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Top Tips on Speaking and Preparation from Atlassian Solution Engineer Ijeoma Ekeh

Hi, Speaker Bench!

We’re kicking off a new monthly series where we’ll feature Atlassians and their path with public speaking, how they use their skills within their roles at Atlassian and live our brand values, and their best tips for becoming a better speaker.

Our goal is to help you grow as a speaker with our resources, identify different ways to hone your public speaking skills, and show the versatility of public speaking across career paths to achieve your goals.

Today, you’ll meet Atlassian Solution Engineer @Ijeoma Ekeh and read all about her journey!

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Tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m an avid cook, experienced busybody, occasional artist, and dog mom. I’ve been an Atlassian for four years as of October 16th (!). Time flies when you’re having fun [not going anywhere and working from home for almost two years].

What do you do at Atlassian, and what has your path been to this role?

I’m a fledgling Solutions Engineer at Atlassian (I started in May 🌱). My college background is in physics, but prior to Atlassian, I’ve been in a variety of technical support-type roles. I started at Atlassian in 2017 as a Product Advocate (pre-sales product advice for evaluators), and I transitioned to Solutions Engineering over the course of the past year.

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On opportunities to communicate to audiences in her school years: “I did several, they were terrifying, but that’s growth for you.”


Have you always been good at public speaking?

I know I’m my own greatest critic, but historically I have sucked at public speaking (or at least it felt that way). Why? A lot of it has been anxiety, and the buildup of it. It messes with prep, incorporation of feedback, and execution. I sing too, and I’m pretty good, but most people would never know because my stage fright is 8/10, and it messes with me. The audiences who qualify as “impressed” have mostly been accidental.

 

What are some experiences or roles you’ve had that have helped you grow in public speaking?

Definitely scientific research projects and technical support. When you start doing research work (even just as a lowly undergrad), good mentors and programs create opportunities for you to coherently communicate your results to an audience. I did several; they were terrifying, but that’s growth for you.

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As for technical support, even as a student worker, it forced me to learn to communicate with angry strangers in uncomfortable situations with limited resources and low visibility.

You gave a TEAM talk on organizing #allthethings with Jira. How did you prepare for this talk, and what tools did you use?

First, I have to say that I had the privilege of Atlassian-provided resources. I was able to rehearse to a speaking coach, went through all our presentation tutorials and kits, got professional advice on presentation structure, and my friend/collaborator @Jess Seitz gave me great feedback, helped me format my ideas, and compose my thoughts into a coherent package.

I used Confluence primarily, but also Audacity, Keynote, SimpleNote and the eyes of my peers 👀.


What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome when speaking, and what advice would you give to others who may relate?

General anxiety disorder takes the cake. Mine is moderate, and sometimes I perceive mundane stress as mortal peril. Younger me did not cope well--I’d have GI problems, heart palpitations or slip into unexpected naps (not narcolepsy, confirmed). In the middle of presentations, I’ve struggled to maintain practiced narratives, slipped into accents, given into impulses (like “time to run!” or “screw the plan, LEROOOOY J-J-J-Jeeeenkins”). I’ve experienced colorblindness, outright forgotten entire subjects on the fly… you name it.

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Despite it feeling like a whole mess, I’ve done intense work to learn how to manage this, including therapy. I’d love to share some general advice for anxious folks who want to speak publicly, which you can read more about at Great Expectations: How to cope with anxiety while public speaking.


How do you create a compelling brief for a talk?

I phoned-a-friend (several friends). To prompt me, they asked me a ton of questions, starting with “What would you love for customers to know?” and ending with “What do you want them to walk away with?” I don’t know how many revisions I went through for the brief alone: 6, 8?

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Can you tell us about a fond and not-so-fond speaking memory?

The first talk I was ever even mildly proud of was a fun situation (haha), where it was decided that I would present on behalf of my team at a robotics competition with 5-10 minutes' notice. I had no speaking notes, and wasn’t sure what to say. One of my teammates and I just… talked, and though the judges could tell we hadn’t done any prep at all, their feedback was remarkably positive. Afterward, one of them suggested an internship that I might find interesting. 🤷‍♀️

As for not-so-fond, we had these little presentations for a world's fair-type project in elementary school. I received a low mark, primarily because my teacher claimed my Nigerian outfit was not “authentic.” I wasn’t sure whether to be mad, or amused.. because I’m half Nigerian. 😃


Do you have any speaking goals?

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Yes, I’d like to give a summit talk in person this time. 🙂 And, I want to be able to deliver humor in my talks without subtracting at all from its substance or my delivery.

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It’s an art and I can’t say I’ve perfected it. But I’m trying!



Thanks so much, Ije! Connect with Ijeoma on LinkedIn and don't miss her post on Coping with anxiety while public speaking. 💙

Inspired to speak at an Atlassian Community Event (ACE)? Connect with a local ACE to speak for our most enthusiasic and welcoming users, and you'll be entered into our monthly Speaker Bench challenge where you can win a ring light and mic Speaker Kit to help you prep for your talk 🙌🏼

3 comments

chucktalk Atlassian Team Nov 02, 2021

This was wonderful. Huge fan of your work here, and really happy to see you excel at being you! Made me smile this morning. ;)

Like # people like this
Hakeem Olasupo Community Leader Nov 19, 2021

This is really great and inspiring.

 

Thanks for sharing 😊

Craig Nodwell Community Leader Jun 22, 2022

What a well thought out post.
Thank you.

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