Public speaking and communication


I’m interested in making a career switch to UX from graphic design. I’m currently researching all the different online bootcamps trying to which is best for me.

I’ve been having my doubts about going the UX route as of late after reading how UX designers must have above average communication skills, present ideas to clients and conducting interviews to name a few. This gives me pause because I’ve had a stutter and social anxiety my whole life. Initially I decided that I don’t want this to hold me back from what I want to do with my career but then again maybe it’s best not to go all in on something that’s going to be such a daily obstacle for me.

Can anyone who’s working in the industry talk about what types of communication and public speaking they participate in regularly on the job?



When I worked in an agency/consulting setting, I regularly had to present to clients. If you work in-house/on a product you present more to your team, unless you are senior and then you probably present more to executives.

I wouldn’t let a stutter hold you back.

I just read a great book called Do You Talk Funny? by David Nihill ( It’s worth a read to feel more comfortable presenting. You can listen to a podcast of him here, There are also some great YouTube videos as well.

Hope that helps!



Aww it’s ok- I know how you feel. I’m autistic and social interaction is a daily struggle for me but I present to clients, lead workshop things, facilitate user research, give conference talks overseas and at home (Australia) and run a disability network at my workplace. Some days I don’t actually know how I do it- I just do because I love it. Totally get the social anxiety thing too- I also experience imposter syndrome! It’s really hard but if you persevere and keep putting yourself out there, it does get easier! :grinning:


Here’s what I get up to on a regular basis from a communications standpoint, in order from most to least common:

Email/Written Communication

I write a couple of thousand words worth of emails and other communications each day. This is by far my most common method of communication, especially as I work in a large organization. The content ranges from the usual setting up meetings/making requests for information to making more long-winded explanations of designs or UX concepts to my other business partners. I may be preparing a presentation of a new mockup, which also takes up quite a bit of time.

Internal Spoken Communication

I don’t lead many meetings in my organization, though I participate in quite a few. My usual in-house spoken communication is making comments, suggestions, or asking questions in our internal meetings.

The meetings I do run usually involve me presenting a new design mockup to various team members, presengin the results of my most recent UX tests to my business partners, or running whiteboarding sessions with internal stakeholders.

External Written Communications

I’ll occasionally need to write e-mails to our clients asking them to participate in UX studies, give their feedback on a new feature or service, or gather requirements.

External Spoken Communication

I occasionally run UX sessions that require over-the-phone or in-person communication with our clients. This is probably less than 5% of my regular work, but I do this on a monthly basis.

Lessons Learned

I wanted to take a moment to share some of my wisdom that I’ve gained through years spent working towards professional success while overcoming a number of my own personal stumbling blocks.

Somewhat like you, I struggle with anxiety and some form of speech impediment. Both of my blockers are a little different, however. My anxiety is generalized, and though it often manifests itself in social situations, it affects every aspect of my life. Rather than a stutter, I have some difficulties with dyslexia, which translates to speaking words out of turn or occasional difficulty understanding spoken sentences.

For me, my anxiety was a much worse impediment than my dyslexia. My anxiety was, at one point, capable of negatively affecting every aspect of my life. I was downright unbearable-- I’m still surprised that my now-wife stuck with me through some of my craziness. My dyslexia has always been relatively mild, though personally challenging. I’m very self-conscious of it, though its actual effect on my day-to-day life is minimal.

In order to be successful, I had to address and work towards correcting my issues.

If you haven’t reached out for help with your social anxiety, either through medication or therapy or some combination or both, I highly suggest you start there. Though I have never gone the therapy route, Wellbutrin literally changed my life. To this day, I wish I hadn’t waded through the years of self-imposed terror before reaching out to my doctor. Those were days needlessly wasted.

I also spent a great amount of time researching strategies to deal with my dyslexia, and worked to implement those changes. I’ve had more moderate success here, but it’s had a huge, positive effect on my confidence.

What’s more, I’ve worked in jobs that require me to do a lot of communication with both internal and external business partners. There’s no substitute for practice, and I’d like to think that between addressing my own issues and having massive amounts of repetition, I’ve become relatively successful in the communications realm.

That said, if I could give you any advice, it would be this: do not wait to start your new career. If life has taught me anything, it’s that there’s never a perfect time to do anything. If you wait around for your personal emotional and mental well-being to exist in a perfect state to dive into the world of UX, you will never do so.

Start now. Work hard. You can absolutely do this.


Also, Ashlea, my jealousy has never been more apparent to me. How did you get started doing this?


@dougcollins it kind of just happened! It started with my blogging which introduced me to lots of amazing people and the opportunities followed from there. I didn’t really go looking for it, I just met some cool people and decided to be friends with them. I have a large network but I’ve never networked for the sake of networking- I just like these people and they seem to like me :slight_smile:


That’s hardly surprising-- you seem pretty likeable!



I don’t have much to contribute to this discussion but I did want to say thank you to Scott for asking this question and for everyone who took the time to provide some insight. I have some of the same reservations as I am somewhat of an introvert and this has really helped easy my mind! I think the benefits of having a career you are passionate about are definitely worth the hard work required as well as the anxiety of getting out of your comfort zone and doing what is needed to succeed.


A few things of note – none of which are directly UX related but all might go some way to helping (I hope).

My boss (at another job, not UXM) is a professional speaker. He has a stutter but he doesn’t let it stop him and I have a lot of respect for him for that.

I spoke at my first conference in SF last year and before I went onstage, I spoke to a number of the keynotes, all of whom admitted that they always feel nervous before they go onstage, no matter how long they’ve been doing it. It’s human nature.

This year I decided to conquer my fear by taking a part time job as a group fitness instructor at my gym. That involves getting on a stage in front of 100-300 people and taking a fitness class. I’m 2 months in and I can honestly say that I look forward to it now. There are always nerves (that’s healthy) but it’s not stressful.


That’s so lovely! Thanks! :blush: