Starting of 2019, I had 5 ambitions to achieve and one of them was delivering 10+ tech talks around the year which would keep me engaged in learning technology despite of switching to a managerial position at work. I feel accomplished when I attempted 15+ talks until this point of the year and 40+ talks in the last 3 years. Thanks to the job I took this year, it gave me more opportunities than I could ask for :)
While there are dozens of articles explaining on how to be a good public speaker, I thought of collecting my learnings with this blog.
Public speaking comes naturally to some while takes a lot of practice for others to deliver an impactful speech. Bang on this time we are speaking about giving an effective tech talk and just not an effective public speech. While some of the audience may not know anything about the technology you’re speaking, some of them may be totally convinced with a competitive technology and some of them in and out of the topic you’re speaking, explaining how machine works and understands is an art. While I’m on my way to pursue this art, I though of sharing my learnings under the following section :
Before your talk -
Speak what you love, love what you speak :
You take a tough decision when you decide the topic you want to speak. How did you make a choice to speak about a topic? How do you know if the audience would like it? Don’t you think you are wasting time on deciding on a silly question? Choose what you like to practice and the audience will like it because you have convinced yourself before you are trying to convince someone else. Make them think like the way you are!
Map your route before you arrive :
Yes, that’s what you need to explain what you know. You need not recite or write your entire speech but create pointers on what you are planning to speak. On the day of your talk, just add interesting fillers, some humour (if you know you are good at it), and share some experiences you had while you were working on that technology.
Your slides :
Attentive audience or not, your slides will help you seek attention from the audience. Three tips to make good slides :
- Visual Style Presentation : Add couple of images, charts, videos instead of lengthy lines of texts and avoid boring your audience.
- Avoid Clutter : Maintain clean slides and ensure that you don’t pour your head on the slide. Keep minimum content on the slide so that the audience have their ears open when you speak.
- Primary colours and Simple Font : Avoid neon font colours and slide background. Avoid light shades of font as well as snazzy font. Ensure same font size on the same slide as well as your deck.
- Forget reading the slides and focus about facts and figures : Slides are for reference only about what you’re speaking about and you need not read the entire slide for the audience. This doesn’t make me say memorise the flow of your content although its good for you to know what you will be speaking next so that you add right closures to the previous section and right start for the new section.
- Outlines are for your reference only : Do not paint the entire story you have planned here. Highlight the important keywords for yourself and they rest should be an extempore.
While you present -
Create and tell a story :
Nope, I’m not kidding when I say tell a story about the technology you’re speaking about! Every article you read about giving effective talks say this and I roger that for giving effective “tech” talks as well.
- Start with the alphabets of the technology. May be you are addressing a talk for advance concepts but it’s important to connect with the audience by giving them a sufficient background.
- Showcase its functionality : You need to tell them how it works. As mentioned above, your audience comes with different mindsets and it’s more appealing for everyone if you tell them how and how much it works
- Surprise them — Showcase its applications : Make them believe with practice! This is the simplest and fastest trick to win your audience’s hearts. Show them where it works and you have conquered half of your presentation.
- If it’s a conference presentation, limit the questions you ask while you deliver the talk. This is majorly because you have time limitations. For a lecture keep asking questions and avoid lectures your talk, try keep it friendly and interactive.
While you speak :
- Be unapologetic YOU : Everybody have their uniqueness and it’s totally okay to bring that side of yours on stage rather than feeling uncomfortable pretending what you are not. For example you may not be able to act like Harvey Spector but what if you cannot? Be as awesome as you’re and they would still like it if you pose it with confidence.
- Take regular pauses and smile : There might be limited time allotted for your talk but there’s no limitations on the pauses you can take or the times you can smile when you speak. It could be your first talk and your legs are shivering, but that’s what they expect from you when they know you’re speaking for the first time. So its important for them to know it’s your first attempt, yet you can be awesome at the same time.
- Avoid jargons : Jargons could add downfall to your talk if the audience doesn’t know its meaning. Use simple language that everyone can understand.
- Be specific and upto the point : Need not stretch a sentence beyond what is necessary to be told or explained. It may confuse the audience or make them feel lost.
- Ignore criticism from audience : There might be some who don’t like what you speak about or just in a mood to pull someone’s legs and they found you :( It’s okay to not make everyone happy with what you speak and park the criticism for discussion after your talk or forever. Remember you need not win all the battles on the ground.
- Make mistakes : Let them not realise it was all planned although they realise you have taken bunch of efforts for an effective presentation. It’s okay if something goes wrong, you own it naturally and quickly move on without giving them much time to think what could be better instead.
- Believe they are judging you for your best :) You were chosen to give the talk because they know that you know, both — the topic and how to make it awesome. Believe in yourself and you have already done 30 percent of your talk.
Answering the questions :
Unless you answer what they are puzzled about, have you actually convinced them? Questions are a part of your talk which are extempore. Welcome them and answer them elegantly. If there are more and more questions coming up, request them to come back stage. You need not know everything about the subject you’re speaking and its okay to say — “I don’t know!”
Teach them to do better :
One good motivation for you to deliver the talk could be to inform them about a particular technology and its practice, inspire them to build interesting stuff using the technology, persuade them to build quality products by following best practices and educate them how to do it in the best knowledge you have.
Note to all readers : I’m neither an expert in tech nor an awesome public speaker although I am ambitious to become one soon! If you have any points to add, drop them in the comment section and help the fellow readers grab more tips through this blog :)