Tent Talks Featuring Danielle Barnes: Empowering Voices: Crafting and Sharing Your Story with Impact

Tent Talks Featuring: Danielle Barnes
Danielle Barnes
Chief Executive Officer
Women Talk Design
Danielle is the CEO of Women Talk Design, where she’s on a mission to amplify the voices of women and nonbinary folks. She’s trained hundreds of individuals on the power of storytelling and how to become more confident public speakers. She co-founded Austin Design Week, a week-long event celebrating the design community in Austin through 100+ free community-hosted talks, workshops, and events that ran from 2016-2021.

Join us for an enlightening Tent Talks session with Christine McGlade, a seasoned digital media producer, designer, and educator. Christine brings over two decades of experience in the digital realm, teaching at OCAD University and working as a Senior Partner at Analytical Engine Interactive Inc. This session will dive into the ethical challenges and considerations in AI and digital technology. We’ll explore how future generations can be prepared for these challenges through education in futures thinking and ethical design leadership.

Christine will also discuss the concept of model collapse in AI, addressing its implications and potential solutions. In a unique twist, we’ll hear about the intersection of humor and AI from Christine’s perspective as a standup comedian. This session promises to be a blend of informative insights, practical advice, and engaging storytelling, perfect for anyone interested in the ethical dimensions of AI and digital design.

Session Notes

Session Overview

In this episode of Tent Talks, Christine McGlade, a sessional lecturer on digital futures at OCAD University, shares her insights on designing tomorrow with a focus on ethics and AI. Christine discusses the importance of futures thinking as a design discipline akin to systems thinking, emphasizing the need for ongoing engagement with the world to anticipate changes. She highlights the challenges of finding trusted primary sources in an era where AI-generated content is becoming increasingly prevalent, leading to a potential “model collapse.” Christine also delves into the ethical dilemmas faced by designers in creating AI-driven solutions and the importance of incorporating ethical considerations into the design process. Additionally, she shares her thoughts on the intersection of humor and AI, suggesting that while AI struggles with creating humor, it can be a powerful tool to address ethical issues in AI.

Finding Your Voice:

  • Danielle is still on a journey to discover what she wants to share with the world, using her experiences with Women Talk Design and the process of writing “Present Yourself.”
  • She aims to empower others to amplify their impact, believing in supporting others to do their best work and share their ideas.

Unfinished Stories in Presentations:

  • Unfinished stories can make audiences feel less alone, invite collaboration, and allow speakers to outline potential outcomes.
  • Sharing unfinished work can be intimidating, but it fosters connection, collaboration, and opens up discussions.

Five Beliefs in Public Speaking:

  • Public speaking has no one right way; diversity in presentation styles enriches the field.
  • New voices are crucial for industry and societal evolution.
  • Acknowledging that public speaking is not a level playing field is vital for inclusivity.
  • Improvement in public speaking comes with practice.
  • Community support is essential for resilience and effectiveness in public speaking.

Lessons from Self-Publishing:

  • Building a supportive team early and considering a book coach are critical steps.
  • Understanding the timeline and process intricacies is necessary for a smooth publication.
  • Setting clear processes and boundaries helps manage collaborations and version control effectively.
  • Recognizing the various editing stages and maintaining control over content changes is important.

Notable Quotes:

  • “Empowering others amplifies impact beyond individual efforts.”
  • “Unfinished stories connect, collaborate, and create opportunities for dialogue.”
  • “Diverse voices and approaches enrich public speaking and thought leadership.”
  • “Self-publishing is a journey of learning, adaptation, and community support.”

Reference Materials:

“Present Yourself” Book:

  • Authors: Danielle Barnes and Christina Wodtke.
  • Focus: A comprehensive guide to public speaking, aimed at empowering readers to find and amplify their voices. The book distills insights from the authors’ experiences and lessons learned through their professional journeys and work at Women Talk Design. It includes practical advice, exercises (“now try” sections), and strategies for improving public speaking skills. The book emphasizes the importance of practice, inclusivity, and adapting one’s approach over time.

