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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 005: Alisa Bonsignore–Public Speaker

Category:Introverted Leadership,Leadership,personality,Podcast,STC,Summit

Episode 005 Show Notes: Alisa Bonsignore

Introduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. Alisa Bonsignore and Ben Woelk discuss public speaking and the stress and value of Q&A, and how being an introvert with the INFJ temperament type affects her roles.

  • Twitter: @ClearWriter
  • Email: hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com

Key concepts

  • Keirsey Temperament Theory
  • Public speaking and stress
  • Empathy
  • Situations and scenarios
  • Counseling

Quotable

As an adult, you associate public speaking with your experience as a student, and when you’re a student, you’re up there and somebody is grading you and they’re looking for ways you’re doing it wrong.

They’re in your talk for a reason, and they’re not there to criticize you or to grade you or to challenge you. They’re there because you have something that they want to learn about and when you shift that mindset that you have something valuable to say, it really changes your perspective on speaking.

Instead of listening to the surface, I understand the subtext of things a lot better, which is incredibly helpful with getting to the real problem instead of just painting over the problem that seems to be at the surface.

What brings the consensus here… is that we could do this other thing and that would solve everybody’s problems. And people go, “Oh, well, I was so wedded to my idea… that it never occurred to me that there was another option.” …It’s a lot like counseling, actually–family counseling–family counseling for groups and teams. .

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Alisa Bonsignore. Alisa runs Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area. Her professional mission is to create clarity and build engagement, giving people the information they need when they need it. Alisa helps companies communicate complicated topics, including policy development and sustainability communications surrounding the UN sustainable development goals (SDG), medical devices and pharmaceuticals/genomics, network security, and healthcare information technology. You can contact Alisa at hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com or on Twitter @Clearwriter.

Ben: Thank you for joining us again, Alisa. I look forward to us continuing our conversation!

Ben: One thing that Alisa and I have talked about previously is where we stand on Keirsey Temperament theory and where our MBTI letters come out, and Alisa is an INFJ, which is typically a counselor-type role. She’s very cognizant of the people issues that are going on. I’m an INTJ, which can be described as architect or scientist, or the one I really like, mastermind, but the problem with that is that I’m not always attuned to what’s going on with the people. And one of the ways this has been described is that, say that you’re on an ocean liner and the engine breaks down. As the INTJ, I would be down in the engine room–assuming I had any of those mechanical skills–I would be down in the engine room trying to figure out how to get it started. Alisa would be busy making sure that the people got off the ship, so there’s definitely a focus difference in terms of this rational versus idealist-type traits, the way that Keirsey puts it. And I think that this is an example then because I don’t necessarily tend to think of what were the motivations? Why was this person saying this? Sometimes I do, but probably not nearly as often as I should.

Alisa: And see, that’s a huge thing for me because it’s a huge part of figuring out when people contact me and say, “I need you to do this urgent project and here’s my rationale for why,” I can usually by the time I’ve talked it through with them, figure out you’re saying on the surface that it’s because of this, but really, the pressure’s coming from another source and let’s talk a little bit more about that. Maybe this isn’t actually what you need. You need a solution to this other problem that you think is this item, but actually your problem could be fixed with a different approach.

Ben: Alisa, one thing that I’ve had conversations with other guests on this podcast is presenting. Now, all of us that have talked so far on the podcast have been introverts. All of us present fairly often, but when we talk to people who–whether they’re extrovert or introvert, many people are totally intimidated by the idea of speaking in front of groups. What is your experience been speaking in front of groups? How did you get started? What have you found that’s helpful, and any interesting anecdotes that you could share?

Alisa: [laughing] So I actually started–my presentation life was doing a lot of sales training for different clients or different in-house companies that I worked for–so it was working with select groups on select topics, but what I realized pretty early on, is that as an adult, you-you associate public speaking with your experience as a student, and when you’re a student, you’re up there and somebody is grading you and they’re looking for ways you’re doing it wrong. Right? So when I was in high school at one point I had to recite Hamlet’s monologue–the “To be or not to be,” right? And of course my teacher’s sitting there listening to make sure that I get every word exactly right. There’s a different level of pressure there when you’re trying to make sure that you have memorized exactly every word in exactly the right order to communicate what you need to do to get the grade.

Alisa: By the time you’re an adult, nobody’s grading you, and you don’t realize this right away [laughing]–what you’re up there doing–you have a purpose up there. You’re up there telling people something that they actually want to hear–especially if you’re speaking at a conference. I mean, maybe not at a sales meeting–they might just have rolled in because they have to roll in and listen to you–but at a conference especially, there are other choices. These people could be at another session. They could be out having coffee with a friend. They could be blowing off the conference entirely and boondoggling with their employer. Who knows, right? But they’re in your talk for a reason, and they’re not there to criticize you or to grade you or to challenge you. They’re there because you have something that they want to learn about and when you shift that mindset that you have something valuable to say, it really changes your perspective on speaking.

Alisa: Now, having said that, that’s not to say that it’s not stressful in its own way. I like to approach every talk as if it’s a conversation, so I pick a couple of people in the room that I can sort of speak to and feel like I’m having a conversation with. I can make eye contact with them. I can communicate with them directly rather than feeling like I’m just talking to a large, faceless group. That definitely helps. But, in spite of that, I’ve also discovered that I still get a little bit stressed about the whole thing. Even though on the surface everything seems calm, I still get a little stressed. So it happened to be that one day I was giving a talk at a local STC chapter, and earlier that day I had gone in for a routine appointment with my cardiologist, and because I hadn’t had a Holter monitor–the portable monitor–in several years, they wanted to do just a follow-up check to make sure everything’s the same, blah, blah blah.

Alisa: So I ended up going to my talk completely rigged up–wires everywhere–this apparatus hanging from my belt. I-I look like a crazy person and I’ve tried to like pull my sweater up over my neck. Right? But nobody knows that I’ve got this on, hopefully. But, here I am. I’m fully rigged up like a patient. Right? And so I go through the whole talk and everything seemed fine and I’m really good through the part that I have rehearsed and practiced, whatever. And then we get to the Q&A [laughing], and later when the doctor called back and was like, “Um, so about what were you doing at this time?” I’m like, “Oh, that was the question and answer portion of my conversation.” [laughing] Literally, my heart rate had gone above my target heart rate for like running sprints. It was just completely through the roof.

Alisa: And I–I didn’t–I mean I know that there’s a little bit of anxiety there, but I had no idea that it was really like above 180 beats per minute. [laughing] This is some serious stress here! But, this also explains why I feel so exhausted when it’s all done. I put all of my energy into this, but you can only script so much of it and then–then you’re let loose with the Q&A and the conversation, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. [laughing] So apparently that, that unnerves me a little bit, a little bit more than I realized.

