I recently read a very funny and informative book about the pitfalls to avoid while speaking in public. Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. If you need a great book to read on the plane to EclipseCon, I highly recommend it.
Some of the most important points in the book
- Practice, practice practice your talk. This allows you to optimize the organization of your talk and smooth out your delivery.
- If you are speaking to a small number of people in a large room, try to convince them to move to the front of the room. People who are sitting together will change the dynamic of the talk. Speaking to a group of people who are scattered around a large room is not optimal.
- Go over the agenda in your introduction. For instance, say “I’m going to talk about five points at three minutes a pop. The final five minutes will be for you to ask questions”. This will give people an idea of what to expect.
- Interact with your audience. Ask trivia questions, for a show of hands or ask the audience to solve a problem.
- I notice that a lot of people are working during talks instead of listening to the talk. My employer paid money to send me to a conference and I’m investing my time. So I make a point listen instead of doing my regular job even though it will be painful to catch up with work later on. In the book, he suggests asking people to close their laptops and if they are bored after five minutes, go back to surfing the web. Again, the audience it gets the audience engaged in your talk and your show that your care about your audience. Of course, if they are blogging or tweeting about how interesting your talk is, they can keep the laptop open 🙂
The final chapter of the book describes some of the worst things that have happened while people giving a presentation. There’s fire, water, and SWAT teams. Hilarious. I don’t give that many presentations in my day to day job of building bundles, so I found this book was a great resource . With that note, I must get back to writing slides, practicing my talks, and fixing bugs.