The recent public speaking posts have made me very aware of other people’s behaviour at the moment. I’m sure I will soon revert back to my self-obsessed state, but for now I’m riding this wave. :) Something happened a few days ago that I thought was very interesting…
I took my 12 year old nephew to a local store so he could buy something. We both waited in the queue, him holding the items. He walked up to the counter, placed the items down and stood, money in hand, waiting for the items to be passed through the checkout. The checkout lady looked at me and said, “Do you want a bag?”. I tilted my head towards my nephew in a “why don’t you ask him?” manner, which she ignored, so I conceded and said to my nephew, “Do you think we need one?”
I figured this would be a series of 5 posts max and it ended up being two weeks of daily posts.
Here is the list of posts:
Deciding what to speak about is one of the most difficult things to do. I still struggle with it now, but this last year has been a turning point for me. I’ve already said you should present about something you are interested in, but what?
It is very easy to fall into the trap of “the pursuit of cool”. You quite fancy doing a presentation on subject X, but think it’s not new or cool enough. The pursuit of cool also makes you question how your choice will be perceived by others, because you are trying to impress specific people or groups of people. If you feel yourself falling into the trap of the pursuit of cool, just remember the following:
In yesterday’s post I talked about what I believe is the most important reason for public speaking, but different people have different motivation and I think it’s good for you to understand what you want to get out of the experience, as it might affect how you approach the journey.
In some ways, this should have been the first post in the series, since there are probably a number of people out there who don’t care about speaking at conferences. In my opinion everyone should try their hand at public speaking, because it gives you numerous transferable skills.
I guess a number of people in the Oracle community who know me will laugh at this following statement, but I am naturally a shy person and although I like to talk to people on a one-to-one basis, speaking in groups is not natural for me. I always hated having to read things out loud in class. If I was asked to introduce myself in a meeting, I would get that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling and have a bit of a panic. There are two ways you can react to this. You can avoid putting yourself in those situations, or you can confront your fear and go for it. I chose the latter.
As a native English speaker, life is pretty easy for me when presenting around the world. Oracle is an American company, so people are used to having to deal with English speaking presenters. Either the audience speak English already, or the events and audience expect to use a translation service. Even so, I often joke that when I’m presenting in other countries I’m still having to translate what I say on the fly, because my everyday language is not really suitable for an international audience. In this post I’ll look at some of the things you need to look out for when speaking in other countries. Some will be equally relevant to other English speaking nations.
Volume of information and speed of presentation
A really good way of improving your presentation skills is to watch other speakers. I will often go to sessions by people who I know to be good speakers, just to watch their technique. It’s actually easier if it is a session you’ve seen before, or on a subject you don’t have much interest in, so you can focus on the presentation skills, not the content. There are a few speakers I try to get to see at every conference, having seen the same presentation several times for this very reason.
In yesterday’s post I was kind-of dismissive of feedback, in so far as not letting it ruin your performance on the day. Once the sessions is over, that is the time to reflect on your performance and start looking for feedback. Feedback and advice from others is the best way to decide what you need to work on to improve.
Many conferences ask their attendees to fill in speaker evaluations and make the results available to speakers. The actual marks don’t always tell you too much, but the written comments can be very interesting. They tend to focus on extremes, people who either love or hate you. Even so, it’s worth checking this stuff out to see if there is something obvious you need to work on.
Provided your title and abstract accurately describe what you are presenting (see deliver what you say you will), you’ve got to trust the audience have made the right choice to come to your talk. Frits Hoogland made this comment on that previous post.
“It works the other way around too… Got a comment on a deep dive presentation saying ‘stuff way over my head’…”
This was my response to Frits.
“You did what you said you would. They picked the wrong session. Not your fault!”
If you describe a session as a “deep dive” and a newbie comes to it, they can’t complain about it being to complicated. If you describe a session as an introduction, experts can’t complain that it didn’t go into enough depth.
Live demonstrations are something I’ve done from day 1. It wasn’t so much a decision I made, it just seemed the right thing to do. Does that mean that you should use live demos too? As Tom Kyte always tells us, the answer is “it depends”. :) If I am honest, my desire to demo things comes from my own insecurities. If I don’t show it, I feel like I’m a liar. Is that the right motivation for doing a demo? Hell no! Here are a few thoughts about live demonstrations.
You can demo too much!