Ben: Yeah, that is such a funny anecdote and you said you were aware that you were a little stressed, but you–I guess you didn’t have any idea how much until you actually saw it measured.

Alisa: No, no. You get that sort of, [inhaling] okay, what’s this person going to ask me? There’s a little bit of nerves there, but I had no idea it was that level of cardiac response! [laughing]

Ben: So, I guess one solution would be not to leave any time for questions and answers at the end of a presentation…

Alisa: Yeah, but the Q&A is actually the best part. I mean this is where you have really good conversations with people and once–once I’m into–once they’ve asked me the question, and I–we’re having that conversation, the one-on-one. It’s great, but there’s that moment before they begin where it’s like, [inhaling] “Ooh, what are they going to say? [laughing] I don’t know if I’m prepared. Will I have an answer?” There’s nerves there more so than I had imagined.

Ben: That’s amazing. It’s such a good story.

Ben: Another question for you here–part of what we’re doing during the series, during the Hope for the Introvert podcasts, is talking about our biggest strengths and how we leverage them, and also the biggest challenges we face. What do you believe your biggest strengths are as an introvert? And in what ways do you see that you’ve leveraged them?

Alisa: So as you were saying earlier about my feeler status, right? I’m the empath. I feel what people are needing and experiencing. I think that I have leveraged my ability to understand people’s motives. I think that that’s really gone a long way from like, instead of listening to the surface, I understand the subtext of things a lot better, which is incredibly helpful with getting to the real problem instead of just painting over the problem that seems to be at the surface. But I think for me–right, but it’s also because I’m a good listener. It’s the fact that I’m not always the one talking. I mean, you watch the extroverts in the meetings, right? They’re not getting the feedback. They’re always pushing information out. They’re always talking. And if you’re always talking, you’re probably not listening. So, from my perspective, I’m the one who’s listening to everybody and generally not talking, so I’m not only hearing, I’m watching the nuance that’s going on and how people are responding to each other and how the dynamic is going in addition to the actual words that are being said, and the emotion that’s being conveyed or whatever it might be going on in the room. So I’m good for that.

Alisa: I’m good at identifying customers’ pain points because I can feel the pain. It’s the empathy thing, right?” But I can understand in context, if we’re writing documentation for–let’s say that my client is selling the ventilators to assist with breathing in the hospital, right? Well, if we’re writing one kind of documentation for the initial setup, that’s one thing, because you’ve got somebody who rolls in in the middle of the day in a normal situation and plugs it in and tests it and sees that it’s working, and whatever. But it’s a very different thing, if you’re trying to do a troubleshooting document, because it could be three in the morning. You could have a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, a whatever, a ton of people coming in. You’re triaging people. You need to get the ventilator working. It’s not working. How does this work? Oh my God, you’re not at your peak of attention or focus or clarity. How do you find a clear and easy way to help this person get the device back online? Right?

Alisa: So understanding the situations and the scenarios and how to make–how to create the best tools for people in their various situations–I’m pretty good at that. I’m pretty good at understanding where we need to simplify, where we need more detail, that kind of thing. But, and I think from a client perspective, my J of my INFJ is Judging, which means that I’m task oriented and I haven’t missed a deadline in my life. [laughing] That’s just not something I do. So as an independent, this is incredibly useful to my clients because I’m very reliable. They know that not only will I meet the deadline, I’ll probably have it in early, and one of my clients once said to me, you know, you return everything early. I know that if you ever miss a deadline, you’re probably dead. [laughing]

Ben: Hmm. It’s interesting and part of being that individual contributor, working with the clients, sometimes you can set deadlines that are realistic in that you can–you can achieve those deadlines or you can turn things in in advance of those deadlines. So that can be a really big deal.

Ben: One other thing that you had said in terms of being a very, very good listener. One thing that’s important there I think, and we’re talking about the extrovert-introvert difference here, and I don’t want to paint extroverts with too broad a brush, but there is often a case where people are waiting to say what they want to say and so they’re just waiting for the other person to finish, so they can jump in with what they wanted to contribute, and I think what I’m hearing from you is that you’re more willing to sit back, let the conversation happen, and then bring up pertinent points when appropriate, rather than, “Oh, oh, oh! I know what I want to say here. Please finish up talking so I can say what I want to say.” So I think that’s one of the big differences, and again, I would not accuse all extroverts of doing that, nor would I say that I’m never guilty of that myself.

Alisa: No, no. But there are definitely people who–introvert or extrovert–there are definitely people whose meeting persona is more dominant and people whose meeting persona is more reserved, and I’m definitely one of the more reserved people, because–I am just not by my nature–I’m just not the person who gets into the thick of things in a large group, inasmuch as, “Okay. So we’ve been talking about this for half an hour. You’ve said this, you’ve said this, you’ve said this.” What brings the consensus here is that what we could do is that we could do this other thing and that would solve everybody’s problems. And people go, “Oh, well, I was so wedded to my idea and I was so wedded to my idea that it never occurred to me that there was another option.” Right? So yeah, it’s a lot like counseling, actually. Family counseling, family counseling for groups and teams. [laughing]

Ben: Which gets into your whole INFJ counselor temperament type again.

Alisa: Right, exactly!

Ben: We’ve enjoyed today’s conversation and look forward to continuing the conversation in our next podcast.

Extras

Alisa has a Twitter bot that is sometimes hysterical. https://twitter.com/alisa_ebooks

Animated .GIF of Alisa as a speaker

 

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Alisa Bonsignore headshot

Episode 004: Alisa Bonsignore–Introverted Entrepreneur

Category:Introverted Leadership,introverts,Podcast,STC,Summit

Episode 004 Show Notes: Alisa Bonsignore

Alisa Bonsignore headshotIntroduction

Alisa Bonsignore is the principal of Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area with clients around the world. Alisa Bonsignore and Ben Woelk discuss how and why she transitioned from a corporate job to becoming a solo entrepreneur and the challenges she faces as an introvert in that role. We also chat about overcoming reticence in meetings.

  • Twitter: @ClearWriter
  • Email: hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com

Key concepts

  • Solo entrepreneurship
  • International clients
  • Entry points
  • Turning layoffs into opportunities
  • Soul-sucking meetings
  • Cultivating reliable clients
  • The importance of management encouragement
  • Subtext

Quotable

Once I come in the door they realize that I have these skills and I can make things very accessible for the reader…people go, “Oh, but I could use that for this project or that project.”

And for me, meetings are particularly draining, because as an introvert, being in meetings is just–it just sucks my soul, especially if it’s not a productive meeting.

