Christian Heilmann

De-bricking yourself – starting out as a speaker

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 7:06 pm

At the Reasons to be Creative conference I was asked to give an extra 5 minute talk for Ubelly at their Soapbox stage about some subject. As I had given the keynote before and I was rather excited about it I thought I share my thoughts on how to become a good speaker and get past stage fear. As there was no recording I thought I release it here as a screencast with the notes. The slides are available here.

Script and Links:

Here’s how I learned to stop worrying about being on stage and being
ready for the challenge.

Get inspired by watching others

The first step to being a good speaker is to get inspired and learn by watching other people do it.

On the Evangelism Reps Wiki we have a list of great talks and detailed information why they are great talks.

Going to conferences and meetups allows you to see other talks. From them you can learn what you like other speakers doing and what to avoid.

A lot of conference videos are available on the web, so check them out there.

TED is a great resource for seeing amazing talks – but be aware that this is the master class, don’t feel bad about these talks. A lot of rehearsal and work went into them and they only look very easy to deliver.

Do all this to find your own style – do not copy what other people do as this will show. Find little bits and pieces you realise to be effective and being you and start using them in your talks.

Learn to endure yourself

One big step to becoming a good speaker is to get used to yourself, to the sound of your voice and the person you appear to be. How other people see us is very different to how we see ourselves and this very much starts with the voice. Our heads vibrate when we speak which means we hear ourselves much
deeper than we really sound.

Watching videos of yourself is awkward but a very important part to becoming a speaker. This is how you come across, and this is the person you are – get used to it. You are your worst critic and that is good. Also have good friends watch you and tell you what can be improved. A lot of this is about posture and body language and you can improve a lot by being aware of ticks and
things you don’t like about you and avoiding them.

I know this is all awkward but it is a great step to being you
on stage and not some afraid person far removed from you.

Talk about things you are passionate about

  • If you don’t care about what you say, you’ll deliver an awful talk
  • Easy to find materials to use

Passion is the most integral part to being an inspiring speaker.

If you don’t care for what you talk about or you don’t quite understand it you will deliver a sub-standard if not terrible talk. Passion for a subject makes it easy for you to explain it, you can even share why you feel the passion for the subject.

If you get the subject and you want to talk about it your body language and tone will automatically fall into place. If you don’t, you need to spend more effort covering up the automatic body language you emit when feeling uncomfortable.

Computers = bastards

  • Don’t rely on your laptop
  • Don’t rely on your slides+notes
  • Never trust projectors

Hardware seems to have an uncanny knack of breaking when you need it. Your computer will be totally fine until you are up on stage – then it starts to lock up on you. Projectors have a creative edge to them displaying your slides and notes in ways you don’t intend to and can’t deal with.

All of these things should be a nice to have but not make and break your presentation. Just prepare for a few things going wrong and if they do, swiftly move on.

Share pain and excitement

  • Tell stories
  • Share how you learned what you tell people
  • Share success and failure stories

One big obstacle for a lot of new speakers is to move from human to expert that needs to inspire. This step is much less hard to take when you stay human and think of human ways to interact with the audience. Share that you are excited and/or afraid of being on stage and talking about this. Be human, be honest. Good stories on how you reached conclusions, how you bettered your ways and how a failure got turned into a success are a great way to give an inspiring talk. Use them.

Share on Mastodon (needs instance)

Share on Twitter

My other work: