I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at a number of conferences and workshops both at home and abroad. It isn’t easy and I do always get nervous before speaking before a group of industry peers. Quite a few years ago I was lucky enough to have the chance of doing a presentation skills workshop with a coach and it taught me some valuable lessons. But above all it made me seek out and take the opportunities that have arisen.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I read this interesting blog from Rachel Miller talking about the lack of women on many communication, IT and social media conference panels. I would recommend reading it as it made me think. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-women-dont-speak-conferences-rachel-miller)
What I suddenly realised is that being a women working in police communication there have been many, many occasions when I have been the only woman in a meeting let alone the only woman speaking at a conference. For some reason it didn’t register. It could be that I have just got used to it so I don’t even notice the gender imbalance or perhaps I have stopped considering the gender makeup of meetings, workshops or conferences.
It is a tough gig to stand up in front of fellow communication professionals to talk about your experiences, events or a specific piece of work. Few women will aggressively put themselves forward claiming that they have all the answers. But for me talking at a conference should not be about how great you think you are, it is about sharing an experience with people. This means talking about both the high points and the low points and ensuring it is an accurate and complete story. If you are getting some things right, it means you will be getting some things wrong. We should never be afraid to talk about how the lessons we learn along the way.
The chance of sharing experiences with fellow professionals has helped me to consider new ideas, look at new things and try something different. It has expanded my horizon and I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity.
From now I think I am going to be more aware of the gender mix of conference speakers and conference panels, and I will definitely encourage more people to take up any speaking opportunities that arise.