You Don’t Have to be an Expert to Share Your Expertise

Feeling that you’re not “senior enough” to give a presentation at an event? Well, chances are you have a lot of knowledge to share. It’s time to put your impostor concerns aside and identify a topic you can speak about.

I spend a lot of time speaking about public speaking. You see, I co-authored “Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking” with Poornima Vijayashanker. In the past year, Poornima and I gave talks and workshops at about fifty tech companies, conferences, and other events. (That’s almost one every week!) It’s been fun sharing our favorite tips from the book and meeting so many talented individuals across the industry.

And, in doing so, we’ve noticed a trend.

Many people don’t feel eligible to give talks because they are not experts.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to be an expert. And you certainly don’t have to know everything about a particular topic to give a presentation about it. Most experienced speakers don’t either, and that’s okay. Your goal is simply to take a problem that you’ve personally encountered and help the audience understand it.

You want them to have an easier time with the problem if or when they encounter it themselves. You want them to be able to fast-track their learning, which you can do if you clearly break down a situation and share possible solutions, whether or not you invented that particular technology, framework, or process.

Still not convinced you’re qualified to give a presentation? Follow our Inventory Method from “Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking” to extract your expertise and find a topic for your talk.

Inventory Method

Start by taking stock of your past projects from the last three to twelve months.

Pick one project on your list, grab a white board marker or a keyboard, and answer these questions:

1. What was the purpose of the project? What problems did your project aim to solve? What were your goals?

2. What were your particular contributions? If you were part of a team, what were your contributions to the project?

3. What were your challenges? What troubles did you face? Was there a challenge that got you or your team stuck? How did you jump over these hurdles? Did you adopt a new technology or create a new process?

4. What did you learn, and how did you learn it? How did you get started on a new technology, programming language, market segment, or career skill? Did you take a class? What books, websites, or other resources did you find helpful?

5. What’s your advice to others in your shoes? What would you tell someone else doing a similar project? What do you wish you had known before you started? What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again? What are your cautionary tales?

Review your answers about this project. Is there enough here to create a talk?

If you struggled to come up with clear answers, pick a different project and go through the questions again. When you find a topic with enough material, that’s your tentative talk idea.

Now that you have a topic in mind, it’s time to create your talk and deliver it in front of an audience. And we’re here to help! Check out Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking for more public speaking tips.

 

Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse.

Karen Catlin

After spending over 25 years building software products, Karen Catlin is now an advocate for women in the tech industry, a leadership coach, a TEDx speaker, and co-author of Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking. While her book is not gendered, she wrote it to inspire more women to give talks, to increase their career visibility and to become role models for others. Formerly, Karen was a vice president in the CTO’s office at Adobe Systems.

Stop by and follow Karen on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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