As I start to dip my toes into the water of public speaking, I can’t help but smile when I consider my experience thus far. It’s something I haven’t done much of in years, but once upon a time I thought I was actually pretty good at it.
The year was 2001. I was 15-years-old and had recently been elected as Senior Patrol Leader of my Boy Scout troop.
For those unfamiliar with the Boy Scout leadership hierarchy, the Senior Patrol Leader is (or was — I’m not sure if this has changed in years since) the top youth position for most Boy Scout Troops. At campouts and events, scouts are typically split up into small groups of patrols, and the leaders of each patrol report to the SPL, who reports back to the adult Scoutmaster, in the event that anything goes wrong or needs attention. Additionally, the SPL leads morning line-ups, team-building exercises, and the evening campfire during camping trips, and this is where I first cut my teeth with addressing a crowd.
I remember being jittery and weaker than the other boys in my troop that I was supposed to lead. I remember thinking: how could they possibly look up to me and respect what I have to say? I also remember standing up for the 3rd or 4th trip and, at one point, realizing that I was actually sort of nailing this thing. Despite my fears, the other scouts chose me for this position and, for whatever reason, wanted me in a position to lead. And I was doing a pretty good job of it.
With my first conference talk just around the corner, I reflect back on this time as I am sure to experience some of those same initial jitters and uncertainties about what I have to offer. Here’s to hoping I can dust off those skills and have a similar impact for my adult peers in the tech space.