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▪ 7 min

Public Speaking

Speaking at events and meet-ups is a privilege I'm grateful for having. This is a list of things I learned along the way.

Public speaking is not the same as a lecture, it's not a spoken version of your blog post and it's not a good idea to rant and vent. You literally have a stage and an audience so it's more of a performance then you might think. Most talks are either inspirational, emotional and informative.

How to start speaking

Finding events to speak

Big events aren’t likely to take a chance on an inexperienced speaker.

I think everyone can learn to be a good speaker trough practice, but speaking at conferences isn't for everyone and that's totally okay.

Reasons for speaking

You probably have a love of sharing knowledge and speaking is one of the best ways to do that. You believe in something and want others to share that feeling. Try to avoid starting with something you know nothing about.

When I started teaching I did a ton of free speaking at local meet-ups and guest lectures and companies. Creating and giving a talk is a massive commitment and time investment. Not to mention the research, content preparation and traveling time. That's why I have become quite picky on which events I speak at.

The flip side of the coin:

Creating and giving a talk is a massive commitment and time investment. Not to mention the research, content preparation and traveling time. If speaking isn't your profession be careful about what commitments you make.

Preparing a talk

There are two aspects to preparing a talk: the content and the presentation. First think about what you want to say not how to present the material.

Hot topics are usually not that good subjects. Hop topics will mean many people will talk about them. Convert a popular blog posts you've written to a talk. You can also test out ideas in blog posts.

Keep a list and note down al of your ideas with resources.

How you prepare is very personal, this is just what works for me.

What is something only you can talk about?

Creating and giving a talk is a massive commitment and time investment. Not to mention the research, content preparation and traveling time.

Rehearse out loud. Just by hearing your words you get to know the flow of the talk. Start a timer and deliver your presentation to no one. If you don't have the time at least rehearse the first couple of slides. This will be awkward at first but record yourself giving the talk, either with a smartphone or just pop open quicktime and record the screen and audio.

Then rehearse with a couple of friends or co-workers.

People will forget most things you've said. Make the talk around one central idea. Focus on the 'what' you want to talk about and then explain why you want to talk about it and how (the best format).

Find something you are intrinsically motivated in. Recognition or getting a raise are not good motivators. It's easier to pick a topic for something you are already inspired by. It's convincing to talk about something you are passionate about.

You can pick a topic you know well, or pick a new topic you've been wanting to learn. Pick something that you are passionate about and that you feel comfortable with. You don't need to be an expert on it.

Talks don't have to be technical, I like workshops more for code-heavy and technical things.

You should definitely rehearse your talk. Rehearsing will take out the 'kinks', see how things differ from written form versus speaking and see if you can fit everything in the allocated time frame.

That's why I have become quite picky on which events I speak at.

Don't worry too much about having a different unique concept. It's okay to take an existing concept and talk abour your own perspectives.

The making of the outline also helps you find 'gaps' in your talk.

Ask the organisers if you will be introduced, otherwise put the introduction in your slides. No lengthy introduction but talk a bit yourself.

Presenting

Ever wondered why Ted Talks are only 20 minutes? Because, people have limited attention. Run too long and their attention moves.

Your talk is a performance. Use gestures, use intentions. Be a bit more theatrical than usual.

A performance doesn’t necessarily mean being loud and waving hands. Being calm is even better, people will feel the emotional conviction behind the talk.

Improve your presentations

If you give a talk again learn from the questions you get afterwards (in-person or tweets for example) and see if you can improve. Maybe some explanations need to be clearer or pick different examples to illustrate your point. Praise for a presentation might be a good thing but even better are questions. Recording your talk will catch your speaking patterns, it will change your perspective.

Slide Design

Many people are visual oriented, so I usually have a ton of images and diagrams to make concepts more clear. You want your slides to accompany your talk, not be the focal point.

Admin stuff

Speaker Fees

Never ever pay to speak.

Cancelling conferences

Life can be messy and it's okay to pull out. I always try to do it well in advance. I try to find a replacement speaker.

Tips

Books & Resources

Cclick on the in-line links in this guide to go to relevant articles. Here is a list of books and other resources that helped me set-up this guide.


Thanks,
Danny de Vries