I tended to be extremely quiet in meetings for many years… almost to the point of invisibility, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have ideas.

You’ve got the dominant personalities and they’re sort of fighting it out in a way in the meeting itself. But sometimes, it’s not until later on where you get away from the noise, where it starts to make sense, what people actually meant, like… the subtext of what they’re actually asking for.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Alisa Bonsignore. Alisa runs Clarifying Complex Ideas, a strategic communications consultancy in the Bay Area. Her professional mission is to create clarity and build engagement, giving people the information they need when they need it. Alisa helps companies communicate complicated topics, including policy development and sustainability communications surrounding the UN sustainable development goals (SDG), medical devices and pharmaceuticals/genomics, network security, and healthcare information technology. You can contact Alisa at hello@clarifyingcomplexideas.com or on Twitter @clearwriter

Ben: Alisa and I have been friends for several years and first met each other at a Society for Technical Communication Summit Conference in Sacramento, and I believe that was around 2012 or so. Alisa helps administer the Introverted Leadership Slack community and provided her insights for the “Introvert in the Workplace–Becoming an Influencer and Leader,” published in Intercom magazine, May-June 2018. Alisa also contributed an article, Introverted Entrepreneurship–Embracing Your Introvert Skills,” in February of 2017. if you’re attending a conference, so you can often find Alisa and me at events hanging out on the periphery and chatting. We are introverts after all!

Ben: Alisa, many introverts face challenges in their workplace. However, you’re a solo entrepreneur, so your experience maybe a bit different than that of others. What is your workplace like?

Alisa: I work from a home office, which is actually ideal for me. I know a lot of people don’t enjoy the home office environment because they feel like there are too many distractions. There’s the television, there’re other things to do, there’s the kitchen. I know a lot of people have trouble with the kitchen [laughing], but for me it’s actually ideal, because I feel like I get a lot more done because I don’t have the interruptions; I don’t have the people popping into the office needing to chat with me or requesting meetings. Most of my clients are based in Europe–well a lot of them anyway. And with the nine hour time difference that means by my 9:00 AM, most of them are gone for the day, so I do a lot of early conference calls. I get my meetings out of the way and then I have the entire day to be flexible and work at my own pace without interruption, and it’s just perfect for me.

Ben: What kind of work do you do?

Alisa: I’m primarily a writer and an editor. I provide communications consulting to companies, usually large companies (but some startups) around their communications plans, and that can range from anything from their marketing communications to more of their technical communications to a broader content strategy to policies and procedures. There’s a lot of things that that sort of fall into that. Once I come in the door they realize that I have these skills and I can make things very accessible for the reader, and then I’m sort of shuffled around from group to group where people go, “Oh, but I could use that for this project or that project.” But, a lot of what I come in the door for tends to be somewhere between technical communication and marketing. It’s more of your white papers and things like that where you need to explain really difficult technical or clinical concepts to ordinary people in plain language. And that’s usually my entry point. But, then I do a lot of things from there.

Ben: That’s interesting. So how long have you been doing the solo entrepreneur thing and what did you do previous to that?

Alisa: So I was doing it part time, sort of, the nighttime freelance writer for several years. But this full-time version of it started about 12 years ago. right after my son was born. I had been working in-house at that time, at a medical device company. It was right here in town. The commute was great. I loved my boss. I loved my team. Everything was wonderful, and I came back from maternity leave, and three days later they announced that they were shutting the entire office down and moving to Boulder, Colorado. So that pretty much put things into perspective and I said, “Okay. Maybe maybe it’s time to do the freelance thing that I’ve been talking about before.” So, that’s what kicked me out the door. And it does help when you’re starting out that you have 400 people in your building who have now scattered to the wind, because those 400 people carry your name with them to wherever they go. So, that was a really good starting point, actually. It was a bit of a kick in the butt, but it was a–It ended up being very helpful.

Ben: So what happened was you had thought about launching this and then you were…

Alisa: Well, so we had talked for years about if and when we ever had kids, that that would be a really good time to go freelance because of the flexibility and the options there, and I wouldn’t be tied down to an office where it was more difficult, right? So we talked about it, but I was in a really good situation at the time so I had no intention of quitting and moving on, because it was really working well for me, because it was a, as I said, a good group and a good manager, and I was really enjoying the situation that I was in until it wasn’t there anymore.

Ben: It’s always interesting what provides the impetus for change and, at least in my experience from many times, it doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily ready, even though we were certainly thinking about moving in that direction. So, in terms of your previous workplace, right now you’re working from home by yourself, you have a good deal of control (or at least the illusion of control) when you have conversations scheduled and things like that. What was it like for you when you were in a corporate workplace?

Alisa: So I think my corporate experience was a lot like what most communicators find in a corporate experience, which is that, as a communicator, you have several different clients internally. You’re not just typically writing for one product manager, or one engineer, or one whatever. You’ve got a lot of people who are pulling you in a lot of different directions, which means that you have a lot of meetings, and a lot of busy time that you might not necessarily be accomplishing, but you’re sucked into a lot of the time. [laughing] And for me, that’s particularly draining, because as an introvert, being in meetings is just–it just sucks my soul, especially if it’s not a productive meeting. I mean, the meetings that I have now with my clients, especially since most of them are Swedish and German, we get on the phone, we talk about what needs to be talked about. We get on, we get off, we move on with our day. It’s not the lingering, 12 people on a conference call. “Hi, who’s this?” “Who dialed in?” “Oh, well it’s Bob here.” You’re not drifting out into that sort of thing.

Alisa: It’s a much more pointed meeting and a much more relevant meeting than what I used to have, and as is the nature of any cubicle farm, when you’re in house, people just pop by, and they’ve got things they want to talk about, and they may be work related and they may not be work related, but they suck your day. [laughing] I found that I wasn’t really getting as much accomplished as I wanted to at the time, because it was–there was so much brain power going into the meetings and the time going into the meetings, and it wasn’t really giving me the time to just sort of have uninterrupted time to do what I was really supposed to be doing.

Ben: So, it sounds like there’s a bit of a cultural difference with your current meetings over the typical in-house meeting as well.

Alisa: Well, and I think too, maybe it’s–just a part of it’s cultural– with the type of culture in Sweden, Germany, but part of it too, I think, is it’s a lot easier when it’s a one-on-one call. You’re either both there or you’re both not, and when you’re there you’re not sitting around waiting for somebody else to dial in, and it’s not that waste of time with all the useless chitter-chatter for 15 minutes. It’s, we’re both on, okay, here’s what we have to cover. Boom, boom, boom. Now we’re done. Great. Have a great day.

