10 Minutes of actual Talking?! Yeah ok then.

I’ve never done any ‘real’ presentations in front of a large group of people since leaving college at the age of 18, and I remember even then how anxious the prospect made me feel. I’d always damn-near panic beforehand, despite knowing that most of the time, the presentations themselves would actually go quite well.

I have of course presented work to clients in the intervening years – and that’s something I really enjoy, but part of that is because if I’ve done my job well, it’s pretty easy, there’s a lot of preparation to fall back on, and the client is more interested in the visuals than hearing me chatter on for 15 minutes about why I made some very specific design choices.

So, when I was asked to do a 10 minute spotlight at a BWN (Busy Women Networking) group meeting last week my instinct was to say thanks but no thanks.

What actually happened is that I said yes without even thinking. What an absolute spanner.

Still, I had a month to prepare and knew it was something I wanted to at least try. Then I worried about what I was actually going to talk about. Whilst design and branding is a fine subject – trying to cram anything meaningful into 10 minutes seemed a bit of a stretch.

Eventually I decided just to talk about me and the path I’ve taken to get to where I am today. It’s not something I feel is actually that interesting to me – but there are certainly some highlights and I thought opening up a bit, particularly to the people I meet regularly – might be appreciated.

I really didn’t want it to be scripted – but equally I knew that I needed prompts to keep me on track and avoid my mind going blank – so I set out my ‘story’ as 5 minutes of history of Pope, and 5 minutes of ‘the present day Pope’, and allowed for about a minute of individual sections in each.

I designed a visual prompt which I find works really well for me, and did a few practice runs to refine the key points and make sure the timing was on point. And I had a friend waste 20 minutes of her life listening to me practice and give feedback too, so that was much appreciated.

On the day itself I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be – until I got to the venue and actually had to do the networking thing before my 10 minutes. That was when the nerves started to kick in! Still, I’m nothing if not determined and I was absolutely determined to do the best I could.

Here we go! Here’s the outline of the talk

  1. Introduction to me, a graphic designer of 23 years – after designing my Driving Instructor’s logo and business cards when I was 17
  2. Designing the brand and packaging for a new range of biscuits during the Marketing module for my GNVQ Business Studies – and knowing that design was the career for me.
  3. Started my first business at 19, a design agency that at one point grew to a team of 15 and included The London Stock Exchange, EMI and Virgin Cola as clients.
  4. Second business was another design agency and ran that for 5 years. During this time we created Baby Swap or Shop, which was designed to be the Ebay for Baby, Toddler and Children’s items and grew a following of 100,000 Facebook fans through organic growth alone.
  5. Being Freelance for the last 7 years. Loving it as it’s much more fun and flexible than running an agency – and I have more direct client contact than ever before, which is really important.
  6. The Homebase ‘episode’. Designing their delivery service identity and seeing it being rolled out into every store in the country. Probably one of my proudest ever professional achievements.
  7. Today – focusing on high quality graphic design and branding.
That’s design that creates a lasting impression or an emotional reaction – and helping people to understand that good design isn’t a subjective matter.
  8. My 4 rules for good design work –
    1. Being concise – simplify and strip out as much as possible
    2. Being consistent – knowing the rules and how brand elements should work together
    3. Being creative – knowing when to break the rules, when to challenge customer’s expectations to create impact
    4. Being collaborative – working *with* my clients rather than for them. Getting to know them so I can draw out key elements of their character in their design work
  9. My client base today, made up of white-labelling for creative and digital marketing agencies, tech startups on brand and digital/UI/UX projects, and people known in the BWN network.
  10. Comparing myself to Rolls-Royce (obviously!) in that I rarely promote or advertise myself and can rely on client referrals for around 90% of new business. 
And a thank you to everyone for listening (and laughing, hopefully with me rather than at me!).

So that was my first real experience of doing a talk in a business / networking context – and I have to say, despite feeling incredibly nervous all the way through, I really enjoyed it.

The reaction at the end was lovely too – with some great questions being asked, people saying how much they enjoyed it, and I even got a big clap when it finished.

Would I do it again? Probably. I mean I’m not going to make a career out of it or anything, but I’d definitely be open to opportunities to do similar talks or workshops in the future. The key for me is knowing my subject and feeing well-prepared – and I’d like to think I’m likeable enough to hold people’s attention for a couple of minutes at least!

Finally I’d just like to say thank you to Aruna – the head of the BWN Empire for asking me to do the spotlight, which really pushed me to develop some skills that I wouldn’t have otherwise – and for generally running an extremely supportive network of local groups in which I’ve met some lovely people over the last 6 months. Thanks Aruna!

A little more about Busy Women Networking (BWN)

Busy Women Networking is a business networking group for women with members across Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire. Headed by Aruna Rao, it’s a formidable group of business women who aim to grow their businesses in a professional manner while at the same time getting to know each other better and having some fun along the way.

BWN Website

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