2008 Public Speaking

For 2008, I set a goal for myself. I wanted to speak at Web Visions and the Velocity Conference. Other than internal and client presentations, I didn’t have much to point to as a history of public speaking to warrant anyone granting me an audience.

Looking back on the year, I’m surprised with how radically different this year was from previous years. By my count, I spoke at 11 events this year:

I guess I can check that goal off my list as completed. Now about that regular exercise and diet…

How to Give a Successful Ignite Presentation

(CC) Randy Stewart, blog.stewtopia.com. http://www.flickr.com/photos/stewtopia/2789677873/I’ve given a lot of presentations, but nothing compares to Ignite. Preparing for an Ignite presentation requires a different methodology.

Last June I gave a presentation at Ignite Portland 3 on Cup Noodle: Innovation, Inspiration and Manga. You can watch the original presentation on YouTube.

What you won’t see from the video is that up to an hour before I left for the theater, I had not yet successfully rehearsed my presentation. Here’s why.

I treated this like any other speaking engagement. I started with an outline of what I wanted to say. I then built slides to the outline and worked on speaker’s notes to go with the slides.

I then read aloud my speaker’s note and refined them until each set of speaker’s notes fit perfectly into the 15 seconds I had for each slide. I did this over a couple of nights and thought that I was in good shape.

Then I rehearsed it and failed miserably.

I couldn’t even get past the first slide without screwing up. And once I screwed up, I couldn’t get back on track.

Here is what I didn’t realize:

  • My presentation voice and writing voice are very different — I was already aware of this from other presentations, but in other presentations there wasn’t a penalty for stumbling over words or finding that something takes longer on stage than when I read it to myself.
  • You will stumble. What’s important is how you recover. — By scripting everything so carefully including transitions from slide to slide, when I stumbled I couldn’t recover easily. I had to find my place again. By the time I did that, I had runaway slides to catch up with.
  • Improv Editing. — Ignite is as more about editing than presenting. When you stumble, you have to make up time somewhere. You have to be comfortable changing the script to make up time or fill time.

So I threw out my speaker’s notes and did the following:

  • Picked key concepts and formations I wanted to use on each slide — Instead of sentences, I worked on key things I wanted to say like “3 reasons: Great Lessons, Japanese Comic Book, and Less Time to Cook than an Ignite Presentation.” I didn’t care how I said those three things, just that those were the points.
  • Rehearse. Rehearse. REHEARSE! — Find a place where you won’t disturb anyone. Stand up and give your presentation like you’re in front of the audience. And do it as many times as possible.
  • No Notes! — Don’t use notes when you rehearse. Don’t use notes when you get on stage. They will distract you. Focus on the slides, remembering the key points, and connecting with the audience.
  • Don’t Stop. Practice Recovering — You will screw up when you rehearse. Don’t get frustrated. This is EXACTLY what you want. In fact, if you don’t screw up, you’re in trouble. The point of practice is to learn to recover from mistakes. So when you make a mistake, don’t start over. Continue with that rehearsal to the end of the presentation. Make adjusts and then run through the entire presentation again.
    I can’t emphasize this enough. You are not practicing recitation of your presentation. You are practicing adjusting and editing your presentation based on whatever circumstances you find yourself in on stage.
  • Don’t Expect Consistency — I have not once in all the times I’ve rehearsed or given the presentation said the same words. Each time I do it is different. This is to be expected.
  • Know Your Key Moments. Use Them as Anchors — Whether it is a joke that you’ve planned or a poignant moment when you want to move the audience, know where they are in the slides and as you practice improvisational editing, make sure you edit in a way that keep those key moments intact.

