Have you ever been looking forward to a conference where interesting people were supposed to talk about that technology or topic you were keen on and what you got instead was just a speaker with nothing but knowledge and stupid jokes (if lucky)? Yep! He is a freaking legend in his field but you could just jump off a cliff at minute two, and not precisely out of excitement.
So is speaking in public a natural birth given gift, is it something that you just have or not have? Well… there´s those who are naturals, lucky them. But there’s those that become attractive, clear and natural speakers. Not without hard work and thoughtful preparation though.
Let´s be honest, most of us in here feel the sweat drop falling down our face when it gets to talking in public, but we do like the challenge of it.
So here we go… we are trying, and these are a few things we like to take into account in NaN when preparing a talk:
Fear is good…
If you use it as a tool (not a blocker) to get you in and through your talk with a little adrenaline and responsibility. Use it to keep you alert and responsible for preparing your well worked-on talk.
Let those shaky hands play their part while you practice, let your fear of forgetting what to say motivate you to study and dominate your topic before you get to the stage.
And over all, your audience: They have probably spent money, time and effort in going to your talk. They deserve your full-on commitment and respect. Let that pressure unease you a little while you are preparing.
Know your topic, know it well…
As said before, people will expect you to know what you are talking about. Obvious right? So make sure you take on the challenge of exposing a topic once you dominate it enough to stand in front of an audience. Unless… you are practicing or just sharing what you know about it and everyone is clear beforehand.
Be yourself, the best of yourself…
You can’t give what you don’t have so don’t fake it. It´s pretty obvious when someone does that. Do however, try to get the best out of your own personality, polish it, work on your weaknesses and practice, practice, practice. Really, this last one is important! People will appreciate and respect an honest, simple and well prepared person.
Never underestimate your audience
As said before, people have stopped doing things to go and listen to what you have to say. So take on the commitment with responsibility. You owe it to them. Respect the theme, respect the time set for it and respect the time it takes to prepare such a task. The audience has every right to feel disappointed when these things don’t happen.
Side comment: no matter how much you know about politics, superheroes or religion, there is no need to drop them into your talk unless they reinforce your point. Same with jokes here. You never know who´s sitting in your audience and how this can put them off for the rest of your valuable talk.
Limit your content
You might know a lot, you might want to say everything you can possibly say, you might want to show off a little or you just don’t know how to communicate what is truly relevant. But the truth is, there is only a certain amount of information people can take in before they start getting lost. If you don’t limit your talk to what is truly important, you will probably not get your message through, you will get people bored and lose the opportunity to send people home happy and enthusiastic about what they have learnt. This also applies to visual aids. The more content you put into your visual presentation, the more distracted and confused people will be. Plus, you shouldn’t need them too much if you know your content well enough. Just use them as a support for what you’re saying.
-What do I really want people to get out of this?
-How can I reduce the content in order to give a clear and applicable message?
-Is there a simpler way to share my knowledge?
Huge issue here. Adjusting your talk to the stipulated time can be very difficult yet is one big important part in a successful delivery. If there is a set time for your presentation, respect it. Again, people have set time apart to listen to you and it won’t be very often that they´ll thank you for taking an extra 20 minutes to get your message through. Try finishing 5 minutes before, you’ll have time to mingle and let those who really want to know more talk to you personally.
Core prep: Introduction, Middle and End
As obvious and school like as it sounds, dividing your talk into these three parts will help you organize yourself and give clear structure to your message.
Most people focus mainly on the Middle part because it’s the longest. But truth is, the three are equally important they just have different performance times. Let’s just go over them quickly:
Introduction: This is the moment where the audience will decide whether they like you or not, whether you sound credible or not and they´ll choose to listen or not. This is how important the introduction is. So… dedicate time preparing it. Think of a phrase or story that will lead you into the following part. Don’t make it all about you. Introduction is supposed to get people into perspective of what is going to happen next. Make it interesting.
Middle: Try reducing your content into 3 or 4 main points. If it is really necessary, extend but don’t forget that if you aim for a lot you are likely to cover little. Dividing your message into clear and defined points will help people focus and allow you to keep on track, which is really important if you have the tendency to diverge into the unknown.
End: This also takes timely preparation. This is when your message should naturally lead to a closure. An efficient ending consists in a quick and good round up with applicable and valuable premises drawn out of the previous exposed ideas.
Practice, prepare, practice
Ok, so we’ve been through a few “do’s and don’ts” and it all might sound a bit too much, but trust me… Just take one step at a time, find your own style and what works best for you, give yourself time, practice, get a mentor (no need for an international talks legend), try sharing what you know at work, ask for help and feedback from your colleagues and just go for it. I also recommend you take a few minutes to read our latest post Continuous Learning, where Gustavo Alberola speaks about different ways of learning here in NaN and shares some ideas on “learning how to learn”. Surely a good start for taking the first steps into public speaking .