A few other tricks about public speaking and stage technology

Creative Commons: http://j.mp/11Or42G

Creative Commons: http://j.mp/11Or42G

The friend, and future co-worker Christian Heilmann did a good blog post by giving some tricks for people who want to do some public speaking. It’s no secret, I want to start a speaker camp (workshop) in Montreal to help people about public speaking as I want more people to be able to share their love, and expertise on technology (I’ll get more information on this Mozillians speaking workshop). With this in mind, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the tricks I have to add to Christian’s list. By no mean it’s a complete list, but I hope combine with the post from Christian, it will help you.

  • You are the expert: when you are on the stage, you are the expert, act accordingly. Don’t brag or be pretentious about your knowledge, people are there to learn from what you’ll share with them. It’s OK if you don’t know something, let the person know, get his contact information after the presentation, find the answer, and get back to him. There is nothing worse than a speaker giving a bad answer just to give an answer: you’ll lose credibility, and you’ll set people for failure.
  • Be yourself: this one sounds weird at first, but trust me it makes sense. Stay yourself on stage, don’t try to be someone else or act like someone else: it won’t be comfortable for you, and it may not give a good experience to the attendees. Actually, I would say that this trick is not just for stage speaking, but for all your life… be yourself!
  • Slides are not your presentation: the slides, if you use them, are there to give a visual aid to the attendees, and may help you to remember the flow of your presentation, but by no mean, it’s the presentation. Please, please, and please, don’t read them. If people in the room can just read them, why are you there? If you are having text in those, make the text bigger so the last person in the back can read it, and make your content breath a little.
  • Repeat the questions: whether you are recorded or not, when someone asks you a question (if attendees have no mic for questions), please repeat it, and summarize it if needed. That will help other attendees to understand it, that will help you to focus on it, and if the person who asked the question take 5 minutes to do it (that never happens!), it will help you to see if you get the main element out of it.
  • Live coding or not: I won’t tell you what to do, but I personally find boring when a speaker is taking too much time to code in front of me, and most of the time, trying to find the bug he created by doing so. If you choose to do it, do it quick, have some snippet or fully working code to help you get out of trouble if needed. At the end, know your stuff, and like with the slides, be sure the code is big enough so everybody can read it.
  • Don’t ask who don’t know something: firstly, it may be intimidating for people in the room to let all other attendees know that they don’t know something, so most of the time, you may get no hands up, and you’ll skip something important that may have helped many shy people. Secondly, be positive, people are way more proud to show that they know something, and may not lie about this. In any case, follow the level of your presentation: if it’s a beginning one, assume people know nothing. If I’m an expert in a beginner presentation, it’s my fault. If it’s a level 400, act accordingly.
  • Have a flow: start from point A, and go to point Z, in that order. I saw a couple of presentations where the speaker wanted to show too much stuff, not always related, and the end result was confused attendees. At the end, it’s all about telling a story to the audience.
  • Be energetic: I’m not saying that you need to jump everywhere on stage, but be excited about what you’ll talk about, have some energy, and give your show. If I want to see a monotone, and boring speech, I won’t pay to assist a conference, and I’ll watch a parliamentary debate on the TV…
  • Don’t take attendees survey too personal: of course, you can have bad reviews or comments on your talk because you were boring, and you didn’t know your subject, but I’m sure that if you are on stage now, it’s because you are great. Sometimes, attendees can give bad reviews on your talk, and the problem is that most of the time, you have no context. It could be because the attendee didn’t read the abstract of your presentation, and was expecting something that didn’t happen. He could think that you said something wrong, but maybe, he is wrong (it may be you also!). It may not be a good day for him or her, and you are the punching bag. On the other side, it’s important to take those into consideration, has they can help you a lot to improve your speaking skills.
  • Be approachable: depending on your topic, most of the time, there is not enough time to take all the questions. Hurry to remove your stuff from the stage to give the next speaker enough time to prepare himself, and go out of the room to take more questions. Don’t be that superstar that doesn’t have time to give more autographs. This is usually the time where you’ll get the most interesting questions, meet the most interesting people, and create new relationships.
  • Introduce yourself, but quickly: people may not know you, so it’s important to introduce yourself, but do it quick. Nobody sign-up for your presentation to learn about you for 5+ minutes.

I hope it will help you, and maybe give you the desire to begin as a speaker as there is a lot of places where you can start like camp events. Any other tricks for speaker? Some of these you disagree with? Share your thoughts.

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