In addition, if you are presenting at Ignite Portland, you should consider these additional tips:

  • Don’t Wait for Your Slides to Start — There are slides in between each presenter that automatically change after a few seconds. Often presenters will get on stage and wait for their slides to start. This is a mistake. Start the moment you have the microphone. It gets the audience going and gives you more time for your first slide.
  • Your Audience Will Be…Well…Drunk. Plan Accordingly. — The audience is expecting interesting ideas, but they are also expecting to be entertained. This isn’t the audience for a serious academic speech. That’s not to say you can’t have deep and incredibly thoughtful presentations. Some of the best presentations cover complex subjects. It just means don’t be dry. Be energetic. Be funny.
  • You Shouldn’t Be Drunk — Feel free to take the edge off a little, but you’re going to need to be sharp to be the best improvisational editor you can.

Finally, have fun. Presenting at Ignite Portland was one of the highlights of my year. It’s a blast. And as long as you rehearse and practice recovering, I’m certain you’ll have fun and be wildly successful. I look forward to watching your presentations!

Mobile Presentation Posted

After a process that took far too long, I’ve finally managed to publish my slides from last week’s mobile presentation.

The big news out of the event was the announcement of Mobile Portland, a new user group focused on mobile development. We’re currently planning our first meeting for March. Sign up now receive details on our first meeting.

Why Posting Presentation Files is Difficult

At last week’s talk at Portland Web Innovators, I promised to post the slides on Cloud Four’s blog. It seemed like a simple promise at the time, but boy has it turned out to be an ordeal.

  • My slides don’t make sense without my narrative — My slides are typically photographs or illustrations that augment the story that I’m telling instead of bullet points that I’m reading aloud. This makes for more dynamic presentations and fits my belief that my job is to tell a compelling story by adding a visual and hopefully an emotional component to the narrative.

    Unfortunately, a slide that has a picture of a wall covered in post-it notes and a title that says, “And she married me anyways” doesn’t make a lot of sense to those who weren’t at the presentation.

  • To add context to the slides, you need to add presenter’s notes or audio — Unless you created presenter’s notes from the beginning that can be digested by other people, at the very least you will need to go back to the slides and edit them all to add presenter notes. If you choose to record audio, you have to find the software to do this and learn how to record and compress the audio correctly.
  • Some slides have to be edited to simplify their transitions — I also found that I had to edit some slides that had automatic or timed transitions to no longer have those transitions because I would no longer control the timing of the slides.
  • No good solution for posting presenter’s notes online — My first choice was to add presenter notes. In fact, I added presenter notes to every slide before I realized that the services for uploading slides and embedding them in other sites didn’t support presenter notes very well. There appears to be no way to see the presenter notes if you embed a viewer like Slideshare into your site.

    I ended up copying all of my presenter notes (including the onerous task of converting non-ascii quotes which Slideshare wasn’t escaping correctly) into comments on each slide. I then added a large note on the first slide instructing viewers on how to view the slides.

    Ultimately, I was disappointed in this solution because if I embed the slides into Cloud Four’s blog, the presenter notes won’t show up.

  • Recording audio isn’t fun — Actually, I’m sure it is for people who do it more often than I do, but I had several aborted attempts including one complete run that didn’t have enough volume.

    The lessons here are that Garage Band is much easier to use than Audacity, that I can’t listen to my own voice for any length of time so I didn’t try to edit the audio at all, and that 3/4 quarters of the way through the audio I realized that I had said that things were going to “radically change” far too many times (yet another reason why I *will not* be listening to the audio again).

  • Slideshare has been processing my audio for almost 24 hours now — The final hold up on posting the slides appears to be problem with Slideshare that is preventing me from uploading the audio file successfully. I’ve submitted a few support tickets, but have no idea when it will be resolved.

Throughout this process, I’ve found myself thinking, “This shouldn’t be this hard.” But the reality is that the type of presentation that is compelling live is very different than one that can be comprehended by someone reading online. Any way you slice it, it takes a lot of work to repurpose your slides for online posting.

So for those who are waiting for the slides to be posted, I apologize. They are truly on their way. And believe me, I want them posted as soon as possible. :-)