Ben: In terms of your current entrepreneurial position, what do you find challenging as an introvert? I know based on what we’ve talked about here and talked about previously, you are able to at least somewhat structure your day. What do you find to be a challenge as an introvert?

Alisa: So I think that onboarding new clients is always a challenge, because you always have to be selling. You always have to be networking, right? So this is why I’ve done a really good job over the years of cultivating reliable clients that I know that I can go back to again and again, because I don’t want to have to do that relationship building. That’s draining to me, because it’s selling. It’s about selling myself. It’s about proving that I can do what they need to have done. That’s exhausting. It’s like job interviewing every time you do it and certainly I prefer not to do that. [laughing] So over the years I’ve done a really good job of really cultivating good people, and even within a company filtering down the people that I want to work with in that company, even if it’s a good company overall to work with, that doesn’t mean that everybody is good to work with within the company.

Alisa: I’ve definitely worked on tha t so that I’m doing less selling, which is helpful to me psychologically, but also it helps because I’m not having to do all of the administrative chasing. So I’m not having to worry about setting up the vendor as a vendor and all these different companies and I’m not worrying about as much how to–who do I contact if I don’t get paid, I already have my contacts, I already know who to reach and it makes it a lot simpler to work with at that time.

Ben: So do you pretty much do all of the, all of your business responsibilities yourself?

Alisa: Yeah, it’s all me.

Ben: So no virtual assistant or anything like that at all?

Alisa: No, no, just all me.

Ben: Alisa, you had talked about meetings and how meetings can be challenging when they’re in a corporate environment, because when you’ve got everybody catching up with everybody to see however you want is doing, but you also have the issue where you may be in a meeting with many, many people, but there’s only a small portion of it where you’re really active in the meeting. Now, for me that is multitasking time, which may or may not be a good thing. (Especially if somebody addresses something to you and you’ve been busy working on something else for half an hour.) So what else–was there anything else that you found challenging about being in a corporate meeting?

Alisa: Well,  yeah, I mean especially in a lot of my roles I’ve had to deal with people who are a lot more extroverted than I am, and that means that they talk a lot. When there are people in the room who are dominating the conversation, it’s not my style to dominate the conversation. I mean, I’ll speak up when I have something that I really need to say, but I’m also not the kind of person who will typically talk over somebody else to make that happen. So if you’re in a room with sales, if you’re in a room with that manager who’s really just like loud and dominating and aggressive or whatever, it’s very hard for me to butt in and be like, “But wait, I have a thought here.” It’s not really–it’s not really my style.

Alisa: So, I tended to be extremely quiet in meetings for many years to the point where–almost to the point of invisibility, but that didn’t mean that I didn’t have ideas. I would be much more inclined after I’d had some time, we’d all met and after we leave the room, sort of like when somebody insults you, you get the great comeback later. After a meeting I walk away and 12 steps out the door, I’m like, I get it now. I know exactly what we need to do because I’ve had a few seconds to process what everybody has been saying and where everybody’s coming from, and come up with a solution that works for everybody, which might not come to me on the fly in the meeting itself.

Ben: Was this anything that your management ever mentioned to you at all? I had a conversation, which is on another episode of this podcast,  with a friend whose manager actually described her-to her face-in a meeting as being a slow thinker.

Alisa: [laughing] No, nobody ever thought that I was a slow thinker to my knowledge. Nobody ever said it to me anyway, but I definitely think that there was the perception–well, I feel like there’s the perception that writers in general are quieter people. I mean we’re not expected to be keeping pace with sales in terms of our conversation and our–our loudness in our domination, right? We are–we are generally,–most writers that you work with are generally more reticent than others. So I don’t think it was completely unexpected, but in my last in-house job, my boss was like, “No, you know what you’re talking about. Get in there and just barge right in and do it!” She was much more encouraging of that–not that anybody else had been discouraging–but she was much more, “Why are you not saying something?”

Alisa: “Well, because, I’m not–I’m not going to interrupt the vice president of something or other who thinks he’s got this grand plan.” And she’s like, “No. Somebody has to interrupt him. This is nothing. This isn’t smart. What do you say? You really got to get in there and do it! Tell them what you think, and do–do what needs to be done!” And so there was much more push there from her, so she was really good for encouraging me that way as opposed to the-the negative encouragement of others. No, she was–she definitely gave me some positive reinforcement.

Ben: It’s interesting because I tend to be reticent, and not that you would believe that now either! [laughing] I tend to be reticent in meetings or at least I have in the past, but for me to feel like I’m going to interrupt this vice president, even though I know this person is wrong in what they’re doing, feels a little bit about, “Oh, look, the emperor has new clothes!” And I don’t want to be that person who points that thing out. But obviously, I’m thinking it, whether I’m–whether I’m saying it out loud or not. [Alisa laughing] So I definitely empathize with what you’re talking about in terms of being hesitant to interrupt. And even now, even as “glib”  as I can be for an introvert in meetings, there’re so many times it’s like, “Oh, I should have said something about that.” “I need to talk to this person afterwards, because they didn’t come across the way they thought they did,” or, “that really might not work the way you think it’s going to,” and for whatever reason, and I’m definitely not always right, but for whatever reason, those flaws usually jump out when I hear them or especially if I read them.

Ben: So, meeting behavior can definitely be a bit of a challenge?

Alisa: Yes. Yeah, for me, a lot of what goes on in conversation–there’s–you’ve got the dominant personalities and they’re sort of fighting it out in a way in the meeting itself. But sometimes, it’s not until later on where you get away from the noise, where it starts to make sense, what people actually meant, like what was the subtext of what they’re actually asking for. They may be barking about needing X, but really, the reason why they’re barking about that, is because they’re under pressure about Y, and–“Oh, if we can address that, then X becomes less relevant. We don’t have to fight about X.” Right?

Ben: Looking forward to the second part of our conversation.

Extras

Alisa has a Twitter bot that is sometimes hysterical. https://twitter.com/alisa_ebooks

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microphone

Introverted Leadership and Cyber Security Speaking Schedule Fall 2018

Category:Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Lessons Learned,Schedule

Speaking Schedule

I’m very excited about my fall 2018 speaking schedule. I’ll be a first-time attendee and speaker at two conferences, one of which I’m keynoting. (This will be my first time speaking in the United Kingdom!)

I hope to see you there!

Don’t forget to listen to the Hope for the Introvert podcast!

