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.