Throughout school and university, my feelings regarding speaking in front of any sort of audience approached something resembling abject terror. The last time I had the opportunity/slash obligation to speak was five or six years ago, and it’s not a fond memory.
Naturally, when one of the organisers of the local Ruby User Group asked if I wanted to do a presentation on a module I’ve never touched from a framework I’ve barely heard of, I immediately said yes.
The arrangement was that we’d each take one of the gems that compose the Lotus web framework and do a 5-10 minute talk on it. I was to do the validations gem. The presentation went pretty well, and I can’t say I really felt nervous. There wasn’t a huge amount to cover, and my talk was largely a regurgitation of the docs with a few minor insights.
The presentation itself is largely beside the point of this post. The key thing for me is that I proved to myself that I can talk in front of a group.
If I had said no, it could have easily been five more years before another opportunity had presented itself. At the time, I was five years out of practice when it comes to public speaking. I didn’t want it to become ten.
There may be times in your life when you’re called upon to talk in front of people, and really, any practice you can get is good practice. If you go to any sort of local meetups and you’re given the opportunity to talk, I recommend taking it. Even if your initial reaction is to run for the hills.