 

Date Event Topic Format More information
28 August North Texas Lone Star Chapter STC Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Webinar Recording to come
25 September Technical Communication UK Temperament-based Strategies for Excelling in the Workplace Workshop De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
26 September Technical Communication UK Lessons Learned on an Introvert’s Journey to Leadership Keynote De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
26 September Technical Communication UK Digital Self Defense – Tips, Tools, and Best Practices to Stay Safe Online Presentation De Vere Staverton Estate, Daventry, England
4 October The NYSERNet Conference 2018 Creating a Culture of Digital Self Defense Presentation Marriott Syracuse Downtown
24 October Society for Technical Communication The Introvert in the Workplace: Becoming an Influencer and Leader Webinar Free members-only webinar
26 October STC-Philadelphia Metro Chapter Introverted Leadership: Harnessing your Innate Strengths Webinar STC-PMC webinar
14 November STC Instructional Design and Learning SIG Saying, “Yes, and…?” to Leadership Opportunities Webinar Registration available to all

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Joanna Grama headshot

Episode 003: Joanna Grama–Leader and Influencer

Category:EDUCAUSE,Higher Education,Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 003 Show Notes: Joanna Grama

Introduction

Joanna Grama headshotJoanna Grama is a senior consultant for Vantage Technology Consulting Group where she specializes in advising clients on information security, privacy, and risk management issues. In our second discussion on the podcast, Joanna Grama and Ben Woelk discuss how meetings can be challenging for introverts, and how she’s become a leader and influencer.

Key concepts

  • Meetings
  • The slow thinker
  • Processing internally
  • Win-win scenarios
  • Connecting and investing
  • The five Cs
  • Don’t be a jerk!

Quotable

I’m just doing my job. I’m just trying to get through the day, and–and you know–leave as little drama as possible in my wake. But maybe that’s being a quiet leader.

We all have moments in the office or in our professional lives where we’re really not proud of our behavior, whether it’s the language we used, the tone we used, our facial expressions and our body language. I mean, we all have those moments, but it’s just, it’s really important to try not to be a jerk. That goes a long way towards getting along with people.

You have to challenge yourself everyday, and it sounds trite to say that, but if I didn’t have mentors pushing me and saying you’re great and you can be even better, and forcing me to do uncomfortable things, I wouldn’t be where I am today!

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us again is Joanna Grama. Today we’re going to finish up our conversation that we started in our last podcast about her experience as an introverted leader and the thoughts that she has to share with us.

Ben: So, one of the things that you and I had talked about in previous conversations is meetings. And I had–I’ve mentioned this in another podcast, but I had an individual in one of my workshops who talked about his meeting performance and, much like you said, somebody told you that you needed to overcome this anxiety about public speaking and do well at it. He had a situation where his manager said he needed to perform better in meetings, and I know what he did to solve it. He talked to his manager and arranged to meet with that manager ahead of time, so he’d have a preview of what was on the agenda and that helped him.

Ben: What has your experience been like with meetings as an introvert and what have you found has been helpful or maybe not helpful?

Joanna: Yeah. Meetings can be a really tough scenario for introverts even when you are 100 percent engaged in the meeting. So I–similar to the other person that you talked to–I had a supervisor once who commented in front of a group of my peers that I was a slow thinker in meetings. And it really sort of–and this sounds strange–but it really hurt my feelings. Not because it was true or it wasn’t true, because it is true, but because of the negative connotation that I associated with the comment. I am a slow thinker. I do like to think about issues and ru(minate) them over in my mind before deciding on a course of action or making plans or something. That’s just being thoughtful, and being that type of thoughtful cautious decider is something that is so ingrained in who I am as an attorney, as an information security professional, as a parent, as a person.

Joanna: But, on the other hand, there are times when, as a knowledge worker, you really do have to be able to react and provide feedback on the spot, but you don’t have to do it all the time. So with the supervisor that called me a slow thinker, we eventually came to an agreement that, for those items that we could put off for a day or two, I could come back to the table with comments after having time to think. And then for the items that had to be discussed and where feedback had to be provided right away, we agreed that I would provide those immediate comments and I would just get comfortable with it, but that we both understood that my best thinking always comes after reflection time, and so I could always provide additional feedback the next day, relatively contemporaneous with the urgency of the conversation if needed. And that seemed to be how we dealt with the situation in a way that worked for my supervisor and me, that worked for my peers, that worked for decision-making within the organization. I am really trying to come to terms with being a slow thinker, although I have amended that label to thoughtful and comprehensive thinker in my head.

Ben: I would say that is a little less negative way to address that. Slow thinker, I don’t think there’s a way to spin that positively.

Joanna: No. There’s just not.

Ben: Considered thinker, reflective thinker, well considered–all of that makes sense. And that’s all very positive, which could be spun in a negative way, I’m sure. But slow thinker? No, I don’t think there’s any way to take that positively, And it’s funny because I’ve used this conversation that we’ve had about this in workshops and other things to talk to people about–as an introvert, you may be accused of this, because we are thinking through things before we speak. We process internally. What’s interesting–and I think there have been a number of studies around this–in meetings, what typically happens if you have a mix of introverts and extroverts, is the extroverts will speak first because they will process externally and they will come up with an idea, and because they–it may have been the first idea or they’re very confident about the idea–people will say, “Oh yeah. We’ll do that.”

Ben: However, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between who speaks first with an idea and positive results from it. So I definitely empathize with you on the slow thinker part in meetings, and I’ve come to the point where I can speak pretty quickly in response to things, but I will also tell whoever’s running the meeting if I’ve got–if it’s a really important subject–I want time to go away and dwell on that, so I can come back with a really superior solution that I can feel good about and that I’m convinced will work. There are too many thoughts that occur to me after the meeting about “Well, that would have been a real show stopper,” or “Have we considered adding this part?” and that could make something so much stronger, or a word I hate to use, robust.

Ben: Let’s change gears a little bit. Recently I did an article for Intercom magazine and it was about becoming an influencer and a leader in the workplace. How do you feel it works for you in the workplace? In terms of when you can be an influencer, when you can be a leader, what works best for you? Do you consider yourself to be an influencer or leader in the workplace? As somebody external, I certainly consider you to be one.

Joanna:  Well, thank you. I’m always sort of surprised when someone says you’re a leader or an influencer. Not because I don’t think I can’t be a leader or an influencer, but sometimes I just think, how can I be a leader or an influencer? I’m just doing my job. I’m just trying to get through the day, and leave as little drama as possible in my wake. But, maybe that’s being a quiet leader. I don’t know. I love the process of building consensus and sort of negotiating, maybe not a win-win scenario, but a, you know, least destructive scenario or a scenario most of us can live with. I’m making sure I hit–I’m going to call it win-win–making sure I hit that win-win scenario’s important, which you probably have to find hilarious given both my training as an attorney and the merciless way I treated you during our last game of Exploding Kittens.

