Public Speaking Advice by Jessica Rose

  • Don’t use Google Slides. Google Slides will always betray you.
  • Try to avoid slides with huge chunks of bullet pointed text. If you are using bullet points, have them reveal as you get to them verbally. People can can read faster can you can speak, they’ll read ahead of you and tune out if your next point is on the slide.
  • Agenda slides are great if you’ve got firm learning outcomes, but consider skipping them if you have limited time or talks that aren’t firmly wedded to a learning outcome.
  • Audience interaction “raise your hand if…” is great, but be flexible and ready to move on if cooperation isn’t forthcoming.
  • BACK EVERYTHING UP! On your device, in the cloud, on a thumb drive. In your format of choice and backup PDF. Your slides will die, your computer will die, you need to be able to plan for all the tech you love betraying you.
  • Videos will fall down, have gifs as a backup or be ready to work without them
  • Live demos are impressive as heck and will fall down all the time. It just happens! Be ready to show a video/gif of a successful demo and practice being jokingly patient around things going wrong when you’re on stage.
  • If you stumble on a pronunciation, word or phrase, don’t go back and rephrase. Just keep going, other folks won’t notice 99% of the time.
  • Unless you’re an old hand with public speaking, you’re probably talking too fast. Slow down, it’ll feel weird but look cool.
  • Speaking to audience who aren’t native speakers of your talk language is such a cool challenge. Slow down, add more text to your slides, cut out idioms and repeat and rephrase things when you get the chance. Clearly communicating to your audience is your job.
  • Have a clear idea of what you want your audience to do. Chat to you afterwards? Follow you on social media? Download the thing you made? Give folks clear, polite, explicit nudges to do the thing.
  • It’s ok to be nervous. But as long as you don’t shake or cry on stage, nobody can tell that you’re nervous. You look cool and in control in stage, it’s all going to be ok!
  • Eventually something scary and bad will go wrong. It’s going to be ok! I’ve no joke fallen off a stage before. As long as you’re physically unharmed, your on stage horror story will eventually become a charming funny story.
  • Q&A can feel scary. But you’re the boss. Most of the audience wants what’s best for you. But you’ve got the upper hand against W&A griefers. If someone starts saying they’ve got a comment, not a question, just say “I want to reserve this time for questions”
  • With video, there’s a lot you can do. If your talk is the worst thing that ever happened to you (it’s probably not!) you can ask they not publish the video. You can also ask for specific simple edits (ex. Don’t show the Q&A plz!)
  • If you can, show up early to the venue to check out the stage, test your kit and pace out the stage. Say hello the the AV folks and crew, they’re here to help make your experience (and video!) great.
  • Advice to find your own presentation style might sound weird to new speakers (how?!) but you’ll find your own style with time. It’s going to be so exciting!
  • Timing is SO HARD. You’ll often run short as a new speaker. Don’t worry about running short. Folks love the chance to grab a coffee or run to the restroom. Practice skipping things in the last part of your talk to adapt for running short on time. Running long is a bit rude.
  • Props. Do you want to use props? Props are hecking great. Audiences love to see physical things. PLEASE show up early and clear props with stage and AV folks. Don’t spring props on them at the last moment.
  • Things going wrong is like a testing process. Everything that falls down, breaks or dies on stage gives you feedback to improve your next talk.
  • If you can, buy a cheap clicker and step away from your computer even if it’s just a bit. It’ll give you a more natural stage presence and prevent you from accidentally pressing the wrong key on your keyboard
  • This is a personal style note: I like to encourage folks to rely on their notes as little as possible. Reading verbatim from your notes will make you sounds stilted and weird.  Practicing with and without notes will teach you to improvise!
  • Public speaking is scary but it can help you gain visibility for your work, make professional connections and establish you as an expert voice in your field.

  • Don’t despair, shy folks! If public speaking isn’t something you want to do, you can gain some of the same benefits through building demos, writing, mentoring or contributing to projects.
  • My super secret practical cheat: Often you can put your own laptop (which you’ve set up to show your next slide, I hope) on the floor in front of you so you can see it for context clues without the audience noticing you look at it.
  • If you want to get invited back to events (or you just want to be nice) thank organizers on the day and send them good follow up feedback.

  • When you can, create a story you can build your talk around. “We built feature X, Y, Z!” vs “Let me tell you about a time I struggled with X. It was hard for [reasons] and it helped us develop X feature. Now doing X is easier because…”

 

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