Presenting/Public Speaking

After attending Word Camp #WCV12  a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking lots about the talks that I attended and all the great information that I learned. There were lots of points shared that validated what I already knew from my reading and my own use of social media. But, there was one thing that I’ve been thinking about lots. Part of it stems from a good conversation that I had with my colleague and good friend, Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega. Raul is known as Hummingbird604. He is also a Political Scientist and is what I refer to as a power user of social media. He blogs, tweets, teaches, and shares his love of Vancouver with the masses via his blog.

Raul also explained after Word Camp that he had consulted with a keynote couch, who gave him tips on presentation skills and public speaking. We were recapping the events and chatted about his presentation and others. After our chat I thought more about this and  realized that the talks that I liked best really were the ones that offered a dynamic presentation style. It’s not just the information, but also the way the information is shared. I have now heard Raul present on at least four occasions and this last talk was great, but I did notice that the talk was seamless. Whatever the keynote suggested–it worked. Again, his other presentations were strong. He’s a natural public speaker.

As an academic, I live in the world of public speaking–I am an educator. I am constantly “on” and giving presentations in classes, in the community, at conferences, and to the media. It is very important to feel comfortable speaking in front of people. But, you also have to be able to distill information in ways that is understandable to the group that you’re speaking to. And, this point is at times forgotten by some as they ruminate in the tiniest details or computer code and lose the audience. You have to gear your talk to your audience and make the presentation dynamic.

If you have not presented lots, practice, practice, and practice. Practice in  front of a mirror or at home. Practice in front of friends, so that the real presentation goes as smoothly as possible. And, when you practice in front of friends–try to get someone who is unfamiliar with your topic. This will allow you to see how you’re pitching your talk. Do they understand the information?

Then, once you’re giving your talk–breath. I like to walk around, but it’s important to not pace too much. Smile and if you feel you cannot look directly into eyes–look at the eyebrows! If you are prone to blushing or breaking out in hives, then wear a higher collared shirt. Eventually you won’t have a physical reaction and you’ll enjoy giving your presentation. If you can, have a friend attend the talk so that you can get feedback from someone who knows you.

When I first started attending conferences back in 1991, I had my presentation triple spaced and included notes to self that read: take a breath, smile, look around. I only had to do this a few times, but, I swear it helped. Now, I put together my skeleton bullet points or Slide Rocket presentation the night before typically. If it’s an academic presentation, it could be the same day, but I have the research completed well before the conference! I do think that public speaking skills is a tangible transferable skill. And, a skill that we all should have. Now, if all the presenters would remember this–is a completely different story!