Joanna: I just really think that getting to a place where you and whomever you’re working with can move forward as a team is so important, and that goes back to making a connection and having an investment in your colleagues, having an investment in your organization, and that sort of thing. Some of it is, “Don’t be a jerk!” We all have moments in the office or in our professional lives where we’re really not proud of our behavior, whether it’s the language we used, the tone we used, our facial expressions, and our body language. I mean, we all have those moments, but it’s just, it’s really important to try not to be a jerk. That goes a long way towards getting along with people.

Ben: So, I can see we have our subtitle for this episode. It’s going to be, Don’t be a Jerk.

Joanna: Don’t be a jerk, yeah.

Ben: We’ll play with that a bit. I’m sure.

Ben: So, in terms of you being a leader and an influencer, some of the ways that I’ve seen that: one, I’ve had an opportunity to observe you over the last couple of years when I’ve been at conferences, and I’ve been part of these EDUCAUSE working groups where you’ve been kind of the program manager for them. What’s been interesting for me, I thought that was really helpful, as I think I’ve seen times where you’ve really kind of gone beyond what I would say is the call to duty. One example of that is a couple of years ago when I was working on putting together survey results about what are the best characteristics or preparation for somebody who’s going to be a security awareness practitioner, somebody who’s going to explain very technical security things to a “normal” audience. So I was struggling to get this research bulletin prepared, and I was about ready to give up on it, and I told you I was going to give up on it, and you didn’t let me do it. You pretty much shepherded me through it, you know, provided feedback. We went back and forth about, “Ah! I caught a typo,” which you were not thrilled with, but in general you helped me actually get that thing done. and I was quite happy with the result. But that being able to reach out and collaborate and help someone get the work done and complete it was really important. So, I’ve seen you as a leader and an influencer in that context as well.

Joanna: Oh, well, I’m really glad that you see me as a leader in that context and not as a nag! I think in that situation in particular, now that I’m looking back at it with hindsight, right? I have the opportunity to be eloquent. That paper was really important. We talk about how important information security training and awareness is to higher education institutions, to our organizations, but there’s not a lot of, or there wasn’t at that time, a lot of thought leadership on why it is important or what skills do the people who are actually doing that training, what do they need to have in order to be successful? Because, if those leaders aren’t successful, then information security awareness and training isn’t successful, which means data is at risk at our institutions, which can lead to all sorts of bad downstream things. So really, I was professionally motivated by the fact that I wanted this literature out there and you had the expertise and the data, so you needed to be the one to get it out there.

Joanna: And then, you know, personally, I knew you! I wanted you to have the success. It’s important to me to help my friends. I don’t know that I would call it going beyond the call of duty, as much as I would say it was getting to that win-win scenario where you got something out of it, I got something out of it. I really thought that the process was fun, once we sort of decided that we were going to regroup and work on it together–and those things are so important! It would have been too easy, Ben, to walk away from that, and I’m so glad we didn’t.

Ben: No, I agree. I think it was important. I’m actually fairly proud of the work and excited that it was published,…

Joanna: You should be!

Ben: and I hope it has provided a foundation for people when they’re looking at what are the qualifications someone needs or, just as importantly, what qualifications do they NOT need to be an information security or cyber security awareness practitioner.

Ben: What recommendations would you have for introverts who want to become influencers or leaders? What thoughts do you have for them?

Joanna: Sure. So I read a long time ago this article that talked about–I think it was called the four Cs or maybe the five Cs, but essentially it is, some big ideas for how to live your life. And so I like to follow the five Cs, which are Curiosity, Compassion, Courage, Conviction, and Conversation. I think that as an introverted leader or an introverted influencer,–just an introvert or a person trying not to be a jerk–those are some really good–those are some good ideas to have. You can’t be a doormat, but you can be compassionate and courageous. And I think that’s important for me. I sometimes add a sixth C, which is Calm, to remind myself when I need to take a break or to recharge and get reinvigorated about things. I have to remember not to let the external environment or the external context, impact my internal context.

Joanna: So that’s why I add Calm. And part of it is being true to yourself. I really struggled with who I was as a person and potentially a leader or a worker in an organization, or just anything, until I acknowledged some fundamental truths about myself. I need to recharge. I am a–what did you call it?–A conscientious thinker. I am shy and reserved almost to the point that people who don’t know me or are meeting me for the first time, might think I’m standoffish, and I have to do things to make sure that that’s not the impression that I leave people with. And just, those are important.

Ben: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?

Joanna: You know what? You have to challenge yourself everyday, and it sounds trite to say that, but if I didn’t have mentors pushing me and saying you’re great and you can be even better, and forcing me to do uncomfortable things, I wouldn’t be where I am today! And I’m so thankful and grateful and happy with where I am today. A little bit of honoring yourself, and a little bit of stepping outside of your comfort zone is important.

Ben: That’s great. Well, I think we’ll wrap up now. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts today. It’s been a fun conversation!

Joanna: A pleasure!

Ben: And we look forward to maybe having you join us again on another podcast. Assuming we can find a whole new set of things to talk about, which I’m sure we can.

Joanna: I’m sure we can!

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Joanna Grama headshot

Episode 002: Joanna Grama–Networking and Public Speaking

Category:EDUCAUSE,Information Security,Introverted Leadership,Leadership,Podcast

Episode 002 Show Notes: Joanna Grama

Introduction

Joanna Grama headshotJoanna Grama is a senior consultant for Vantage Technology Consulting Group where she specializes in advising clients on information security, privacy, and risk management issues. Joanna and Ben discuss the challenges of working at home, her introvert strengths, networking, and our progressions as public speakers.

 

Key concepts

  • Working remotely and maintaining connectivity
  • Being in helping professions
  • Business development
  • Conferences and meeting new people
  • Biggest strengths
    • Listening to understand
    • Building relationships
    • Making the connection
    • Rebuilding processes
  • Progressing as a speaker
  • Mentoring
  • Classroom Teaching
  • The Princess Bride

Quotable

The odds of making a connection are really stacked against you as a remote worker and as a shy introvert.

And so for me, making sure that I honor the fact that being visible and under the spotlight requires a tremendous amount of energy. Energy expenditure is super important. If I find that if I don’t make sure that I have time to recharge and recover from the day, that I suffer, and when I suffer, the people around me suffer.

We do have a few very treasured and very, very deep relationships, and I just feel that that connection and that shared understanding is–is something that is so, so profound and valuable. And when you have it, you really can accomplish a ton both personally or professionally.

