Wednesday, 29 January 2014

30 Things Before Turning 30 - No.8 Present Publicly

Public speaking seems to be something that people either live in fear of, or are totally, naturally, amazing at. I don’t think I fall in the latter camp but I’m also not terrified of it. I'm curious about it, it intrigues me, and it makes me nervous in a good way.

However, I haven’t done a lot of it so when I was creating my 30 Things Before I’m 30 list I knew I wanted to set a goal around public speaking. Progress on the list in general has been a little slow off the mark but I’m really pleased to say that this one is now DONE. And not only is it done, but I’ve done it twice, and I’m going to do it again!

I did my first bit of big, proper public speaking a recently at one of the 300 Seconds events in London. These events were set up by three brilliant women who wanted to see more women on panels at tech conferences, so set up 300 Seconds to give people an opportunity to deliver a short presentation (300 seconds is 5 minutes) in a safe space, to build confidence and experience, and do a little bit of networking at the same time. I went to one of their events last year and was delighted to be accepted when I applied to speak at the first event of 2014.

The date roughly coincided with my 5th Twitter birthday so I wrote a presentation called ‘Typos, Trolls, and Celebrity Retweets: Lessons Learned From 5 Years on Twitter’, turned up, did my bit and took my first deep breath in a week once it was all over.

The audience were lovely, laughed in all the right places and a few people were kind enough to give me some nice feedback afterwards. If you think you’d like to try presenting, this is a great way to do it so have a look at the 300 Seconds website for future events.

My second presentation fell later that same week and was completely off the scale compared to the first. Before Christmas I’d been asked to speak at my charity’s volunteer conference about Children in a Digital World. I excitedly said yes but this would be a 30 minutes presentation to 350 of our amazing volunteers, as well as some very senior people from my organisation. I knew this would be a much harder presentation to do, and needed a lot of thinking about the level of knowledge in the room. I didn’t want to patronise anyone or make them feel overly anxious about children online. My aim was for everyone to go away learning at least one thing.

I was really happy with this presentation, which looked at different elements of childhood from a past, present and future perspective, and the role that digital plays. For example, when I was a child bullying mainly took place in the playground, but now with mobile technology and social networks, for young people it can feel like bullying never ends. It’s a problem that’s unlikely to go away any time soon but, with growth in online communities and networks, I hope that in the future we’ll see more resilience online, better reporting features and a decrease in online bullying behaviour.

On the day I had slightly less time than anticipated so had to re-work my speech on the go, which was a bit of a challenge, but again it went really well and the audience were really positive about what I’d said and gave me great feedback. Lots of volunteers said it helped them understand what children are doing online, and a few said they’d be going home to join Twitter and Instagram which was great news!
Me presenting to a lot more people than you can see in this photo!
So now I’ve got a bit of a buzz about presenting, and I’ve offered to deliver this one again for people in our organisation. It’s a great skill to have, a boost for my confidence, and I’m really happy to have ticked this one off the list. Now to get on with a few more things…

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

What I Read in 2013

I've always been a lover of reading but a few years ago a combination of things happened that meant I lost my literary way. Things like studying in my spare time (reading was less pleasurable then) and getting a boyfriend who lived far away (no time for reading when you're chatting online most nights). But by far, the biggest thing that affected the amount I was reading was getting a smartphone. It's so easy to fritter away entire evenings on Twitter and Tumblr and a mighty tough habit to break.

According to a list tucked neatly into the back of my old Filofax, I read 21 books in 2009 and then after that it appears I stopped keeping track. In 2011 I joined a lovely book group in Glasgow and slowly started picking up reading again, but in 2012 I moved to London and my first year here flew by so quickly that I barely remember a thing about it.

Early 2013 I joined another book club after seeing two women on Twitter talking about setting one up. I went along to the first meeting and have been firing through books ever since.

So, here's what I read in 2013 (items in bold were London Book Club choices):

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn 5/5
Elliot Allagash – Simon Rich 4/5
Tigers In Red Weather – Liza Klaussman 5/5
The Red House – Mark Haddon 4/5
Heartburn – Nora Ephron 5/5
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genuis – Dave Eggers 3/5
So Much Pretty – Cara Hoffman 1/5
The Teleportation Accident – Ned Beauman 2/5
The Universe vs Alex Woods – Gavin Extence 5/5
The Fault in Our Stars – John Green 5/5
Prep – Curtis Sittenfeld 4/5
May We Be Forgiven – A M Holmes 4/5
The Fates Will Find Their Way – Hannah Pittard 4/5
After The Fall – Charity Norman 4/5
The Suicide Shop - Jean Teule 4/5
Bonjour Tristesse – Francoise Sagan 5/5
Kiss Me First – Lottie Moggach 4/5
The Solace of Open Spaces – Gretel Ehrlich 3/5
The Last Girlfriend on Earth – Simon Rich 4/5
The Yellow Birds – Kevin Powers 3/5
Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn 4/5
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes 2/5
Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter 4/5
The Woman in Black – Susan Hill 3/5
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P – Adelle Waldman 4/5
Where’d You Go Bernadette? - Maria Semple – 5/5

The Silent Wife – A. S. A. Harrison 4/5

Overall I enjoyed pretty much everything I've read apart from one or two stinkers. Naturally there were a couple of books that I started but chose not to finish. My bookshelves are simply heaving with unread pages and I've decided now that if I can't get into a book in 100 pages and I actively dread picking it up that it's perfectly acceptable to leave it behind. Those books were Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver and The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.

2013 was also the first year I started reading digital versions on books, the first of those being Kiss Me First and since then I've tried to alternate between digital and paper copies. I've spent a lot of money on books this year, but I've also passed almost everything I've finished on which gives me a healthy dose of the warm and fuzzies.

2014 is off to a great start as I've finished 5 books already so I think I'll make a monthly round-up a regular blog feature and share some more reviews. I've resolved to make very few plans in January and dedicate most of my evenings to eating well and reading lots. Early indications show that this will be a very good year indeed.

If you read any of the above books, I'd love to hear what you think!