The first step to eliminate your weaknesses is to realise that they exist and name them. I know I am not good when it comes to public speech. My diploma thesis is quite good, source code isn’t so bad at all, but the way I presented them in the front of people who could say “Yes” or “No” to my degree, was really far away from the state I could summarize as “decent presentation”. In short: it definitely wasn’t the best performance ever but probably was close to the worst one 🙂
And that’s why I recently bought an interesting book “Confesions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun.
The most important thing you should know before you even consider buying this title is that:
Reading this book will NOT make you a better speaker, only practice can do it.
But this book will tell you why you should practice, what you should practice and how you could prepare to your speech to maximize probability of performing really well.
Why we hate public speech
Scott Berkun writes that our brain from thousands of years was learnt that:
Four things very bad for our survival are: 1. Standing alone 2. In open territory with no place to hide
3. Without a weapon 4. In front of large crowd of creatures staring at you
So there is no way to feel completely relaxed when our mind is considering our position as dangerous. We just should learn how to handle it effectively. Even most popular people (like Bono from U2) have stage-fright before their performance. They just know how to avoid losing control of how they behave in front of the crowd.
And Scott gives us many, many useful tips how to suck less at public speech. I will cite some of them but book is really packed with many more so if this post seems interesting and you think that your speaking talents could be improved too, you should really consider buying this book.
Tips and tricks for a public speaker
- Never plan to use full time for your presentation. Always save 10-20% for safety so you won’t struggle to pack all material in shorter time than you planned. Someone before your talk could talk too long, someone from the audience could interrupt you with long question in the middle, so just have a little buffer for the unexpected.
- Avoid the mistake of trying not to make any mistakes. You can’t be perfect, practice as much as you can, but be prepared for mistakes and don’t panic if you made one.
- Your response to a mistake defines the audience’s response. Take those problems lightly and the audience will do the same.
- If you speak in a large room to the small crowd, ask them to gather into smaller space so that you could concentrate more on talking to people than on talking to empty space and empty chairs.
- Transitions between slides are very important. You should prepare your talk in the way that what you say at each slide introduces the next one. Then your story will be fluent and consistent.
- Involve the audience: ask questions about experience in the topic you will be talking about, let them raise your hands, give them problem to solve: “What will you do when one day before deadline your office lost internet connection for the whole day?” Let people interact with you.
- Try to set up monitor visible only to you with the same slides your audience could see. You won’t show your back to the audience every time you want to glimpse at your slides.
- Buy remote control to your laptop. You won’t be tied to your desk and you could stand in the best place on the stage.
- Use timer to track progress of your talk and react early when somethings takes longer than planned.
- PRACTICE in front of your internet camera, PRACTICE in front of your girlfriend/wife/friend. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!
I consider “Confesions of a Public Speaker” by Scott Berkun as a very interesting book about performing successful presentations. It gives some really useful hints how to prepare to public speech. But reading it will also give you strange and nice feeling that speaking in public is not as fearsome as you thought before. And I think it’s the best in this title and that’s why it’s worth buying.
Scott Berkun – about the author: