Monday, July 20, 2015

Public Speaking - Are you practicing?

A few years ago I had the chance to speak at a panel at the O’Reilly Tool’s of Change conference. As part of the attendee registration package I was given a copy of the book Confessions of a Public Speaker, by Scott Berkun. It was a great read packed with humorous insights as well as useful tips that the author has honed over the years. I enjoyed it so much that I took it as one of my vacation books and have bought copies for colleagues. Here are a couple of highlights:

1. Good Discussion of the Practicalities of Public Speaking – Berkun has been on his own making a living by speaking and writing. As a result he’s compiled a lot of best practices and tips that come from his extensive experience. Some are obvious like showing up early while others are clever like wiring the microphone through your shirt so the cords are not swinging while you are speaking.

2. Tools of the Trade – Berkun writes about what kind of equipment to have, what kind of back-ups to use and shares an extensive bibliography for further study. He also gives valuable advice on slide design – very appropriate given the recent article in the NY Times about use of PowerPoint in the military.

3. Exhortation to Practice – This was the biggest reminder for me. Too often I wait until the last minute to finish up my slides. Sometimes that means writing them on the plane enroute to your destination. Since Berkun charges to speak and is taking up a lot of people’s time, he makes sure to practice over and over until he has the presentation right. His encouragement is for all public speakers to do the same.

4. Tips for when things go poorly – Let’s face it, we can’t always hit the ball out of the park when we speak and sometimes you have to just get through the presentation. He shares some of his experiences and how to cope with them if they happen to you.

5. Confessions – one of the most memorable sections of the book was the end where he compiled confessions of other public speakers. Most were humorous examples of where presentations went off track or did not go as planned. It was a nice ending and helped put the rest of the book in perspective.

It’s a quick and valuable read so get your hands on a copy – it will make your next presentation go much more smoothly.