I've been very fortunate to have the support from several free software organizations to travel to events around the world and share what I do with other people. It's an important mission in a world where technology is having an increasing impact on our lives. With that in mind, I'm always looking for ways to improve my presentations and my presentation skills. As part of mentoring programs like GSoC and Outreachy, I'm also looking for ways to help newcomers in our industry to maximize their skills in communicating about the great work they do when they attend their first event.
With that in mind, one of the initiatives I've taken this year is participating in the Toastmasters organization. I've attended several meetings of the Toastmasters group at EPFL and on 20 February 2018, I'll give my first talk there on the subject of Hacking.
If you live in the area, please come along. Entrance is free, there is plenty of parking available in the evening and it is close to the metro too. Please try to arrive early so as not to disrupt the first speaker. Location map, Add to your calendar.
The Toastmasters system encourages participants to deliver a series of ten short (5-7 minute) speeches, practicing a new skill each time.
The first of these, the The Ice Breaker, encourages speakers to begin using their existing skills and experience. When I read that in the guide, I couldn't help wondering if that is a cue to unleash some gadget on the audience.
Every group provides a system for positive feedback, support and mentoring for speakers at every level. It is really wonderful to see the impact that this positive environment has for everybody. At the EPFL meetings, I've met a range of people, some with far more speaking experience than me but most of them are working their way through the first ten speeches.
One of the longest running threads on the FSFE discussion list in 2017 saw several people arguing that it is impossible to share ideas without social media. If you have an important topic you want to share with the world, could public speaking be one way to go about it and does this possibility refute the argument that we "need" social media to share ideas? Is it more valuable to learn how to engage with a small audience for five minutes than to have an audience of hundreds on Twitter who scrolls past you in half a second as they search for cat photos? If you are not in Lausanne, you can easily find a Toastmasters club near you anywhere in the world.