A number of people have asked me how they can improve their public speaking. I don’t consider myself an expert, but I thought I’d share my thoughts over a series of posts. Why a series? Because I figured if I tried to write an all encompassing post on the subject it would become long and boring, so small sound-bites it is!
So the first suggestion I would make about improving your public speaking, is to actually do some public speaking. There’s a pretty simple rule in life, you tend to get good at things you do regularly. I would suggest that very few people in life can stand up in front of an audience for the first time and feel the audience is about to witness greatness. No matter how bad you are at presenting, after you’ve done 20, you will be better than you were at the start. After 40 you will be better than you were at 20…
So I’m suggesting you get up in front of 1500 people at OpenWorld for your first gig right? Wrong! That’s likely to turn you into a neurotic wreck. There are a whole bunch of ways you can break yourself in gently, including some of the following:
- Organise a regular session in your company. You could get together with a bunch of colleagues and arrange to present stuff to each other on a regular basis. This not only improves your presentation skills, but adds greatly to knowledge spreading in the organisation. I was first introduced to this during my PhD. Every Friday we had a meeting where 2-3 people from the lab were picked to present for 10-15 minutes each. If you had made some progress in your research, you might present about that. If not, you might present about a specific scientific paper you had read recently. I do a similar thing in my current company. Every 2 weeks I present to my colleagues for an hour. I’ve suggested someone else steps up to the plate occasionally, but so far that’s not really happened.
- Speak at a Special Interest Group (SIG). There will probably be a number of SIGs happening around your region for a variety of user groups, including your local Oracle User Group. They are always on the hunt for new speakers. It’s much easier to do something like this first, rather than rock up to a full blown conference.
- Toastmasters. I’ve never tried this myself, but a number of people I respect have said very good things about it.
Whatever you decide to try, the main thing to remember is, you will never get good at speaking in public if all you do is sit at home and bitch about the fact you are crap at speaking in public!