Do you dream of speaking at a major research conference? If so, keep an eye on Annie Pettit, Betty Adamou, and a great many others who are hosting events worldwide – they want to turn your dream into a reality.

The ‘New Research Speakers Club‘ is an initiative launched by Annie Pettit, and its goal is to help those who have previously shied away from public speaking to develop their confidence and take their material on-stage. Broadly, it is a bid to unearth a diverse new wave of industry speakers, and as such, it is a venture ZappiStore is more than happy to get behind. We were their venue sponsor for the project’s first London chapter, at Zappi Towers in Camden.

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The London Chapter chair – Betty Adamou, Chief Research Game Designer and Founder at Research Through Gaming, and an experienced public speaker – warmed up the crowd by encouraging each attendee to speak about what they do at work. Nerve-wracking, perhaps, but the task generated an aura of trust, allowing for a true exploration of the hurdles one might face before striding the stage in the style of Steve Jobs.

Check out a video of Betty’s first ever conference below:

And, later, with much more confidence:

Betty highlighted a general consensus – the ‘research circuit’ keeps seeing the same faces again and again. To shake things up, the club is encouraging involvement from research and data enthusiasts from all backgrounds, of all ethnicities, ages, and genders. Each session will provide tangible feedback, with which attendees can shape their contributions to future chapter events and, hopefully, future conferences.

To get into practice, the group agreed that webinars are a good place to start, but these too present their own unique challenges. Although your audience isn’t staring you in the face, they are paying diligent attention to your pace and delivery, and technical setbacks can also disrupt proceedings. With such a lot to worry about, we asked Betty to part with some top tips:

  • Practice until the talk is fluid. This means knowing which slides are coming up so that you can segue easily from one part of your story to the next. Practice the pauses where needed (particularly if you’re introducing a joke or two) and build your confidence, ensuring you don’t go over the time allocated. Even after speaking at probably 100+ conferences, webinars, and workshops, I still practice.
  • Don’t be scared of pauses. They serve to give you enough of a break to re-gather yourself, particularly if you’re nervous. And if you’re nervous, you tend to speak faster, so gaps will help slow you down. Gaps are NOT scary (don’t make them too long, of course). They give listeners a chance to absorb what you’re saying, and even take notes or tweet about what you’re saying (which I know a lot of people at conferences do).
  • Be yourself. If that means you have (what you think is) an accent; flaunt it. If you have anything at all that you deem as a ‘weakness’, make it your strength. Life is too short, on and off stage, to pretend you’re Steve Jobs or whoever else. Any costume will weigh you down, and you won’t be able to deliver your talk with your unique passion. Remember – no one else is like you, so embrace it.

If you use Twitter, you can follow Annie for updates on the club globally, and Betty for updates on the London chapter. You can also follow along with Facebook group. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the next London chapter of the ‘New Research Speakers Club’, and join in the fun. We will see you there!

For further inspiration, take a look at our own Stephen Phillips, CEO of ZappiStore, talking at IIeX EU 2015.

Andrew Hodges

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Andrew Hodges

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