Public Speaking

Presentations and public speaking are a comfortable area for me. Building comfort requires practice. I started practicing in Toastmasters. Toastmasters has a weird feel, it is often maligned as culty or MLM-like. However, it does provide you a free and re-occurring way to practice. If you attend for that and ignore the other aspects, it’s worth it. The downside with TM is you likely are not getting to practice against the type of audience you intend to face. Since, TM has people from all walks of life, unless you are lucky you won’t get a crowd full of coders or board executives. This can be positive because it may help you clarify your message for the audience. However, it’s not “training like you fight, fight like you train”. For that I recommend seeking out meetup groups and giving a talk. The opportunity window will be less, but your audience will be closer to your target audiences. Finally, as you start to feel more comfortable take every opportunity to present at work.

Much of giving a good speech comes down to preparation:

  • Write it out: this phase becomes less necessary the more talks you give, and you start to be able to just do bullet points. For a beginner though, you will want to write out every word and re-work. When you go to practice, worry less about getting every word on your page and more about making sure you don’t drop any of your key points.
  • Practice practice practice. Do reps constantly: run through it in your head, the shower, present to your partner, record yourself, give the talk while stuck in traffic.
  • Dry run at the venue if possible
  • Arrive early, check sound, visuals, microphone.

Resources

Ben Orenstein wrote an eBook called Speaking for Hackers geared at people giving technical talks, however it has many generically useful points.

Anti-patterns

Do not make the common mistakes that are simply a lack of preparation1:

  • “Can you see that slide from the back”. Make clear and legible slides, arrive early and check your slides.
  • “Can you hear me in the back?” Arrive early and check your levels.
  • “I’m not sure how much I’ll get through of this” You didn’t practice enough to know your timing. Also use a timing device to make sure you are on track.

References

1.
Orenstein, B. Speaking For Hackers. (2021).

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