Five things about public speaking

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As part of the WeAreDevelopers World Congress 2023, we did a quick session on starting out as a public speaker. To this end, I was asked to do a “Five things about public speaking” video. Here is the video and a write-up about the tips.

In the world of public speaking, engaging, informing, and delighting an audience is both an art and a science. If you’re a novice speaker ready to step onto the stage and into the spotlight, here are some tips.

Share Your Story

Every aspect of your talk should reflect who you are as an individual. Your slides, while offering informative visuals, are merely wallpaper lending a backdrop to your core message. Therefore, presentation success lies largely in your personal connection to the topic at hand.

Share your enthusiasm by explaining why the subject excites you, how you discovered it, and what resources you’ve used—all of which your audience can use later when they want do learn more about the topic.

“How you learned about a topic, why it matters to you, and why it should matter to the audience, is the best way to bring something across.”

Dealing with Nerves

While it’s perfectly natural to be nervous before a talk, it’s crucial to manage these emotions productively. Use this energy to fuel your performance on stage. If the anxiety feels overwhelming, open up about it—authenticity resonates with people.

Redirect your focus from potential judgement to your fundamental purpose: to show excitement and share knowledge.

Preparing for your Talk

Primarily, prepare by conducting thorough research to master your content. Find something current and relative to your topic to serve as a hook for your audience, demonstrating the immediacy and relevance of what you’re discussing.

Secure your presentation by making sure all your demos and materials function offline and are accessible to your audience afterwards. Familiarise yourself with the technological equipment available to avoid overcomplicating or failing demonstrations.

It is highly important to learn about your audience and cater your presentation to their needs. Aim to provide them with a key takeaway they can use to impress their superiors.

Do’s and Don’ts

Do’s

  1. Tell Stories. Make the subject human and exciting, and point to materials where your audience can learn more.
  2. Limit Yourself. Instead of overwhelming the audience with excessive amounts of information, focus on delivering one key point exceptionally well.
  3. Use Clear and Simple Language. Avoid showing off your mastery over sophisticated vocabulary and instead strive to be comprehensible to your audience.

Don’ts

  1. Take all the credit. Give credit where it’s due, acknowledging the people from whom you’ve learned.
  2. Read out your slides to the audience. You’re not an audience member but the show-runner. The human factor in a presentation is what can’t be digested from simply reading a slide.
  3. Try to be funny for the sake of being funny. Humor is great, but only when it doesn’t become a distraction from your main message.

Harness the Unexpected

During one of my keynotes on machine learning, a power outage left me delivering my message in the dark, and later, my slides appearing in an unintended random order. Instead of panicking, I leveraged these mishaps to emphasise the unreliability of machines—ironically, the exact message I had come to share.

Remember, when unexpected situations arise during your talk, flip them to your advantage. Owning your story and being an expert on your content equips you for effectively dealing with any hurdles that may occur on stage.

In conclusion, successful public speaking requires substantial preparation, an understanding of your audience, and most importantly, a genuine passion for your topic. Serve as a guide to your audience by threading a story throughout your presentation, and never lose sight of why the subject holds significance for both you and your listeners.

We are looking for presenters!

If you want to start as a public speaker, remember that WeAreDevelopers has a “live” video series and we are looking for presenters. Check out the WeAreDevelopers live site and the call for papers.

This post has partly been created using VideoTap.

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