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I have never been comfortable with public speaking. Many times I was asked if I wanted to participate in meetups to talk about my favorite subject, accessibility but fear always prevailed. Then, a new opportunity presented itself, proposing a topic in Paris Web and there I jumped into the adventure.
A growing idea
I was lucky to go to Paris Web in 2015. Among all the conferences I saw, there was Marie Guillaumet’s talk on self design. She talked about something I’ve never heard before: the impostor syndrome. That little voice that tells you it’s useless to make an article, to give a conference, to share anything because, anyway, someone has already done it. That little voice that also tells you that you are not legitimate. Of course, people far more visible than you have already spoke about the subject you would like to talk about then why repeat something that has already been said and repeated?
“You are legitimate.” Those 3 words had a resonance that I couldn’t have imagined!
A first step, blog posts
From there, I decided to write articles and integrate them into my new portfolio. Not a big risk but a first step, my feedback on Paris Web 2015.
Followed an introduction on my starterkit, Korat. Then, later, another one on some basic accessibility practices. For this one I had feedbacks, more important, positive feedback. I was not sure when I published it, “did I not forget to point out something, did I make mistakes?, I am not an expert and these points are really basic, is it really going to be useful?” Impostor syndrome was really here.
The positive feedback showed me that it was useful. Just because a subject seems to be basic to you doesn’t mean it is basic for everyone. Every day we learn things that are basic to many other people after all!
A big jump out of my comfort zone
Then, the opportunity to give a talk in Paris Web 2017 came up. Doubt quickly replaced surprise and joy I felt. “I can not speak in front of 30 people, how would I do that in Paris Web?” “I’m going to be in front of experts, will my subject interest them?” An so on…
It fell from heaven. And when things come to you like that, it’s that you have to go ahead, without questioning. So I proposed a topic and I thought if it was selected, it’s because it could interest people. One less doubt. “And maybe, it won’t be selected. Case closed.” I was already happy to have dared propose something, I took the “risk” that it could be selected.
Obviously it wasn’t a risk but a huge opportunity, I knew it. But the stress management to come if my topic was selected seemed insurmountable to me.
The verdict fell a few weeks later: subject selected. I felt between euphoria, surprise and … butHowWillIDoThatHelp.
Once my feet touched the ground again, I thought I had the most important. The idea was already there: Start from the article I had and improve it. Then, focus on the content, not on D-Day. Have the best presentation possible, clean slides.
Besides Reveal or AccesSlide? I make a talk on accessibility, I have to be rigorous on it… This article (in french) helped me to pick one.
Transcript or not? With the stress, am I going to be able to remember all this text? In a way, it’s easier, my text will be ready, I’ll just have to make a presentation to my colleagues, get their feedback and it will be good. But if I go blank on D-Day? What if I don’t respect the transcript? Well, relax. What’s the best thing to do from an inclusion and accessibility point of view? A transcript. Go to work!
I started very early, to have time to fine-tune, to clarify some points, to memorize little by little. I needed to spread it out to the maximum, I couldn’t wait the very end to do it. At first I was well, then I started to receive emails from the staff, related to organization, a small peak of stress came … then left. “Focus on your slides, D day is still far away”.
I made a presentation to UX, back-end developer, project manager colleagues who had various levels of knowledge in terms of accessibility. Ideal to know if I was going to sleep people, lose them or if it was good. I had mainly feedbacks on form, less on the bottom. I adjusted all until the D-day.
D-day approaching, the stress began to be permanent, more or less strong. Although I reasoned, it was hard to manage. Thanks to the staff and Nicolas Hoffmann, I was able to do a rehearsal the day before editions’s begining, in the room where I was going to give my talk. Making a presentation in front of Nicolas was already an extra step to climb. He is one of the many people I admire in the web world and before whom I feel very small. He was able to find the words to make me de-stress and make me understand that “well we are all equals”. Making this first presentation helped me a lot. During the two days, I opened up little by little, I remain a discrete person, do not expect me to make long speeches. But the benevolent atmosphere, the humility of all those people I admire, has really helped me. The stress was still there but I did my best so it didn’t take too much space. I focused thoroughly on the conferences until it was my turn.
It’s a really great experience to do. If the imposter tends to be too present in you as it can be for me, it will really help you to take the jump. My talk was probably far from perfect but I know that it was useful, like the transcript, to some people who made me feedbacks and just for that, it was worth it!
Thank you again to the staff for their huge work, their kindness and their help and also to Nicolas, also for his kindness and to have taken time to make me repeat :)