Coraly Rosario on getting started and finding her voice as a quiet, introverted speaker

We continued our #WTDSpeakerStories with Coraly Rosario and she shared her experience as a speaker and how she helps others get started. Here’s a recap on what Coraly shared.

As part of our Women Talk Design Speaker Stories series, we’re interviewing a Women Talk Design speaker every week about their journeys and experiences. We talk to speakers who are just getting started, speakers who have had their fair share of speaking mishaps, speakers writing books, and speakers curating events. At the end, we offer an opportunity for folks from the WTD community to ask their own questions and connect with each other. Visit our events page for more information about the series and RSVP for our next event.

Speaker Stories Graphic with Coraly Roasio headshot

Coraly Rosario, who hails from the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, started her adventure over 12 years ago when she started speaking in graphic design and teaching. Later, her innate interests naturally evolved into a passion for UX and UI in games and teaching others about user research and experience design.

On starting in speaking as an introvert:

Coraly’s journey as a speaker evolved organically from her experience as a teacher. She stepped outside of her comfort zone to begin speaking little by little and found her voice as she went along.

“I am a huge introvert. Being in front of people is actually my worst nightmare. But I started learning more about UX and understanding that there was this huge gap between the teams that we would be working on and what it is that I do. And I do have a very educational personality. I was a teacher many years ago. And I think that kind of helped a little bit as well…I started realizing that I was a really good teacher, just explaining what UX is and how to do proper UX for for a variety of different people and different types of people, and bringing that knowledge down in a way that we can speak the same language. For me it’s all about building community, really. That’s why I do it.”

“The first time I got approached for a speaking gig was actually in Sacramento. There’s a game development community over there…and they wanted me to be a mentor during their game jam. [And I thought] ‘I’m not ready for this…Okay, let’s do it.’ And I didn’t feel as nervous as I thought I would feel in that environment where it was just a live stream. There weren’t people really in front of me.”

“After that I did some workshops. Workshops were a great way, especially for someone like me, to dip my toes into public speaking without…feeling like there’s so much pressure around you to perform…That really helped me ease me into the formal ‘Okay, now we are going to be standing in front of an audience, talking about a very specific thing.’ This didn’t happen all at once either. This was spaced out over several months within a year. And then the following year, I started finding more and more opportunities to do public speaking and to do workshops, supplementing both within my experience and talking about my experience.”

“Just going into it, I just tried a bunch of different things and all of that led up to me being able to now say, ‘Hey, I see that you’re looking for speakers. I would love to be a speaker,’ and be more comfortable with it.”

On defining her voice:

Defining her voice started with understanding what she was good at and what she enjoyed – teaching – and realizing how to build and supplement her talks to make the style fit her strengths.

“Everyone’s different, 100%. Finding your voice with public speaking does take time and for me it took a little bit of time and a lot of feedback from different people.”

“I was a teacher for a few years back and that helped me understand that I’m a person that likes to explain things…like, ‘This is how this works and this is how you can do the thing. All right, go ahead and do the thing.’ And guiding other people to be able to acquire and practice that skill set. So the first few talks that I did were very, very technical, almost dry, because I thought that’s how I had to be and I wasn’t aware that there were other ways that you can achieve the same thing. One thing I knew for sure – I cannot do a TEDtalks-style talk to save my life.”

“What I’ve come to realize and what I’ve received back from people [is] they like the authenticity that I bring. They like the honesty, they like that I’m sometimes a little silly and my deadpan humor as well. And that’s how I started finding my voice – like, ‘Okay, this is a talk but I am the one giving the talk so why don’t I just be me giving the talk and see how that works.’ And so far, people really, really enjoy it. Some of the last talks that I’ve done have been more about my journey into games, and…It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or where you come from, it’s probably going to be very relatable to you.”

“Everyone is different. That’s something that I learned as well. Some people are super comfortable just laying it out there without anything else, and that is amazing and I love it…But I’m very, very good at using slides as a supplement. So, whenever you see me doing a talk, I’ll have slides next to me or somewhere near me, but the slides are guiding me. The slides are always part of my voice in a way, it’s not just me talking and [they] also show a bit of my personality [to] help supplement the story rather than tell the story directly. And that’s how I found my voice, it’s not really just me on my own, it’s with the slides.”

On how she finds speaking engagements:

For Coraly, keeping her network alive fuels her access to speaking opportunities. 

“Almost kind of organically one way that I get  speaking opportunities is through the connections that I know in Sacramento… [and] the different communities that I’m a part of. I have a lot of networks through the Sacramento Bay Area [and] now in LA I’m starting to set up a bit of a network here too, and then back in Puerto Rico.”

She also talked about staying active on social media and using a go-getter approach to seeking opportunities.

“Otherwise it’s just me being really active on different types of social platforms and platforms like slack and discord and usually within those types of communities, there’s always a channel that’s just dedicated to events. People will post a bunch of events that are coming up and, more often than not, especially if those events are really far along, they are doing a call for proposals. Every time I see an event come in, and if it’s something that I would be interested in or I feel it’s at my level, I’ll go straight into the website and start looking for the call for proposals. If I see that there isn’t one, I’ll reach out via social media…The worst thing they can say is no and that’s great, then you move on.”

“In your group as well, Danielle, and Women Talk Design, people are always putting up their call for proposals there. Facebook has been a great tool for finding new conferences. Otherwise, if I don’t know what’s happening that year, there are lists on different websites of all the conferences that are going to be happening for that entire year from January to December and probably beyond because they’re recurring conferences. Typically for those, you could expect the call for proposals anywhere between two to four, maybe six months before the actual event.”

Her advice for new speakers:

Coraly has found her voice by being herself in her speaking and her advice to new speakers is to do the same.

“It’s okay to be yourself in your talk. Just be you onstage. You know, if you’re a little bit silly or if you’re a little bit serious, or whatever type of personality that you have, incorporate that into the talk that you’re giving. This will vary depending on the type of talk, especially if it is a conference that’s super technical [but] there are still ways to incorporate a little bit of who you are into that.”

A teacher at heart, Coraly also talked about how she approaches working with new speakers to help them craft a talk. 

“One thing I always recommend, whenever you are trying to decide what to talk about, [is to] just list out the things that, (1)  either you’re passionate about or, (2) you know about or are an expert on. When I sit down with people, I go over that list and when I see something that catches my eye that I haven’t really seen too many deep dives on…that’s where I’ll start poking the person a little bit more…and I try to pull the thread on that person’s thoughts and their process. All of that just kind of helps cement why they want to talk about this specific topic. And once they find a topic that they feel like they’re really passionate [about] then it’s like, ‘Okay, let’s go down the rabbit hole on this one.’”

“[Another thing] I do is I show them examples of what my talks are like and what other people’s talks are like and ask them specifically, ‘What do you think you would be more comfortable with?’ It’s all about you designing your talk, not other people designing your talk. After that, it’s up to the person.”

And finally, Coraly talked about calming her nerves on stage.

“Two more pieces of advice, especially if you are a person that needs a lot of grounding when on stage. I know I get nervous sometimes so I always have a little object with me that I just keep in my hand and can fiddle with a little bit. It helps me concentrate and not fidget as much with either the microphone or anything else. That would be on me. That’s something that I do. I [also] make sure that whatever it is I’m wearing is really comfortable and cozy. And I do have a specific set of socks that I wear during talks. They are my, ‘You can do this talk’ socks – they’re bananas on a skateboard and they’re green.”

To hear more from Coraly about the topics she’s most excited to speak about, what UX Design in gaming really entails, and how to use slides more effectively in a talk, check out the full video below.

Thank you to AdobeXD for sponsoring this event series!