Resources or Products Mentioned in this Episode

Links

Transcript

Ben: Joining us today is Joanna Grama. Joanna is a senior consultant for Vantage Technology Consulting Group where she specializes in advising clients on information security, privacy, and risk management issues. A reformed lawyer. Joanna has more than 15 years of experience in higher education with a strong focus in law, information technology, security policy, compliance, governance, and data privacy. Joanna is a credential hoarder and committee joiner, prolific author, frequent public speaker, and shy introvert, trying to cope with an extroverted world. She also plays a ruthless game of Exploding Kittens. You can contact Joanna at Joanna.Grama@VantageTCG.com or on Twitter @runforserenity.

Ben: Joanna and I have been friends for several years and first met each other at the EDUCAUSE Security Professionals Conference in San Antonio where we both provided training seminars on cyber security topics. I often see her as a shining star and role model for women in Cyber Security. I can also attest to her ruthlessness and competitiveness when playing Exploding Kittens. I was the victim. To be fair. I’m also very competitive when playing games. The point is to win. Correct?

Joanna: Hi Ben. Thank you so much for having me here today.

Ben:  Well, I’m excited. I think we’re going to have a great conversation. Joanna–many introverts face challenges in their workplace. I know you’ve worked out of a home office for awhile, so your experience may be a bit different. Would you describe your current role and maybe chat a little about your previous experience?

Joanna:  Sure, I’d be happy to! I currently work as a strategic consultant. That means that I advise clients on the strategy, implementing information security, privacy risk programs, and then addressing issues within those programs.

Joanna: In my current role and in former roles, I’ve worked at home. I’ve been a remote worker for almost seven years now. At first I thought working from home would be fabulous, especially for someone who is highly introverted and it really really was. However, after the novelty of working from home wore off, I found that one of the things that I really struggled with was loneliness that–you know–it’s pretty funny, but the making a connection odds are really stacked against you as a remote worker and as a shy introvert. And that meant that I really, really have to push myself so that I reach out to my colleagues regularly, both just to keep track of work tasks, but also to establish meaningful relationships with them. Having those meaningful relationships with my work colleagues is really, really important to me. Being happy at work–we spend so much of our time at work that that connection is really important.

Ben: It’s interesting, because working at home seems like the dream job in some ways for me also, but I suspect I would be climbing the walls after a few weeks of not seeing anybody outside of the area and especially in the winter up here–where it’s–am I going to go outside and at least clear the walk and get the dog outside for awhile? But otherwise, it’s cold. It’s miserable. So working at home is, kind of a mixed blessing I guess in many ways?

Joanna: It’s a mixed bag to be sure. When I first started, I went two whole weeks without leaving my home, not even to go to the mailbox, because my spouse is wonderful and would bring in the mail or ask if we needed anything from the store before he came home. And so I didn’t go out of our home for two weeks, and that was too much. I have learned that even this introvert has limits to being alone and two weeks is perhaps a week too much.

Ben: Yeah. Though it does give you an opportunity to save on doing laundry and things, I’m sure!

Joanna: Absolutely!

Ben: So you’re working as a consultant from the home. I got to know you through EDUCAUSE where you were the program manager for the cybersecurity program, and I know the roles have changed a little bit. What did you find to be most challenging as an introvert in your EDUCAUSE role and in your new role now as a consultant–what are the big introvert challenges?

Joanna:  I have always gravitated towards jobs or to professions–to helping professions in some way or another. And I think for me, I really like to be able to see that my professional efforts, or even my volunteer personal efforts, have helped an individual, an organization, or a community. And so, there is a certain amount of networking and coalition building, and now, even business development that goes along with being in these sorts of helping professions. I found that it means that you have to be available and out there in the limelight sometimes. And so for me, making sure that I honor the fact that being visible and under the spotlight requires a tremendous amount of energy expenditure is super important. If I find that if I don’t make sure that I have time to recharge and recover from the day, that I suffer, and when I suffer, the people around me suffer. It took me a really long time to sort of acknowledge and accept that I needed this recharge time.

Ben: Yeah, that’s really interesting because I know for me, many people see me at a conference, (like they see you) and we’re very public. We’re very appearing extroverted because we’re talking to people, we’re chatting with people a lot, and afterwards I just feel totally exhausted, and I don’t really want to do anything for the next several days. Now it’s always a bit of a challenge, because I’m married to an extrovert, and she would really prefer to see my conference-type behavior be my home behavior. But, while at a conference I may say, “Oh yes, let’s get together with these people for dinner.” We’ll stay up til midnight. We’ll go here, we’ll stay up PAST midnight, most likely actually. I’m not so much that way at home. I’d just as soon stay home and kick back, watch a series on Netflix or something, read a book–pretty much just get that time to recharge. So I find that challenging also. Now you’re in a business development role right now in terms of building your consulting business as part of this consultancy. How is that working? The introvert in the–really, it’s an entrepreneurial-type role so it’s a little bit different.

Joanna: It is a little bit different, but the thing that I have working in my favor is, the early part of my professional career was in the–in the practice of law, and when you work at a small firm or when you’re a sole practitioner, you have those same requirements about business development, and just business development and that sort of thing. And so I’ve got some tips and techniques from the good old days rattling around in my head that I can work for I think.

Joanna: I feel like an introvert’s coping in the world or how you engage with the world are very–mine are very situational dependent, and so there is the Joanna who has to show up for the job and get something done. And I know that hiding behind a column or a plant isn’t going to work for getting that job done, right? And you need to make sure that you’re talking, that you’re making connections. With my family and my close friends, they probably think I’m the world’s biggest goofball, because–and they would never imagine that I was an introvert–because sometimes you can’t get me to shut up. But that’s because I’m with people whom I feel very, very comfortable with. But I can tell you if I’m going to a conference and I don’t have a role to fulfill at that conference, and I don’t have a networking obligation or a business development obligation, I’ll be there, but I am going to sit back and observe, and I’m not going to put on the professional face, or do the professional things sometimes a job or other circumstances might require. Maybe that’s an energy conservation mechanism. I don’t know, but to some extent I feel like I can compartmentalize: I’m in this situation. When I’m in this situation, I have to do this thing, and I just–sometimes you have to get over yourself no matter how hard it is. But much like you, I will have to crash the week I get done with any sort of event like this just to rest and recover.

Ben: You know, it’s interesting, because you talked about if you go to a conference where you don’t have specific responsibilities to be a host or to engage people, or to–in a sense–be directed to network with specific people. I tend to hang back and not chat with people also, and one of the things I think as introverts is that we don’t tend to have a lot of deep friendships. We have very deep friendships with a few people, and for me, even with the EDUCAUSE conference a couple of years ago, when I found out that the two people I normally hang out with weren’t going to be there, it’s like, “What am I going to do?” Because now, I’ve got to potentially meet somebody new. I have to not be myself or feel like I have to not be myself. So I found that to be a challenge–even attending a conference I normally go to. If that core group actually isn’t there, it really changes things up for me.

