events gives your organisation a new avenue to meet potential new employees or suppliers which will benefit your team and organisation.
I personally have met a group of very diverse people from speaking and attending events, people who share the same skillset as myself and people who have the complete opposite skillset to me. I now have a network of people who I can run things passed, ask for advice or even recommend for jobs within my organisation.
At most user groups and at conferences there will be more than one speaker, meaning your employee will have the chance to learn from someone else who is talking.
Many events are free for people to attend especially local users groups, but sometimes larger conferences charge attendees to attend, but speakers more often than not get a free attendee ticket in return for speaking. So it could be a win win situation, your employee gets the chance to share their knowledge to the attendees and gets to learn for free from others at the event. And then when they return to the office they can share their new found learnings with their peers and spread the knowledge even further.
I do appreciate it can be hard for employers to allow employees time away from work as it can disrupt project delivery or business as usual activities, however as I said above there are lots of benefits to it so I really do encourage all leaders to look at building in time for your employees to speak at events as part of your overall strategy and learning plans.
If anyone is looking for advice on speaking please do reach out to me, I’d love to chat.