18 things I have learned about public speaking

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18 things I have learned about public speaking and from giving talks, over the years.


  • 1. 18 things I have learnedabout public speaking*Richard Adams@dickyadams

2. Why me?Experienced Trained TeacherExperienced University LecturerOver 40 public talks in the last ten yearsMentored around the worldA number of TV appearances 3. Preparation 4. 1. Know what you aretalking about*I have seen many people talk who clearly dont fully understand what they are talking about.Stick to what you know.Have some confidence that you do know your stuff, you wouldnt have been asked to talkotherwise. Dont compare yourself to people who are professional talkers, its pointless like playingSunday football and worrying that you arent as good as a professional player. 5. 2. Know what you havebeen asked to talkabout *Many people go off topic and Ive been sat in audiences thathave grown very frustrated/bored/wandered off/engrossed inTwitter due to the speaker not talking about what is billed. 6. 3. Advertise or not?*Sure, you're there to talk about an aspect of your business soDO inform but only in the context of answering the brief It issooooo boring and of course, just plain bad manners, are youthat bad mannered? 7. 4. Rehearse, read it outloud and then edit*I myself have done talks where for various reasons I havent hadchance to read it out to myself before I speak it and they haveinvariably not been great, always interesting thankfully, but not greatexperiences.If YOU cant read it out loud in PRIVATE, how can you do it in public? 8. The Talk 9. 5. To mic or not to mic*You may or may not need a microphone. If one is offered, remember,its usually because they are recording the talk, so use it. Having aradio mike is great as it allows you to walk around a stage and stopsyou gripping any stray lecterns until your fingers go white. 10. 6. Cue-cards, Script orAd-Lib?*Its up to you. I was taught that cards are best as they reduce the stilteddelivery that reading brings. Actors can read scripts really well, are YOU anactor? No, you're an expert so be natural. I once followed a guy who wasso allied to his script, he sent literally 50% of the audience to theloos/coffee. I had a terrible time following that. 11. 7. To PowerPoint or not*PowerPoint means your talk deck can be sent around the world and reviewed so its agreat tool, but use it properly. Only use it to display images, videos or bullet points(hence its name by the way).DONT fill each slide with text. Any text should be in your script or on the notes view forreflection afterwards.Dont be afraid to use props, people love them. 12. 8. Take three deepbreaths*JUST BEFORE you go to the podium/lectern/stage, Itreally does work, even if you are experienced. It reallydoes help you relax./ 13. 9. Take your time*Dont rush to start, take your time and make sure things areworking. If they arent, then ask for help, these things happen.In the meantime, while the techies fix things, talk to theaudience and ask them who they are and where they are from.This will also relax you. 14. 10. Dont be afraid ofpausing*Leaving gaps between paragraphs or slides seems like aneternity to you on stage, to the audience its about half asecond or time to breathe. They dont notice. I tend to leavegaps so I can remember what I am talking about next or look atmy cue cards. 15. 11. Try jokes, if no onelaughs, make a joke ofthat*This way you will at least seem human. 16. 12. Remember, youretelling a story*A talk is a story. Even the most ball-achingly dry academic talk (and boy,are they dry) can be improved by putting data into the context of astory. If you dont know what I mean, then watch a TV academic like Prof.Brian Cox or Neil De Grasse-Tyson. They tell stories about massivecomplexity and yet make it very simple.If your story is good, your data can be meh. 17. 13. Use your voice*Your voice is a brilliant storytelling tool.Make it loud, soft, and go up and down as you talk.If you want, you can emphasise the verbs.Think about William Shatner, in parodies of him, he emphasises the non-verbsand it sounds unique; not what you want. 18. 14. Try to use no morethan 10 slides/ boards/whatever*10 is enough, mostly.This deck has over 20.Why that, you ask? Well, each slide here is about one minute long and this isdesigned for you to read, so I can add more. If I gave this talk publicly I wouldkeep it to twenty and rigidly time myself at twenty minutes (a perfect talk lengthis usually 20 30 minutes). If you cant tell your story in that time then go home. 19. 15. Use , orvideos, or sounds*Its much betterand they act as a great counterpoint toyour words.Or you can keep it simple, like this deck. 20. 16. Use your arms andfingers to point at thingson your slides*Look at your slides if you are referring to them. This is a simple teachers trick, ifit looks interesting to you, it will be interesting to them, if you ignore your slides,why bother having them?Point, gesture, wave and for Gods sake dont grip the sides of the lectern untilyour fingers whiten! 21. 17. Allow, encourage andrespond to questions andinterruptions*Honestly, its great, it means youre engaging them and itcan often remind you to cover things that have slippedyour mind. It can also give you time to recall what is next. 22. 18. Finish on a song*No, dont, unless youre Tom Jones. Finish by telling the audience youvefinished and ask them to ask you questions.And say thank you, it matters. 23. Contact me if you wantadvice@dickyadams or richard@radams.co.uk