Public speaking is something most of us are faced with at some point in our careers, whether it’s running a meeting, presenting to clients, or talking at an industry event. For most sane people, this is a daunting prospect. What happens if you jumble your words, are asked a tricky question, or get something wrong? You run the risk of being unmasked in public, Scooby-Doo style, and who wants that? Maybe it’s best to leave it to the experts?
Fortunately these concerns are almost entirely imagined or overblown. Public speaking isn’t an innate skill, but something you learn through training and repetition. Nerves are perfectly natural, but dissipate quickly. There are simple tricks you can learn to get over the initial hump, like memorising the first few minutes of your talk off by heart. Unless you’re a politician or late night comedy club performer, audiences are surprisingly supportive. On the rare occasion you’re faced with a tricky question, saying you don’t know can be surprisingly effective. It turns out audiences prefer authenticity and vulnerability over ego and bluster.
Public speaking has some amazing benefits. It can position you as an expert in your field, unlock opportunities, and help push your career forward. It’s also a huge amount of fun, so once you start, I’ll guarantee you’ll be hooked.
Over the years I’ve met numerous people who should do more speaking; who have interesting views, backgrounds or experiences they could share. Unfortunately many of them feel that they don’t have anything to say. That everything they could contribute has been said before. This is based on the old fashioned notion that facts are the currency of the information age. Even if this were true, there are always new people entering our industry. However I’d argue that personal interpretation is key, and that your unique perspective layers wisdom onto knowledge.
With this in mind we’ve decided to offer a public speaking workshop I’ve done a few times with Clearleft staff, as part of the Brighton Digital Festival. The idea is to get people comfortable speaking in public and using their voice and body as a communication tool. We’ll also look at techniques for managing nerves and channeling them in a positive way, as well as touching on some talk preparation techniques. This half day session is super simple, and requires little advance preparation.
I’m no expert trainer, so this is mostly things I’ve picked up along the way. As such, the small amount of money I’m asking for is there to create a commitment, and any profits will go to charity. This session won’t turn you into a world class speaker overnight. However everybody I have done this session with—be they complete beginners or experienced speakers—have come away feeling better, more confident speakers. So if you know anybody who fancies joining me in Brighton on the 3rd of September, please forward them this article.