why 300 seconds is a really good thing

300 seconds emerged from a realisation that women were not speaking at tech conferences. So, events to give speakers 300 seconds to talk on a subject of their choice happened. Here's why it is a good thing.

by Emma Rodgers 

Last week, I went to a 300 seconds event in Manchester. It’s been a long time coming – I had hoped to get to an event since I first heard about the initiative at #UKgovcamp in January.

It was there, in an unconference session led by @annkempster & @sharonodea that I first heard about 300 seconds and what it is all about.  Ann and Sharon had held a couple of 300 seconds events and were keen to get ideas and thoughts on how to take them forward. All in all, I found it pretty inspirational and knew I wanted to see and hear more.

The premise of 300 seconds is ‘a series of lightening talks by and for the digital community’ lasting – yes - you got it just 300 seconds, or five minutes if your maths isn’t that good.

The other really brilliant thing about the series is that they hope to give peers, and in particular women, a means of gaining confidence and experience in speaking in public.

After experiencing an event first hand, here’s the things I really liked about 300 Seconds:

Everyone who does a talk gets filmed and gets a copy of that film to use to build up their digital profile

It’s a great opportunity to build your confidence in public speaking

It’s not just for women – there was a surprising number of men there too. I spoke to one man who had been to two events previously. He said it was amazing the things he had learnt

It’s a really supportive environment – everyone was so friendly and open

Anyone and everyone is able to have a go – you just have to be prepared to put yourself out there

Before I went to UK Gov Camp, I was on twitter when @emercoleman said she was keen to meet new people going along. I tweeted back and it led to a conversation where Emer told me to if I did one thing it was that I needed to sort out my twitter bio. It didn’t have a link, it didn’t sell any of my skills and it certainly didn’t put me up there as a person who knew what I was doing.

Once I started thinking about it, it was obvious that it wasn’t just about my twitter bio, it was my digital profile overall. 300 Seconds helps with this. It gives people opportunities to take that first step to not only building their confidence but to start to build their digital footprint.

What have I learnt from 300 Seconds?

While the event is targeted at women in tech, I think women in public sector comms can learn from this. We need to get better at shouting about what we do and building our profile up. We do it for other people all the time but we don’t generally do it for ourselves that well. That’s probably why more often than not when you go to a conference, you are overwhelmingly faced by a panel full of men. We need to change this.

It’s good to be supportive of each other. At the event in Manchester, there was an overwhelming blanket of support. That’s a good thing and something we should look to engender more.

It’s never too late or too early to start to build your profile and shout about what you do. One of the presenters at 300 Seconds was only 17. I started only thinking about my own digital footprint really in the last 18 months. Before that I was very much of the ‘I don’t want to put myself out there crew’. Have a think about where you’re at.

Believe in yourself because if you do, others will do too

I’m definitely going to present at the next 300 seconds I can get to and I would recommend others get along to the event too. You can find out more at: http://300seconds.co.uk/

I’m also thinking about setting up a 300 Seconds event in the West Midlands too. So if you fancy being involved, get in touch, tweet me @emmarodgers

Emma Rodgers is a communications manager in local government