Last updated at Wed, 26 Jul 2017 17:31:54 GMT

One of the most nerve-wrecking things a person can do is give a talk to a group of people. As a matter of fact, approximately 3 out of 4 people suffer from speech anxiety. This is further exacerbated in an industry and community like ours where many of us are introverts and/or suffer from "imposter syndrome". We think we aren't as smart or good at something as we actually are. We often feel like someone else has done a better job explaining a theory or area in information security than we ever could. We also often feel like we have nothing new or interesting to contribute, but that isn't true!

The people who make up our community have a diverse skill set. Each of us has experiences and a pool of knowledge that are unique to us, even when they may seem similar to someone else's. We each have a unique voice, way of thinking, and ways of processing information. This is why the Security BSides Las Vegas' Proving Grounds track is so near and dear to me.

For those who are unfamiliar with what we do, Proving Grounds gives a platform for folks who have never spoken at a nation conference (DEF CON, RSA, DerbyCon) to give their first talk in a "safe" environment. We pair them with a mentor, who is someone established in the community who has experience at presenting. They work together so the first-time speakers can take their submitted outline and abstract and turn it into a well thought-out talk. The mentors help with everything from how the presentation looks, the flow of the information being shared, to presenting tips and tricks. The mentors are there the day of their partner's talk for moral support, and we also offer new presenters a chance to practice in the room they'll present in before the days of the con.

For the past four years, I have worked together with SecurityMoey as the co-director of this track. I leapt at the opportunity to work with him because I wished that there were something like this when I was preparing for my first talk. I'm an extremely nervous and anxious presenter—so much so, that I usually spend the 10 minutes or so before my talk in the bathroom trying to calm down and pump myself up. I also had a problem when I first started to submit CFPs where I didn't know what information was relevant to the review board, what was too much or too little, or how to tailor a talk to an audience. I more or less winged it for a couple of years until I had watched enough talks and gotten enough peer feedback that I felt comfortable with how I wanted to present my information. It was a lot more work than it could have been, which is another benefit of the Proving Grounds track.

I can easily go on about how passionate I am about this program and how important mentoring is to our community. In fact, Moey and I presented on this at DerbyCon a few years ago. What it all boils down to is this: We have an awesome community, and we need to continue to grow by welcoming new people and ideas to our conferences.

Deadline for submission is February 15th, so submit soon! To submit your talk proposal, go here:

Link to the talk Moey and I did at DerbyCon: mentorship-michael-ortega-magen-wu