By John Samuel
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking on the Creating a Culture of Diversity panel at the Startup Summit 2019: The Premier Entrepreneurship Conference in North Carolina. Donald Thompson, CEO of Walk West, who has emerged as a true leader in diversity and inclusion in the Research Triangle Park area, moderated the panel and invited me to participate.
I first came across Donald earlier in the spring, when I was attending another tech startup conference called T-Rex. My colleague invited me to the event, but I did not really have much expectations going in to it. There were several interesting speakers, but one person stood out to me and that was Donald. His ability to connect with the audience, and keep us all engaged was something I wanted to replicate.
Over the past year, I have been asked to speak and participate in several speaking engagements, including keynotes, panels, and podcasts. Now when I attend different events, as an attendee, I am not just listening to the content, but I am also studying how they communicate with the audience, because I want to improve my own craft.
Public speaking and communication are critical skills for any entrepreneur – for any professional for that matter. Even Warren Buffett, the world’s best investor, says that public speaking skills will hike your personal value by 50%, and I whole-heartedly agree!
Over the past ten years, I have had the benefit of being part of three startup efforts, including Aster Global Services Cameroon, Homestrings, and now LCI Tech. Each organization was in a vastly different sector, and experienced different levels of success, but one thing that was consistent was that I found myself speaking at many conferences!
During the past decade, the way I speak and present has changed because of my Deteriorating sight. Although it poses another challenge to public speaking, I have not let it slow me down, because I know the value of it.
No matter if you are a person with a disability or not, the best way to improve your speaking and communication is getting out there! That is why I urge all of my team members to step up and participate in presentations or conducting accessibility testing demos. The more exposure that they get to speaking in front of a live audience, and figuring out how to overcome technical and nontechnical difficulties that are inevitably going to happen, will greatly benefit them throughout their careers.
As we come up to the midpoint of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, I’m thankful for Donald Thompson and the folks at the Startup Summit for acknowledging the importance of including people with disabilities in tech, and for giving me a platform to help build empathy through my story. I also want to encourage others with disabilities to embrace public speaking and communication, because this is critical for us to flip the script, and display what we can do while we are on the main stage.
Want a member of the LCI Tech team to speak at your next diversity and inclusion conference, or conduct an accessibility-testing demo for your team? Contact us to speak to a member of our team to learn more!