Introduction to Public Speaking for Techies Event

Introduction

On the 23rd of January 2018 WordPress Glasgow Meetup hosted the event ‘Introduction to Public Speaking for Techies’. This was an event I was looking forward to as it’s something I fear and need to work on. Public speaking is something I am very nervous about so when I saw the Glasgow Azure Users Group advertising the event I jumped at the chance.

It was a guide by Martin Sproul of f:stop Training ‘to help prepare and present your ideas to a live audience in a logical manner that will engage the audience’. Here is a recap of what I learned that evening.

The Basic Template

There is a basic template you should follow in your presentation:

  1. Introduction - a short description of who you are
  2. Aim - the aims and objectives of the talk - what are they going to learn?
  3. Meat - the main content of the talk
  4. Breaks - two types (informal and formal). Recap what has been covered after a formal break
  5. Recap - recap the entire presentation and this is the time to take final questions
  6. Exit - summarise and provide follow up contact details

Writing Introductions

The introduction should be short and concise, one or two sentences. This should grab the audiences attention. It should explain what they will get out of it.

Writing Aims and Objectives

The aims are are a statement of the general intent of the presentation. The objectives are specific statements of how we reach the aim. Objectives should be SMART (Specific Measurable Actionable Relevant and Time-bound) but this can really be SMR. You should use action words and only come up with a handful of objectives. A good example given was:

By the end of this talk you will be able to describe three techniques when using PowerPoint

Preparation - 10:1

It’s a good rule of thumb to spend 10x the preparation for the presentation/talk than the actual run time. Pretty obviously but know your subject, but more importantly know your audience. Never ‘wing it’ - if you need to do this it’s better not to do it. Some ideas for preparation are mind maps, presenters notes, etc. The key is preparation and rehearsal! Practice, practice and practice your material. NEVER have a script.

PowerPoint/Keynote

PowerPoint/Keynote some dos and dont’s. Do make heading big and obvious. Keep the content to a minimum and make it legible.

Don’t make it tacky or use excessive transitions. Don’t make the slide busy or too much text.

Media such as video can save a thousand words. Think of using a gif to demonstrate a process.

Interactivity

Don’t just stand there and lecture. Be interactive with the audience. Ask questions and individual activities can be good. Always agree to an answer - find common ground.

Questions

Make it clear during the introduction when you can take questions. For instance during the talk or wait until the end. During the talk can be a maybe but definitely at the end. NEVER bluff an answer you are not sure of. It’s ok to say you don’t know but ALWAYS follow up. Keep answers simple and if it’s a long answer get back to them.

Recap

Briefly go over what you presented using your objectives as a guide. Use your own notes or memory if you are sure. This is the start of your exit.

Exit

Have a memorised closing statement for the exit. This should be very short and scripted. Leave with a two way contact path such as email. End with a Thank You!

Conclusion

This was a very quick series of notes I took during the talk. It was great training on a structured way of doing a public talk or presentation. I can also see it as a basis for structuring blog posts. It was different to the usual tech talks I attend but I found great value in it as I have never really had guidance or researched a good way of doing a presentation. It’s opened my eyes on how I have presented before and I have realised things I did wrong.

I’d personally recommend Martin’s style of delivering the material and he was very engaging on a topic that could be seen as boring. Thanks Martin!

Thanks to Skyscanner for hosting the talk and the pizza.

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