AGL 014: Public Speaking, 7 tips to get you started


A lot of time people confuse being a good speaker with being a good leader.  They aren’t related, but usually, with a little practice, you can become a good speaker, just like with practice you can become a good leader.  It does help your influence if you’re a good speaker, whether you’re speaking at meetups, conferences, or just to a small team in a conference room. To see some of the best speeches or talks, check out

  • Know your subject.  Be sure you are an expert on the topic you are presenting… Bear in mind that an expert is someone who knows more about the subject than 50% of the people you’re presenting too.  If you’re only a sudo-expert, you can become an expert with in no time.
  • Tell a story.  Be sure you have some case studies or good stories to add.  Always tell a story.  People relate and respond to a story more than just facts.  If you can provide a personal story you’ll have more impact with your audience. Some of the best TED Talks I’ve ever seen are stories.
  • Prepare, practice, and repeat.  Prepare your presentation and practice it.  Then repeat and repeat again.  Anticipate problems that may arise and have contingencies for those problems (i.e. projector doesn’t work, etc.). Be sure you practice out loud. I’ve found that I talk faster out loud than I do when practicing in my head. Most people don’t know how to practice. I like to record my talks on my phone and listen to them while I drive, so I’m forced to hear them through.  No one likes to hear themselves talk, but if you do it, you will get better.  Practice like you play… its not only true in sports, but in speeches too.
  • Know your audience.  Get an idea of who you’ll be talking to and find a way to relate to their experiences.  If you’re talking to GIS folks, talk geography or maps, if you’re talking to software developers, talk debugging, IDEs, etc.  Relating to people on their level helps them relate to you and your subject matter.
  • Don’t say “hmm…Ah…”  Practice not saying “hmm… ah…” or words like that.  If you need to stop and think, stop and think.  Don’t add filler words.  Sometimes a pause can be used to add emphasis.  Also don’t apologize for mistakes, roll with them.  Most people won’t notice them if you don’t point them out.
  • Know your environment.  Visit where you’re going to be speaking if possible.  If not, ask what the room is like and be there early to get acquainted. It makes a huge difference in your comfort level if you’re familiar with your environment.
  • Relax.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Play out your worse fears and how you’ll recover from them in your head.  If you bomb (and believe me I have) you’ll recover in no time.  Understand that everyone there to hear you speak wants you to be successful and is rooting for you.

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Check out my TEDx Talk here.