Confessions of a public speaker - My key takeaways

3 minute read

I recently finished the book “Confessions of a public speaker” which was recommended to me by Kim Moir. I also can recommend this book; as it contains very good advice (although some chapters for example “Lessions from my 15 minutes of fame” and “Confessions” were a bit boring).

Here are my key takeaways:

  1. People do not care (to much) about your performance: Most people do not really care about your performance. So if you making a mistake, move on; most people will not even recognize. People are very much guided by your behavior, if something goes wrong and you behave as if it is funny / embarrassing the audience will think the same.
  2. Practice your talk: This is the most important tip. Make sure you know your slides and the things you want to say. To not memorize what to say but know your flow of presentation.
  3. Tell a story and provide a steady rhythm: While practicing your talk make sure the flow of the presentation is natural and is told in a form of a good story.
  4. Practice your demos: In case you are planning a demo make sure you have practice them as well. Do not try to show something which you have not tested before.
  5. Know your key points: Be ready to summarize your key points in 30 seconds. Highlight the key points in your presentation. Make your key points as concise as possible.
  6. Know the counterarguments:Think about possible counterarguments of your presentation and be ready to discuss them.
  7. Plan to finish early: Plan to finish ahead of time so that in case of problems you have some time for adjustment. Also this gives people the chance to ask questions and to get to the next talk.
  8. Appear professional: People expect that you are good at what you are doing. Don’t tell people you have no experience in the topic / presenting / with powerpoint etc. It goes back to practice. If you practice enough you should be able to appear professional even if you are not.

  9. Adjust to your environment: if only 10 people show up to your talk and you have a huge room, try to bring the people closer together and make the talk more interactive.
  10. Use a presentator: Avoid disturbing your flow of presentation by walking to your laptop to advance the slides. Have a device ready to advance the slides.
  11. Use a interesting title in your presentation: For example do not use “Eclipse e4 Introduction” but for example “Why Eclipse e4 rocks” of something similar. A title should create interest and attract people.
  12. Video tape yourself and watch yourself: This is a tough one. A very disturbing experience is to videotape yourself with a webcam at home an see yourself presenting. Like most people I personally don’t like myself on video but it is an excellent way to see the stupid things you are doing during a presentation.
  13. Avoid filler words: This is connected to practise, avoid saying “hmmms”, “ahhhhh” in case you searching for words. It is perfectly fine to have a silence during your presentation. This will allow people to think about your works. This one is easy to spot if you videotap yourself.
  14. Reduce your personal tics: Also here the video stuff help. Are you always using the same phrase, e.g. “and so” or are you rubbing all the time your nose? Try to reduce that.
  15. Get ride of your badge: If you have a conference badge with your name get ride of it before your presentation.

I will try to follow this advice in the future and hope that by that I can improve the experience of my audience.