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What Travelling Has Taught Me About My IT Career

What Travelling Has Taught Me About My IT Career

I like to travel. Who doesn’t? I also like my career. I feel it has improved since I’ve travelled, and when I think about it, there are a few ways it has improved. For those of you who have travelled, you may feel the same way.

Sometimes the Little Things Don’t Matter

After leaving the country and going somewhere foreign, regardless of where it is, I have realised a few things: I realised that the world really is quite big, and there’s more to it than just the city I live in. Even though I live in a large Australian city and see the other cities in movies and on the news, that concept is easy to forget.

There are all different kinds of people, all different kinds of places and sights to see in the world. When I travelled to a few places (I haven’t been to many), I realised that some of the things in my career or in my workplace don’t really matter that much. It made me realise that I don’t need to push so hard on some things or that some things don’t matter.

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This doesn’t mean that I should lose all care for my work. Not at all. What I mean, is that there are many small things that happen in our daily lives that don’t really matter when we think about it. Is your next door neighbour’s desk messy? It doesn’t really matterit’s a small concern. Is your team not filling out the comments or details on a bug tracking system in the way you’d like? Perhaps their method is still effective, and maybe it doesn’t really matter. Focus on the bigger things and do them well, and if smaller things bother you, try not to worry too much about them.

There’s Always a Different Way to Do Something

The cities we live in often solve problems in the same way, and tend to do things the same in each instance. When you’ve travelled to other countries, you’ll find other people and other cities have different ways of solving the same problem.

For example: public transportation in the big city. New York has an underground rail system called the subway and London has something similar. If you go to Melbourne, however, we have overground rail and light rail (called trams), and Sydney has both an overground rail and an above ground monorail. Each of them have their pros and cons, but the point is that there is a single problem and multiple ways to solve it. Other cities may have completely different ways of solving problems.

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When I came back to my job, I realised that there is a need to think about different solutions to problems. This could be a large problem, such as how to architect the system to meet the requirements, or other problems such as how to transmit data from one place to another in the most efficient method possible. Sometimes the first solution that comes to mind isn’t always the best one, and it’s worth taking the time to think of alternatives.

It’s Important to Be Motivated

I’ve seen some pretty great things while I’ve been travelling. I haven’t been to many different countries (only seven, I think), but the desire to travel to more places gives me the motivation to work. It’s not really a direct result, where working better = more travelling. Instead, the better I work, the happier that clients and employers will be, the more money I’ll get paid, which gives me the freedom to go travelling.

Travelling is one of the motivations that I have to work, but it’s not the only one. Doing a great job for the client is right up there. However, I can imagine that many of you like to travel as well, so you should try to channel that as motivation for your work.

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When Things Go Wrong, It’s Important to Stay Calm

Before we travel, some of us plan where we are going and what we’re going to do, to some extent. Sometimes it’s planned down to the day; others plan generally where we want to go. Some of us just take off somewhere and see what happens.

Regardless of your approach to travel, things will inevitably go wrong. I’ve never met anyone who has been travelling and not had some kind of unfortunate event or something go wrong with their trip. Luggage being lost, flights being cancelled, hotel bookings not being made, cars breaking down, the list goes on.

One thing I’ve learnt from travelling is how to stay calm when things go wrong. This, actually, is probably the most important thing that travelling has taught me. Whether it’s being stuck in a convoy of buses for three hours because there’s been a once-in-a-decade flood in the middle of Egypt, or being caught in the Malaysian airport unable to fly home because of a problem with your visa, any problem you have in your travels can be a learning experience.

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Take a deep breath, think about the solutions, talk to people if you can, and try to work out what needs to be done to get something made right. It’s taught me how to remain calm in non-travelling situations like traffic on the way to work, or dealing with difficult people at work.

Well, there’s a few of the lessons that I’ve learnt while travelling which have helped my career. Hopefully they’ve been helpful for you too!

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Ben Brumm

Ben is a business analyst and software developer. He shares career advice on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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