Kat Vellos’ “Designer to Author” Course:

  • Creator: Kat Vellos, a designer and author known for her self-published works and educational initiatives.
  • Content: This course is designed for designers and other creatives who are interested in writing and publishing their own books. It covers the end-to-end process of book creation, from ideation and writing to publishing and marketing. Vellos shares her own experiences and lessons learned, providing a roadmap for others to follow in her footsteps. The course is valuable for anyone considering self-publishing, offering insights into overcoming common challenges and making informed decisions throughout the publishing journey.

Women Talk Design Events and Workshops:

  • Organization: Women Talk Design is dedicated to increasing the visibility and influence of women and non-binary individuals in design and technology through public speaking.
  • Offerings: The organization hosts a variety of events, workshops, and training programs focused on public speaking, leadership, and career development. These initiatives are designed to help participants develop their speaking skills, discover their unique voices, and gain the confidence to present their ideas effectively. Women Talk Design’s programs are characterized by a supportive community atmosphere, practical learning experiences, and a commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in the tech and design fields.

These materials and initiatives collectively support individuals in their journeys to become more effective communicators and leaders, emphasizing the value of diverse perspectives, continuous learning, and community engagement in professional growth.

Session Transcript

[00:00:34] Chicago Camps: You’ve successfully navigated various roles in tech and design. Could you share how you uncovered what you truly wanted to share with the world and any advice for individuals still on that journey?

[00:00:46] Danielle Barnes: I am still very much on this journey. I feel like I’ve been very lucky to have had time to reflect on what it is that I wanted to share with the world out of necessity.

So through Women Talk Design, we do a lot of events and workshops and I’ve talked to other people about coming up with their talk topics. So I’ve had to do that work and think of mine. And also now in the process of writing the Present Yourself book and talking about the book, I’ve had to reflect a lot more on this, but it’s, I feel like still evolving.

But the theme that I found throughout my career and really my life is that I want to help empower other people to really amplify the impact that they can have. So I always felt like I could only do so much as an individual, but if I can help other people do their best work or get their ideas out there, then that will be successful for me.

And so I’ve done this through education and the last company that I was at through building community. And now more recently through helping people discover the power of their own voice for Women Talk Design. And it’s been a very important motivator for me because I am someone who would much rather be behind the scenes.

I’ve always rather been the person who is doing the operations and logistics and helping be other people’s cheerleaders. But I realized I could have even more of an impact if I had my own voice be heard and use that voice to tell other people to share their voice. And like I said, it’s still a journey for me, but it’s been super rewarding.

[00:02:19] Chicago Camps: There is value in the intriguing concept of using unfinished stories in presentations. How do these stories resonate with audiences and what makes them such a powerful tool in public speaking?

[00:02:31] Danielle Barnes: I want to start by saying that unfinished stories are pretty intimidating. And I’ve spoken to a lot of folks in our community who have had these really powerful experiences, are working on these really interesting projects.

But maybe don’t feel ready to talk about them because they are unfinished. They feel like they’re in the messy middle. And so I started thinking a lot about the power of unfinished stories. But I first want to recognize that this is a really hard thing to do, is to share when you’re in the middle of still trying to figure something out.

But, as you mentioned, they are really powerful for a couple of different reasons. Unfinished stories can let your audience know that they’re not alone. Which is a really powerful thing. All of us are in our own messy middle of something. And so to hear a speaker or a presenter say, I’m still trying to figure this out too, that’s a important connection point with your audience.

Another powerful thing that an unfinished story can do is to invite other people in to help you get to your ending, right? So you might be stuck trying to figure out how do I solve this problem? What do I do next?

And people love to help solve other people’s problems. And so this can be a powerful time to invite other people in to figure out where your story can go, how you get out of that crisis moment.

And then finally, telling a story might invite you as a speaker, to help paint the picture that you want to for your audience. So if you are presenting at work and trying to pitch bringing a new tool to your team, or if you’re speaking at a conference stage and trying to share an idea with everyone, you might tell a story that is unfinished, an experience that had happened to you, or a story that’s out in the world, and you can use the opportunity to say, hey, if we introduce this tool or if you used my idea, here’s how the story can end.

It can be challenging to tell an end to the story, especially if it’s a personal story, but I think that there is a lot of benefits that could come from it. I think oftentimes people think, oh, I need to speak to share solutions or brand new ideas, but the reason for wanting to speak being to start a conversation is so important because that will ultimately lead to new ideas and new connections and all that.

