Let's have a little talk about giving talks

Let's have a little talk about giving talks
Wendy Thomas - Tue Oct 26, 2010 @ 03:22AM
Comments: 14

There comes a time when you have to stand up in front of people and talk about what it is you do. It happens to all of us, whether we are writers, marketers, or urban chicken farmers. If you want an audience, you have to talk to them. Photo credit: marycourthouse

And if you want people to pay attention you've got to figure out what you are going to say.

I used to teach a college course in Public Speaking, it was a required course which meant that everyone eventually had to take it. Everyone.

You've all heard that most people are more afraid of death than giving a presentation.

You should have seen the students in this class when it was the first time for them to present. Hands shook, voices broke, and sweat popped out on foreheads and underarms. Each time a kid stood up, I'd silently go over the first aid procedures for a fainting victim.

These poor kids had managed to figure out how to combine the fear of dying and presenting into one giant panic attack. It was agony.

But they all did it and by the end of the class after giving several presentations, some of them actually became fairly accomplished at public speaking.

For some of us (myself included) public presentations give us an opportunity to perform. I love standing up in front of an audience. In fact, I like it so much, I make sure I do it often either by booking presentations or by teaching classes.

This past weekend, one of my Savvy Sisters, Jamie Wallace, and I gave a Presentation at Podcamp NH on blogging techniques. The two of us had decided that over the years we had gathered a lot of information on the topic and it was time for us to share it with others. Here are some of the tips we used to give a presentation which one member of the audience told us was “the best presentation of the entire two day event.”

Title – Jamie and I wanted a title that would get attention and would show a sense of humor. We chose Sanity-Saving Secrets to Seriously Prolific & Successful Blogging. We had a packed room at the start of our talk.

Organization – The Monday before our presentation, Jamie and I had a phone conference where we nailed down the topics and the approach we were going to take. We decided to use a cooking metaphor (gather the ingredients, make the recipe, and bring it all together at the table) to better help others see what we were talking about.

When we went over the topics, we also assigned bullet points for each of us to cover. We made sure that each of us kept passing the ball back and forth ensuring a good pace.

Time – We had 45 minutes to present. Not a lot of time for what we had planned. After each topic bullet we included a reminder of how long we had to talk about it (anywhere from 1 – 4 minutes). As it turned out, our total time was shortened and we had to cut the last topic section off in order to take questions. Not a problem with the way we had broken our presentation into segments.

Visual aids – Not knowing what was available, we brought along a flip chart on which all the topics and bullets were outlined. Sometimes old school pulls through.

Resources – Jamie had created a 3-fold brochure with the presentation information as well as our contact information, and a url for a landing page containing blog posts we had each written as back up resource information. The feedback on this handout was incredible, everyone appreciated that they had a place to go for more information.

Having all of this material set the stage. People knew we were prepared, they knew we had information to give and that we planned on delivering it.

As far as the actual presentation – Jamie concentrated on the technical aspect of blogging: Editorial Calendar, Short-form posts, and Cornerstone Content, while I concentrated more on the actual writing techniques by telling stories as examples of what to do and what not to do. It turned out to be a highly effective combination with my contribution making sure it wasn't too technical and Jamie's contribution making sure it wasn't too much of a stand-up routine.

Bottom line, if you want people to know about what you are doing, like it or not presentations are something that needs to be done. If you prepare before hand, bring materials that backup what you are talking about and that show you are invested in the topic, if you approach the event with a sense of humor and see it as an opportunity to teach others, and if don't forget to take a deep breath before you start, you'll be just fine.


About the Author: A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy Thomas has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs. Her current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.

Comments: 14


1. Steve Mills - Marketing Consultant  |  my website   |   Mon Nov 01, 2010 @ 01:57AM

Great site, very interesting articles.

Steve Mills - Marketing Consultant
Steve Mills Marketing

2. Sarah Mitchell  |  my website   |   Mon Dec 06, 2010 @ 07:43PM

Hi Wendy,

I'm a big fan of public speaking. I don't think anyone just naturally knows how to do it. A required public speaking course at university put me on my way to success. (See, some of do survive that experience.)

I wholeheartedly agree about the importance of leaving resource materials behind for each person. You can direct them to a website in your presentation, for sure, but giving them a handout they can write notes on and refer to later increases your chances they'll actually visit you online.

I put my presentations on SlideShare, as well. I find if the audience knows they can download your slides, they spend less time copying your slides and more time listening to your message.

Great post. Thanks for that.

3. Wendy Thomas  |  my website   |   Tue Dec 07, 2010 @ 03:14AM

Hey Sarah,

Thanks for your insight on public speaking (which as you've probably gathered is something I really enjoy).

I've had my share of being held hostage by poor speakers (and yes, college started me off on that path) but I've also been mesmerized by some fabulous speakers. Writers who just happen to have great storytelling skills make for some great speakers.

With regard to the handout, your'e right people like to have something in their hands. It makes them feel secure. You can have all the web references you want but nothing beats a slip of paper (usually with to die-for graphics) with all the information.

Thanks for your comment.


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