How To Talk Really, Really Good (and how to get the chance to)
How To Talk Really, Really Good (and how to get the chance to)
This is a common issue that people face. The struggle to think of something you can talk about well that others will find interesting.
● It’s easy to dismiss the things you’ve learnt as easy.
Once upon a time you didn’t know the things you take for granted now. Remember the people/blog/workshop/talk you learnt some of this from? Remember how great it was? It wouldn’t have been created if people didn’t talk about the stuff they once found hard, but now dismiss as something “everyone” would know.
It’s easy to not acknowledge how far you’ve come, and how your knowledge could be helpful and interesting to others.
● What do you get excited about?
Go for a coffee or a walk with a friend or colleague. Talk about some of the stuff you’ve been doing or learning. Maybe some of your frustrations.
That thing you couldn’t shut up about - that’s your talk.
● What lessons did you learn / What can be learnt from your experience?
This could be a good lesson “I learnt how to write ABC app in XYZ language” or a bad lesson “I now know what happens when you do X which breaks production”.
What did you learn? How can other people benefit from these lessons?
THIS IS NOT FOR EVERYONE:
● Some people find fear a great motivator
Want to learn about something? Submit it as a talk topic for an upcoming conference. You’ll have to learn it to speak about it.
● But remember: You must be prepared enough for questions. Learning content takes time.
Writing a Biography
● Who are you
Name, what you do.
● What’s your experience in this area?
Show your credentials for speaking on this topic. It’s fine to say “I am a front end developer who is eager to learn new frameworks”. You don’t have to be an expert.
● Something fun
Something to make it possible for people to come up and say hi. I use “I am easily bribed with coffee” because then people can come up and offer to buy me a coffee to start chatting. I talk about my past life as a neuroscientist, to show I’m human and have made some funky decisions.
● Like these facts will change over time so will your bio
● … and try to frame this information so it’s relevant to the meetup/conference/talk topic.
For a talk that is technical, or at a technically focused conference, I will edit my bio to focus on my more technical interests and achievements.
If I’m talking about community building or diversity, my bio is changed to suit this topic. I focus on the events I’ve helped run.
Why are you giving this talk? What is it about?
Get people to check your work or use tools like Grammarly.
● Plain English
Avoid jargon, acronyms or slang. (See resources for links)
● How is the talk useful?
What is this talks purpose and are there any takeaways?
● Who is it useful to?
What level, disciplines etc?
● What makes this different from the other talks?
What makes your talk stand out from the competing talks on the same topic? Do you have a unique view point or experience? Are you using a hook like your talk is based on scenes from Jurrasic Park?
● Will your audience take anything from this talk?
Will they want to go away and change their process or try that new framework?
● Can it be applied or is it just entertainment?
It can be both applied and entertaining, but theres nothing wrong with talks that cant be applied.
● Hook & what problem are you solving solving. ● Briefly, what does the talk include? ● Who is it useful for & last hook.
● Don’t worry about writing the talk until it’s accepted
Write a few abstracts, send them in, write the talk (if any) that are selected. It’s a lot of work to write a talk.
Find a mentor. This could be at work, on social media, using HelpMeAbstract or otherwise.
Attend a speaking workshop or a confidence building workshop. Learn in a setting that isn’t as intimidating as a large audience
● Write out what you want to cover ● Can you clearly talk about all the material in the time you have? ● Do you need more/less depth in any areas? Consider your time limits and how much content you are excpecting your audience to retain.
● Organise your thoughts ● Story telling technique (see resources) ● Do all your points make sense and fit?
● Capitalisation & dyslexia
Full caps aren’t friendly to some dyslexics. Use sentence casing.
● Make your slides and notes available online
Some people may want to print them out or read the content using a screen reader.
● Not too much text
People will be reading rather than listening, and you may use your slides as a crutch - reading off them. This isn’t great for anyone.
● Colour Blindness
Test your slides using a colourblindness tool to make sure all your attendees can see.
Keep your language clean and non-sexualised. Swearing and sexualised language can alienenate your audience.
Don’t slag off tech, discplines, jobs. Stay neutral.
● Don’t use looping gifs
They are very distracting.
● Rehearse the full thing
See if the pacing and flow is right. Find out which bits you struggle on.
● Rehearse the bits you falter on individually
These will be the bits you don’t like to rehearse - but need to.
● Cut back on your notes
The fewer notes you have, the less likely you are to panic when you miss your place or a point. The less likely you will be reading as well - which is a better opportunity to tak to your audience.
● Timing and pacing tricks
I like to have an image on every “10th minute” slide. That way I can check against my timer to see if I’m going through my content too fast or too slow.
Some people pace themselves with movement. Move. Stop. Speak. Repeat.
● Do what’s right for you.
This is what I do - it’s not right for everyone. If it suits you practice at work, infront of friends, in the bath. Maybe record yourself talking and listen to it. Draw out your content. There are many ways to retain the information
If you don’t want to leap in, do lots of tiny acts to rebel against your fear:
● Asking a question at an event ● Asking the first question at an event ● Attending events ● Volunteering ● Talk at a meetup ● Talk at a conference
Not only will you get opportunities, but you’ll be more effective at work. You’ll learn to communicate complex ideas in a simple way. You’ll learn to talk infront and too a variety of people.
Meet like minded nerds who like the same stuff as you.
It’s scary because it’s challenging. It’s challenging because it’s new and stretches you.
Think of how much you can grow from that.
It shows a clear skillset that is sometimes hard to demonstrate.
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