So I think that’s a really excellent point. It’s also hard, I think, specifically for certain groups and folks with certain identities who feel like they might have less of an opportunity to show something that is imperfect, right? They have more of a critical eye on them, and that’s, I think that can be really tough too.

So I want to acknowledge that it’s not a level playing field.

[00:05:14] Chicago Camps: What are your five beliefs that drive your approach to public speaking?

[00:05:18] Danielle Barnes: First belief, there is no one right way to public speaking. And this is something that I feel like I’ve taken some time to learn.

I came into this area of public speaking thinking a lot of public speakers are loud and they use their hands a lot and they move around a lot. And that’s the motivational speakers that I grew up seeing. One of the important lessons that I have learned as I’ve worked with hundreds of speakers around the world is that there’s no one right way and thank goodness for that because that makes presenters more interesting and it welcomes just this new way of viewing leadership and thought leaders.

And that’s, I think one of the most important beliefs that has informed the way that I now teach public speaking and women talk design does.

Another is new voices need to be heard. This is really an underlying belief of our work at Women Talk Design and this has gone into our book, Present Yourself. And Russ, as you shared in the beginning, you are very supportive of new voices and new speakers and it’s so important.

I think that different voices can really help change our industries and change the world.

And heading into my next belief, public speaking is not a level playing field, right? This has stood in the way of us hearing some of these new voices. And so one of the approaches that we take at Women Talk Design is really try to be honest about this and make people aware of the systemic biases that stand in the way of people wanting to share their voice or from being heard once they do share their voice.

And I think it’s really important to be honest about that, to say, okay, we all collectively need to work together to address these biases. And, in the meantime, folks who are facing them. Don’t let them stop you from sharing your voice because new voices need to be heard. Heading back to that second belief.

Fourth belief is that you only improve with practice. And this has been really important as we’ve run our public speaking programs. And then especially as we wrote our book, Present Yourself because. It’s a book, you’re reading it and you could be like, great, I’m gaining all this new information, I’m going to be a great speaker, but you’re really not going to improve unless you put it to work.

So that’s why we teach courses in public speaking where you actually have to practice. In the book, we have a now try section where it encourages you to take what you’ve learned and put it to work because you’re not going to be able to become a more effective public speaker just by reading.

And then the fifth belief is that community builds resilience. And this I think was another surprising belief that came to me that was not something I would have told you when I first started out with Women Talk Design. I’m a big believer in community, and I always have been, but I’ve always thought of public speaking as a more solitary experience, unless you’re co-presenting, right?

So you’re preparing your presentation alone, and you’re getting ready, and you’re nervous, and it’s not until you feel like you’re perfect and ready to go that you share it with other people. And I now believe in the exact opposite approach, that if you invite other people into your process early and often, it’ll make you feel so much better, and it’ll also make your presentation that much more effective.

So those are the five beliefs. They are, just to reiterate, there is no one right way. New voices need to be heard. Public speaking isn’t a level playing field. You only improve with practice and community builds resilience.

This could almost be a number six or maybe an asterisk to there’s no one right way.

But what you shared made me think of another belief, which is your process will evolve. So not only is there no one right way, but like you shared Russ, you wrote a book on public speaking and you’re still continuing to evolve what works for you. And part of that will happen because now we’re presenting online a lot more and there’s new changes and new technology.

But also you change as a person and as a preventer. And so this is something we talk about actually in the conclusion of the book is you learned all this stuff, but one of the key things you need to remember is that this is going to keep evolving and try things on, test them out, bring them into your process.

But then also don’t forget to continuously revisit your process because there might be something else that works better for you as you evolve.

[00:09:50] Chicago Camps: Self publishing is a formidable challenge and you’ve surely learned valuable lessons from it. What are some of your top mistakes you made while navigating the process and what advice would you give to navigate these challenges?

[00:10:02] Danielle Barnes: This was a really difficult process and I want to shout out everyone who we had learned from. My co-author Christina Wodtke, she self published several books. I also learned a lot from Kat Vellos, who not only self published her own book, but also developed a course, Designer to Author, and that was really helpful in this process.

