Learning to Give Presentations Well (Part 1)

I’ve given technical presentations for years. I’ve also taught in churches and youth groups years before that. For me, speaking in public isn’t a big deal. However, I know that when someone is first starting out, it can be a challenging experience. Even though I felt comfortable speaking in public, I still wanted to become better at it. That was a reason I joined Toastmasters years ago. Here are some of the basic lessons / exercises we try to give to that first-time speaker. They are applicable to whatever you’re speaking about, so certainly if you want to give technical presentations, these can help you as you get started. Here’s the first piece of advice:

Pick Something You Want to Talk About

In Toastmasters, the first speech is an icebreaker speech where the new Toastmaster tells the group about himself or herself. It’s the first speech on purpose. Here’s why:

  • You should certainly be interested in yourself.
  • We, as a group, are interested in getting to know you better.
  • You don’t have to do any research. You know yourself better than we do.
  • You’ve got to start somewhere.

With technical presentations, this needs to change. You will be presenting on technology and not yourself. However, talking about something you’re interested in helps. It helps greatly. Your enthusiasm can help temper your fear. Yes, I said that word: fear. Even folks who feel comfortable speaking feel it from time to time. It’s normal. Just an emotion you have to deal with. Enthusiasm can help you deal with that fear of speaking. But most good technical talks that I’ve attended do include a personal angle. Why are you interested in the technology? How have you used it in your own career? Answering those questions help you relate the technology to your audience. By the way, they are interested in you, too. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be at your talk.

With a technical presentation you’ll need to do some research. You want to have a good grasp of your topic. You don’t need to be THE expert. You don’t even need to be an expert. However, the more you know, the more comfortable you’ll feel when you give the talk and the more information you can convey to your listeners. So make sure you know enough to be able to give your talk and answer basic questions with regards to what you’re showing. Don’t be afraid of saying, “I don’t know.” Getting questions you can’t answer will give you areas to explore. That helps you learn more about the topic. Then you can incorporate that new expertise into your topic.

Also, and most importantly, take the first step and prepare to give the presentation. You need to present to get better. You can know the topic of public speaking intellectually, but you have to put that knowledge into practice.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Learning to Give Presentations Well (Part 2) | Databases - Infrastructure - Security
  2. Trackback: Learning to Give Presentations Well (Part 3) | Databases - Infrastructure - Security

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