Ben: So it’s interesting that we’ve got a lot of the same feel towards conferences. I also have the situation where if I go to a conference, and I have that specific role to play, I can play that role no problem and I can maintain it usually for the course of the conference. But again, like we’re talking about, there’s a crash period afterwards.

Ben: Let’s talk about introverted strengths a little bit and we haven’t really talked about what you’ve identified as your biggest strengths. What would you say those are? How do you leverage them?

Joanna:  Well, I like to think that I am an excellent listener, and I listen because I really like to understand how people and processes work. Although my caveat to that is, I really REALLY like to understand how processes work so that I can break them and rebuild them–not with people, just with processes! I think listening to understand and ultimately to make some sort of connection with or investment in the person that I’m talking to has always been really important to me. And I think a lot of introverts might feel this way.

Joanna: You mentioned, we don’t have a lot of shallow acquaintance-type relationships, but we do have a few very treasured and very very deep relationships, and I just feel that that connection and that shared understanding is–is something that is so, so profound and valuable. And when you have it, you really can accomplish a ton both personally or professionally. So, I think that listening, the building the relationship, the making the connection, breaking the processes and rebuilding them–those are probably my biggest strengths as an introvert.

Ben: I can definitely see that in you as well! One of the things that you mentioned or that I read in that little brief bio at the beginning was that you’re a frequent public speaker. How often are you speaking and do you find that to be a challenge and, or did you ever find that to be a challenge and what do you do in terms of preparing to speak, as an introvert?

Joanna: So, it’s changed a lot over the years. I suspect that if you talked with friends and colleagues who knew me professionally about 10 to 12 years ago, they would remember that Joanna who needed to be sick to her stomach before talking to a group of about 30 people. I really was a wreck. And so it’s almost –my evolution in public speaking is almost–a really good indictment on career counseling in high school and college. No one ever should have said to me, wow, being a lawyer and working in a courtroom is a great job for you, because if they had understood early–early in my development–how traumatic public speaking was for me, no matter the size of the audience, they would have said no, you need to be a–insert isolationist profession here–because the public speaking was just so hard. I had a mentor when I was working at Purdue University who essentially said, this thing is going to hold you back. If you can’t get a handle on public speaking, it will–you have tremendous potential–but this will hold you back. So, I am going to make you speak at every single thing we do in our department until you’re no longer sick to your stomach before a public speaking gig, until you no longer make me listen to your practice session seven or eight times before a speaking gig, until you go into a speaking gig, completely unprepared and do a spectacular job.

Joanna: So I still haven’t gotten into–gotten to that–go into a speaking gig spectacularly unprepared and do a spectacular job. I haven’t reached that yet. But being asked to speak no longer gives me the anxiety that it used to. I probably speak between six and 10 times a year in various contexts, whether it’s at conferences or to small groups personally and professionally, webinars, and that sort of thing. And I–I really can say that with practice comes a certain amount of familiarity and it lessens the anxiety for me. That’s not to say that if I had to speak in front of a group of 500 people tomorrow, that I–I wouldn’t spend every blessed minute before that presentation, cramming and practicing and making sure I can say my name correctly. But, even seven years ago, that type of context would have, would have stymied me and crippled me and it doesn’t anymore. And it’s just a mentor who said, you’re going to do this until you can do this well.

Ben: It’s really interesting, because I look back–my public speaking journey, so to speak, which I haven’t looked at it in that way. I think I did my first conference presentation somewhere around 2012, 2011. So, we’ve been speaking really, for about the same period of time.

Ben: I was really unsure of myself. What was funny, was the first opportunity I had at a conference was actually to do a lightning talk (and for our listeners a lightning talk is 20 slides that move on their own every 15 seconds, whether you’re prepared for them to move or not. So there’s always a possibility of a real train wreck happening with the speaker.) But that was the opportunity I was given and the chance to volunteer to do that at a conference–I think–helped me get past some of that fear of speaking.

Ben: The other thing that was interesting, was that I was video recorded, and I had so many mannerisms that I wasn’t aware of, and like, oh wow, I stand exactly like my mom used to with her hand. Or, just different things that are not necessarily bad things, but just things that I wasn’t aware of. So it’s really interesting. But my progression on speaking, I never had anyone come say, “You have to do this or it’s going to hold you back,” probably because I was not in a role where that would be the case. But my progression I think happened for a couple of reasons. One, I do classroom teaching every year, usually one or two classes per year, so I’ve always got that “in front of the students thing” which can still be terrifying on the first day, because at least for the first few years, I was sure they all knew more than I did about the subject.

Ben: Now, I’ve since learned differently about that–or maybe I’ve learned more about the subject–so I didn’t have quite that fear, but I still always have a concern about, “How are they reacting? Are they engaged with what I’m talking about? Will they understand the references that I use?” I was talking with somebody today–talking–when I talked to my Intro to Computing Security class last fall. We have a section where we talk about Remote Access Trojans (RATS), and MEECES, and MICE. They’re all these acronyms they’ve come up with, so I thought it would be really clever to slip in ROUSs, and only one person in the entire room understood the reference–even though I had a picture of the ROUS from The Princess Bride. So I’ve pretty much given up about references to films and things because there’s too much, “Oh yeah. Didn’t that come out when I was three?” sort of thing. And so that’s kind of been a little–I won’t talk about that part of it. But what was interesting in the public speaking at conferences, I kind of worked my way up because I did the five minute crash lightning talk–which actually went pretty well–but the following year, I co-presented with somebody, and I co-presented with somebody the next time, and that made it so much easier for me just to have someone up there with me.

Ben: And, we were both introverts. I think we were both nervous about it, but it just helped knowing that you are partnering with somebody. I didn’t actually do my first solo big presentation at a conference until two or three years ago. And that was the first time I spoke about introverted leadership, and discovered, hey, there are a lot of introverts in this group and this is important information for them. And that’s part of what has become the trigger for actually doing this podcast as well. But, I don’t want to monopolize the time with me by far here, but the public speaking thing is really, really interesting. Now…

Joanna: Well, I think, Ben, one of the things that you need to consider for your class is making The Princess Bride required viewing. I mean–I just think that is a base level of knowledge that any person today should have.

Ben:  That’s very true, and if I can find some way to work information security references into it, there may be a way to get by with it. I have to think about that for awhile. But I agree, that’s kind of fundamental to our culture. How can you not know, “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, Prepare to die.” It’s just such a base part of our culture.

Joanna:   “You killed my father, Prepare to die.”

Ben: Looking forward to the second part of our conversation.

 

Imploding Kittens Collar of Shame

How I felt after playing Exploding Kittens with Joanna.

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