Speaking

I’ve been doing some reading about getting into public speaking. I’ll be speaking—albeit briefly—at a company meet-up in January and would like to get into doing more of that sort of thing if it goes well. Here’s a collection of the information I’ve found and my takeaways from them.

How To Get Started With Public Speaking

Ashely Baxter interviews some speakers about how to get started with public speaking on the Insurance by Jack blog.

Regularly write on the topic you wish to speak about. Know that everyone is scared of public speaking when they first get started. Dip your toe in the water by speaking at a smaller, grassroots event. Don’t be afraid to ask for the opportunity to speak.

Preparing For Your First Speaking Gig

Ashley goes on to write about getting ready for your first speaking gig. She suggests working out what your core message is before working on the talk. You can then use this message to help prepare your notes which relate back to what you wanted to achieve. Ashley and Paddy also discuss the subject on their podcast, Working Out, in episode 28. My takeaway from the podcast episode was to make sure you pace yourself and not to rush through it.

Speaking Up

Sam Kapila’s Speaking Up talks about the nerves and buildup to her first speaking gig at ConvergeSE. She seeks advice which comes from Dan Mall, advice which Dan then writes about in Get Comfortable.

Get Comfortable

Dan opens up by summarising all his advice into one phrase, “Get Comfortable”. Getting comfortable with the stage, equipment and your talk. This will put the audience at ease and make you feel better.

Rehearse. Doing a talk is like improvisational jazz. Jazz musicians improvise, not because they don’t know the song, but because they know the song so well that they know which spots allow them to deviate and when to come back to the theme.

Brad Frost on Speaking

Brad gives advice about getting into speaking—stating that it all starts with writing. He suggests attending and speaking at local meet-ups to practice in front of friendly faces. Brad advises that you talk about a subject you know deeply—rather than perhaps one you’re just passionate about.

Speaking is a performance, and visuals are a really big part of a performance. Spend time designing your slides, show examples, and for code-related talks definitely show what your code accomplishes.

When Brad talks about getting comfortable he suggests purchasing this remote, close all your running programs and do a tech check before starting.

Speaking in front of an audience can be extremely challenging and nerve-racking, but it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences you put yourself through.

Chris Coyier’s Speaking Tips

Never say “I didn’t prepare much for this.” or “I’m just super out of it today.” is the opening to Chris’ post. I heard Ashley and Paddy say similar on their podcast too. Chris goes on to talk about entertainment and jokes—if your personality allows—and says that talks at conferences are largely entertainment.

People just don’t remember that much detail. They will remember that general feeling that they enjoyed themselves though.

Speaking and Audience tips

The first tip Mark Boulton shares is, smile. He goes on to give a further 22 points of advice for a speaker. The one that stood out for me though was to finish strong. It relates back to Ashley’s tip about finding and keeping focus on your key message.

Finish strong. Empower the audience. Encapsulate your main point in one sentence. That last sentence should stay with everyone. Pause. Then say ‘Thank you’. Then the crowd will clap.

Suggestions for Speakers

Frank Chimero compares speaking to exercise.

Public speaking is like exercise: it hurts—and it doesn’t really stop hurting—but you learn to love the pain and depend on the resistance.

Frank’s first tip is to find an interesting comparative. This is the first time I’ve heard that piece of advice. He writes about a conference talk he done around screens, but kicks it off with an aspirin comparison. Quite an interesting idea.

In your search, look for common verbs with different nouns. In the case of technology and aspirin, both are getting smaller, yet have limits to their minimum size because of what we can grasp.

Frank also suggests you work in loops to your talk. Making sure you leave a question open and answer it later to build anticipation.

Speaking? Pack a Plan

Ethan Marcotte’s post is about being prepared. Having all bases covered puts your mind at ease. He suggests tying to setup your talk to not rely on audio or network, and he has a handy list of goodies he keeps in his laptop bag.

Fix Your Boring Slides

This post by Andy Baio is a little different to the rest in that it just focuses on making your slides better. Don’t be afraid of big text, colour and exploring typography. Be creative and ditch the defaults.

Speaking.io

Speaking.io is a site dedicated to tips for public speaking. It has various resources, posts and detailed explanations from the initial planning phase right through to the reaction afterwords.

Takeaways

  • Work out your core message and relate to it.
  • Try to create an interesting talk with loops, imagery and variation.
  • Practice that talk, get comfortable with the subject and your slides.
  • Be prepared, especially for technical hiccups.
  • Smile, people are on your side.
  • Be comfortable with surroundings, your clothes, your equipment.
  • Don’t apologise or confess to anything.
  • Pace yourself, drink water. Pause.
  • Be confident.
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