We’ve told you all the reasons why you should get into speaking and why you should deliver a Lightning Talk but we haven’t told you what doing one is actually like. We caught up with Mag Leahy who has recently delivered a Lightning Talk looking at the human journey in technology and spoke to her about the experience.
What prompted your decision to give a Lightning Talk?
I’ve been a coder for the last 20 years but I have ever more increasingly become interested in psychology. I decided it was time to take a different path in my career — so I began studying coaching. As I see it I’m half-way through my career and I feel that I’m fortunate enough to have gained experience that I can use to help build diverse teams and to help those teams build a culture that really respects that diversity. At the current time, it is more important than ever that we work towards diverse representation on teams and I felt this was important to speak about.
As a woman in tech who is searching for personal growth, I also felt a duty and responsibility to be visible to other women. I feel it will help lift that ceiling if other women can see someone else doing it until it becomes something that is accepted as normal.
Have you any prior experience of public speaking?
When I was 12, I was meant to do a small performance at the Gaeltacht, but I froze on stage and had to be walked off. This experience did leave me with a fear of public speaking.
How did you go about organising what you wanted to say? Did you enjoy the process of putting the talk together?
In terms of topic choice and what I wanted to say, this was mainly influenced by what was going on in the world, specifically the tragic murder of George Floyd. The reaction to this event around the world has helped to solidify my views with regard to the need for diversity within technical teams. The world is a diverse place and this is not always represented.
When it came to preparing myself, I did video record myself speaking a few times before the event to make sure that my timings were right and that I could fit in everything I wanted to say.
I really enjoyed the process of putting the talk together — I wanted to work on my fear of speaking and because 7 minutes felt completely reasonable it didn’t feel too daunting. I wasn’t frightened of the audience which helped too.
How did you feel that the talk went on the day — did you enjoy it, were you happy with how it went?
I was happy with it how it went — I said what I wanted to say and as a first step, I think it went really well.
Did you feel that the environment was welcoming?
I felt under the least amount of pressure that I could have felt. It was a very kind and supportive environment. Barry is a kind host, he’s incredibly inclusive and gives encouraging intros. The environment on the day was incredibly calm and people were open to listening kindly.
Has anything positive happened since giving your talk? Has anyone reached out to you or have any other opportunities arisen?
I’ve had a positive experience with everyone at RecWorks — the team are pushing me in a very supportive way, which I really appreciate. So much so, that I will be holding my own short talk very soon.
Putting the talk together has also helped me feel more solidified on my track to becoming a team creator/coaching lead and speaker.
I’ve had some great feedback on my talk — but have found there have been lots of mixed opinions. Some, for instance, felt that I should have included a presentation with my talk whereas others commented that it was refreshing that I hadn’t. In a way, I found that empowering because it demonstrates that you have to rely on your gut feeling and learn to be comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like the choices you make — but that there will be people who will. I also had a giggle at some feedback where I was told I should wear a headset — I was, it was just underneath my big hair so you couldn’t see it.
Do you have any top tips for anyone else considering giving a Lightning Talk?
Yes, firstly, remember that there is a talk within you — you are worth 7 minutes of someone’s lunch hour.
Speak about something that interests you, you really don’t have to be an expert — you just have to believe in what you are talking about.
Some advice I received from a friend was to think about an intro a middle and an end as well as think about what you want your audience to know and how you want them to feel.
I also found that videoing myself was really useful in terms of preparation.
I see you’ve got an event lined up titled ‘Short Talks’. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Yes, so this is evolving from my last talk. It will focus on AI and how this is becoming more and more powerful and the need to ensure that we have diverse teams building it. AI is a great tool that we can use to equalise things — but only if there is diverse input in the build.
You can watch Mag’s Lightning Talk here:
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