Still learned a lot on my own the hard way, but one of the reasons we chose to self publish is that we really wanted to share our journey and let other people who were thinking about this know that self publishing is an option, because while super helpful to have the support of a publisher, there’s also some gatekeeping there and it can be hard sometimes to get your ideas out there if you don’t have the right functions or a lot of different reasons.

That’s why we chose to self publish. Some of the big lessons I learned, one is the importance of building a team early on and you shared this Russ that when you have been writing a book you have a team to support you and even though we are self publishing we still needed a team to support us and make it happen.

So we hired a group of editors, a designer, the one who worked on the marketing copy, lots of folks that supported us here. The thing that I wish, that I did not do, was bring someone on board who could be my book doula or a book coach or someone who was a consistent, figure throughout the process of the book.

And I think that maybe I thought that I was that person, but as being also the coauthor, it was hard to have that balance. And so that is something that I would highly recommend to anyone thinking about some self publishing is to find yourself a coach or a book doula, or someone who can be with you from your idea of your book all the way to publishing in addition to editors, designers, folks will help you with marketing copy, the one who will help you with ebook layout, which is a whole other thing than just a regular design layout, which is what I learned.

Another lesson that I learned the hard way is to really get clear on the timeline and the different steps of the process and building in extra time.

So when we set out to do this, I thought we built Present Yourself from a course and turned it into a book. We had a lot of the content and there was more that we were going to be developing, but I chose an end date of when we wanted to get the book out there, worked backwards a little bit, but only in terms of we’re writing the manuscript, and then we’re going to publish it down here, and in between there’ll be some editing and designing.

And did not fill in the pieces of, okay, this is going to the developmental editor. She’s going to then give it back to me, and I have to spend time on it. And then I might want her to look at it again before it goes to my line editor, which is not something I budgeted for. That is another lesson that I am so grateful for the folks that worked with us.

A lot of patience, a lot of frantic emails that they responded to. A lot of folks like working on really tough timelines, but yeah, understanding the different dependencies and timelines.

And then I think the final thing that, again, so many lessons learned, but another thing that I’ve been reflecting on is the importance of building your own guardrails.

And what I mean by this is that ultimately I was the publisher in this by self publishing, but I was working with a lot of different people who had their own processes for doing things. And since this was my first time doing it, if someone wanted to edit it in a certain way or someone wanted to deliver something in a certain format, I was like, yeah, great, send it this way.

But did not realize that would cause so much more of a headache on my end because then I had to make all of these things work and fit behind the scenes. And so I think really planning out my process and saying, okay, when I get these edits, how am I going to give them to the next person?

And what is our version control going to be? And what file can I take this in verse not? Would have saved me a lot of time.

I think another thing that I learned is that you don’t have to accept all of the edits, right?

At first I was like, Oh, I didn’t even have my editors doing Track Changes because I was like, Oh, just change whatever. And I think one of the things that I realized is that, and you brought this up, one of the things that editors do really well is call out what’s not working, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to take their suggestion.

And so it’s a good, I need to look at this, I need to figure something out because this other person who’s reading it, it’s not clear to them or it’s not working, but you don’t necessarily need to take their suggestion.

And one of the big things that I learned about as we were going through this process is, The different types of editing and the different types of editors that you might have at different stages.

So early on, developmental editing, really helping you think of like big picture and even structure and how you might want this thing to work. And then line editing, which was really new to me of helping your voice come through and the consistency of your voice and bridging this gap before you actually get to copy editing, which I think is what a lot of people think of editing as copy editing.

Which is a very important piece, but not the only piece.

So those are a couple of the learnings, although there are endless ones.

The book launches March 11th, and we have pre orders going right now, so just a couple weeks until it starts shipping.


Event Details
Empowering Voices: Crafting and Sharing Your Story with Impact
February 26, 2024
5:00 pm
February 26, 2024
6:00 pm
Tent Talks Featuring Danielle Barnes: Empowering Voices: Crafting and Sharing Your Story with Impact Join us for a compelling session with Danielle Barnes, CEO of Women Talk Design, as we explore the art of impactful storytelling and public speaking. Danielle will...


July 2024