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Getting Started in Public Speaking

posted Aug 6, 2014, 12:32 PM by Anjuan Simmons   [ updated Jul 12, 2016, 1:40 PM ]
I enjoy public speaking, and I have been fortunate to have many opportunities to speak on a variety of topics. A friend reached out to me for advice about giving her first talk. Here was my response:

Thanks for reaching out. First, I want to say how proud I am that you are speaking about technology, especially when it comes to getting more women in technology. The only way to have true innovation in technology is to bring diversity of thought to the industry.

I have a few quick tips that have worked well for me in public speaking:
  1. Practice, practice, practice. This is best way to make sure your presentation flows. Also, practice is the best antidote for being nervous.
  2. Speak to the audience. Don't just read the slides. You've mastered the material (because, see #1, you've practiced) so the slides are just notes to guide your talking points.
  3. Connect with the audience. Your eyes should naturally scan the room and make brief eye contact with the attendees. This draws them into what you're saying. Too many presenters make the mistake of just looking down at their notes or at the projected image of their slides on the screens. Eye contact creates a personal connection.
  4. Smile. :-) Bring passion and excitement to your talk. If you're not hype about what you're talking about, then no one else will be.
  5. Absolutely use social media. This will increase the chance of people coming to your panel and also improve your personal brand. Even if 3 people show up (and make sure you knock the socks off those 3 people!), then people who scan your social media profile will see your growing history of public speaking on technology.
  6. If you make a mistake, keep going! Chances are, most people won't have noticed.
  7. Try to keep bullet points to no more than three per slide and make use of images and simple charts. Most people are visual learners and presenting your information visually works very well.
Here's a video of a friend of mine named Adria Richards giving a TEDx talk about women building careers with code. I think she did a great job of using visual images in her talk, and she laid it out well. 



I hope that helps. If you need more information, please feel free to reach out. I know you'll do great!
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