If you’re looking for a detailed, step-by-step guide to preparing any type of talk, take Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking for a spin. Co-authored by Californians Poornima Vijayashanker and Karen Catlin, this 280-page book is ideal for anyone new to speaking who’d like a hand getting started, but is particularly geared to those in the tech industry. Present! breaks down the process of planning and giving a presentation into bite-sized chunks and comes with a collection of accompanying online videos and other resources. There are suggested activities to go with most sections, many of which involve making video recordings of yourself and watching them back with a critical eye — something that might make you cringe, but that can reap real benefits.
Present! goes into detail on topics that shorter books on the subject don’t usually broach, like how to promote a talk and even how eject a heckler – something I hope to never have to do! There are sections on how to be a good panelist or an effective moderator, and another on what it takes to bring your speaking skills to a wide audience through a podcast or webinar. There’s even a whole guide to how to make eye contact with the audience in a natural way.
I got to see Poornima and Karen in action while attending the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing last fall, where they ran a hands-on workshop based on a portion of their book. Their session gave me timely ideas on how to handle larger groups in my own workshops.
Once a year, Poornima and Karen teach an 8-week, online, live course on public speaking called The Confident Communicator Course. They cover many of the tips from the book, along with modules on accent reduction, negotiation, and interview skills. The next course begins on February 13 — check it out if you’re ready to invest in becoming a more confident and skilled public speaker in 2017.
Catt Small, the Etsy product designer who penned a ten-part series on how to become a public speaker in one year, has packaged up all the posts into an ebook, complete with seven worksheets. It’s available through Amazon for Kindle, and if you buy the PDF/ePub version on Gumroad, there’s a discount coupon available for self-identified marginalized people. Nice.
Lara Hogan’s Demystifying Public Speaking, available through A Book Apart, is a gem of a guide for beginners. Full of practical tips, it had me nodding hard in agreement at every piece of reassuring advice.
Chapters include choosing a topic, finding a venue, writing the presentation, and practicing your talk. Some of the most valuable advice involves how to ask others for specific, actionable feedback when rehearsing — rather than general (and much less useful) reactions like “Your talk was great,” or “I found it boring.”
While clearly aiming to inspire new speakers, the book is also realistic, featuring good sections on dealing with tricky Q & A periods and how to handle harassment.
There’s tons in Demystifying Public Speaking that I know I’ll refer back to multiple times — both as reminders for myself, and to pass along to my workshop participants.
Not sure the book’s right for you? Check out the first chapter and decide for yourself.
Although it’s been around for a while, I only recently discovered a newsletter called Technically Speaking. It’s put together by Cate Huston — my new colleague and mobile lead at Automattic — and Chiu-Ki Chan.
Giving talks at conferences is a great way to take your career to the next level. But which conferences are looking for speakers? What should I say? How to give a good talk?
The weekly mailing compiles calls for proposals from technical conferences, speaking tips, and inspirational videos. You can check out the archive of past editions before signing up. Check it out!
I was invited to give a public-speaking workshop recently by Montreal Girl Geeks, a group with whom I’ve had a long and happy relationship, both as a speaker and attendee. There was only one catch — they asked if I could handle a much larger group than I was used to, since their events are super popular, regularly attracting 50+ signups. (Way to go, Girl Geeks!)
I was slightly trepidatious about the size, but my colleague Tammie Lister — who’d given the same workshop to larger groups before — shared with me some of her strategies, like breaking up into smaller circles for some of the hands-on exercises. A couple of weeks ago I also had the opportunity to attend a very large public-speaking workshop given by the authors of Present! A Techie’s Guide to Public Speaking, which gave me other ideas for handling a big group.
And it went just fine! The workshop was very interactive, and the participants had great ideas on everything from what stops people from speaking to the benefits of forging ahead. They brainstormed their own topic ideas, and each wrote up a pitch for a talk. Some were even inspired to submit their idea to an event as soon as possible!
The evening also felt like coming full circle, since Jill Binder, who co-ran the original speaker workshop for women in Vancouver that inspired this whole endeavour, happened to be in town and helped me with the group. We were very warmly hosted by Azi Vaziri at the Google Montreal office, who even provided food so folks wouldn’t be hungry coming straight to the event after work.
Thank you Montreal Girl Geeks for the opportunity to help a new crop of public speakers get inspired and get speaking!
Amazing sketch notes by Mariève Dorman
Liesl Barrell, Sandy Sidhu, Kathryn Presner, Jill Binder, Leann Brown
Leann Brown, Azi Vaziri of Google, Kathryn Presner, Liesl Barrell
Photos courtesy Montreal Girl Geeks and Jill Binder.
There are a few spaces left for the public-speaking workshop for beginners that I’ll be giving on October 26 through Montreal Girl Geeks. It’s free and taking place at Google Montreal’s downtown office. Advance registration is required. Check it out!
A few years back, New York City-based product designer Catt Small gave herself the challenge of learning how to propose talks and speak at tech and gaming conferences across the United States. And within just a year, she did it!
Now, Catt is sharing what she learned in a series of posts on how to become a public speaker in one year. The first three parts are already up, with tips on how to gain enough confidence to start your public-speaking journey, find speaking opportuities, and generate interesting talk ideas.
If you make a mistake while speaking, don’t dwell on it. Correct yourself quickly and move on. Even feel free to laugh at yourself or be honest about your situation.
Catt has some great practical advice — check it out!