Public Speaking

The biggest tip I can give to someone who wants to get better at public speaking would be to join a local Toastmasters Club: it helped me considerably during my couple of years of attending.

Here’s some notes that could help you with public speaking:

On planning: given a timeline between now and when you present, split it into three and don’t spend any time working on the presentation slides during the first third of your time. Spend this time writing out your ideas on pieces of paper and coming up with a goal.

On effort: a good speech will take as many hours prep as it is minutes long. A 30 min speech: 30 hours of planning.

On keeping to time: never go over time during a presentation. You need to practice so you don’t. It is disrespectful and rude to go over time. Allow time for questions.

On perspective & setting your goal low: I’ve found a good goal for giving a presentation is to change one person in the audience’s mind about a single thing – if you can do that you’ll be successful in giving your talk.

On making your audience kick-ass: Another presentation goal I’ve heard of is from Kathy Sierra who asked how is my presentation going to make anyone who listens to it walk away and be able to kick ass. Empowering people with something is a magical trait.

On setting the scene: start with a really painful problem. Describing it should make the audience feel like they’ve been stabbed with a rusty knife. Offer hope that you have a solution – draw them in.

On finishing: provide a solution and close with a call to action: like a link to a blog post or something they can do.

On rehearsing: you should rehearse a presentation about 10 times before performing it, but don’t rehearse in front of a mirror: it feels weird and you’ll focus on how you look instead of how you’re presenting.

On using numbers and lists: if you have a list – use a list of 3. If you’re using numbers – use a single number.

On being worried about not being asked questions: if you’re worried you’re not going to get any questions – create artificial scarcity but saying something like “we have time for 2 or 3 questions”. Or ask a friend in the audience to ask you a question you like.

On being worried about being asked hard questions: Come up with a list of the hardest questions that could come up, group them by themes, and rehearse answering each group. A super difficult question can be answered differently to the actual question because as soon as the question is asked people will forget the question and be focused on your answer. Answer however you like – you’re on stage, or re-sentence the question whilst nodding.

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