4 dos & don’ts of speaking at Web Summit and other large stages

Kat – November 2018

Whether it’s speaking just in front of a couple of people or thousands – sweaty palms, racing heart, forgetting what you wanted to say, we’ve all felt some level of nerves when speaking publicly. Recently we had the pleasure of attending Web Summit, one of the biggest tech conferences from around the world. There were many highlights from the trip and the conference itself (shout out to Booking.com for providing an awesome women in tech lounge!), but a perk was seeing great speakers live and in action. The event was a perfect case study of good examples of what to do to make a positive impact on stage – and one cautionary tale of what to watch out for. Here my top 4 dos & don’ts of speaking at Web Summit and other large stages:

1. Do make an entrance

Those first few moments on stage are the most nerve-wracking ones, but they are also the most important. So don’t waste them on thanking anyone, saying hi to the audience, or introducing yourself! David Nihill, who held a great talk on hacking public speaking, had these two great tips for making a memorable first impression: One, try to outsource the introduction of who you are to the moderator or someone else so you don’t need to cover it. Two, you don’t need to memorize your whole talk, but do memorize the first 30 seconds of it. After that, your nerves will have calmed down and you’ll feel more confident on stage.

2. Don’t forget about people

People notice how you treat people. So when you’re on stage, make sure you know the names of the people you are introducing or who introduced you. There were a few moments where speakers simply thanked “the moderator” or moderators had to read off cards who the next speaker was. The audience notices this, so make an effort to know the names of the people you’re sharing the stage with.

3. Do be an active participant in the conversation

You might be on stage as a moderator instead of a speaker or panelist once in a while, and that can be a lot to deal with. Especially on a stage like Web Summit’s where talks are closely timed and the audience can submit questions. Yet the most important bit is being an active participant and listening. Don’t just focus on the script of questions you want to get through! There was a moment where a moderator repeated a question that had already been asked by someone in the audience – don’t let that be you.

4. Do get up on that stage

My most important takeaway: Don’t let fear, or nerves, or someone else stop you from getting on stage and sharing what you have to say. Women especially need to be seen and speak more on stage to not only inspire others about what is possible, but to also show they are capable and qualified to do big things. On the Women in Tech panel, Lindsey Turrentine from CNET said, “The more you talk about who you are, the more people can see that you are qualified to do what they do.” So make use of these tips or forget them all – in either case, make sure you get out there and make your voice heard.

That was also one of our favorite parts: Be it through Whatsapp or Facebook groups, Slack channels, or old-school in person meeting, the women at Web Summit banded together. And that’s all we are about at CoWomen. We’re stronger together after all! And one of the things I’m most excited about our new location for the community club & coworking space in the Alte Muenze in Berlin-Mitte is that we’ll have more space to hold events and workshops to teach women skills to get the confidence to go out there and have their voices heard! If you haven’t yet, you can check out all the info on the crowdfunding campaign running until December 8th, where you can also become a CoWoman or support rising women: www.ConnectRisingCoWomen.com