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…
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!
An note to those attending the Web 2.0 Expo in NYC.
I was struck last night at the TechSet networking event at how much I was out of my normal element. The experience made me realize that nearly no one at this conference knows who I am. So why would anyone come to my session?
With that in mind, I want to give you the top ten reasons to attend my talk about Going Fast on the Mobile Web:
- 24,000 People Can’t Be Wrong
Over 24,000 people have viewed or downloaded the slides from the earlier version of my presentation from SlideShare.
- Featured on O’Reilly Radar, Ajaxian, and Fast Company
Previous favorable coverage from O’Reily Radar, Ajaxian, and Fast Company.
- Few Bullets. Lots of Images. And a Story to Tell.
I hate boring presentations where the presenter reads off the slide. I can read that myself thank you very much.
- High-level View of the Mobile Landscape
The mobile opportunity is huge, but most people, particularly Americans, are unaware of what the upcoming mobile wave. You’ll get high-level picture with data to convince your clients, coworkers or management that mobile is something your organization needs to focus on.
- But with Details that You Can Act On
I’m also a developer so for those who want details and code that you can act on, there will be plenty of examples that you can implement.
- Hot Topics: iPhone and the App Store
We’ll talk about the iPhone, the Mobile Web, App Store sales and how what they mean for businesses and web developers.
- You Will Be Asked About This in the Next Year
No matter what business you run, you will be asked to start thinking about your mobile strategy some time in the next year if you haven’t been already. It is the next big thing, and you need to start thinking about how you’re going to prepare for it.
- Even Web Developers Who Aren’t Doing Mobile Will Learn Something
A lot of the information in the presentation is information on how to build faster web sites that many web developers are not aware of. Even if you never build a mobile site, these are things you can incorporate into your current web sites.
- Research and Data Unavailable Anywhere Else
I’ll be presenting the latest data from the mobile browser concurrency test that my company, Cloud Four, developed. This data isn’t available anywhere else. (Nevermind that it isn’t available elsewhere because we’ve been too busy to publish it. :-)
- Guarantee that You Will Learn Something New
And if you don’t, track me down at tomorrow’s party, and I’ll buy you a drink. :-)
So there you have it. Ten great reasons to attend my session. The session details are:
I also want to assure people that even though it is in the performance and scaling track that it has a wider appeal than just people who specialize in those topics.
I hope to see you tomorrow.
I’m heading up to Seattle this weekend for Gnomedex. Josh Bancroft was kind enough to include me in the Best of Ignite Portland session.
Like my Ignite Portland presentation, this won’t be on any of the familiar topics of mobile development or web site performance. Instead I’ll be talking about Nissan’s Cup Noodle.
It’s a fun five minute presentation. It will be interesting to see how it is received at 9 am in the morning at a conference instead of in the evening at a theater pub with a, well let’s just say, happy audience.
If you’re attending Gnomedex, let me know. I’ll be watching Twitter while I’m up there.