Simon Willison’s Weblog


How can I practice giving presentations / public speaking?

14th November 2012

My answer to How can I practice giving presentations / public speaking? on Quora

Look out for opportunities to practice in front of a friendly audience. There are two event formats that are particularly good for this.

The first is lightning talks—these are five minute talk slots (usually assigned in a block as part of a larger conference in a “lightning talk” session) which are an ideal opportunity for new presenters. The five minute format forces you to get straight to the point and stay there (you’d be amazed at how fast five minutes goes) and the audience are likely to be very friendly—after all, if you lose their interest, they only have to wait a few minutes for the next speaker.

The second is a category of event: a BarCamp or Unconference. At BarCamps, every attendee is expected to give a talk. This means that EVERYONE at the BarCamp is a speaker, so there’s no division between speakers and attendees. It also means that there will certainly be other people giving talks for the first time, so the audience will be very forgiving of first-time nerves!

Many BarCamps also have a session for lightning talks (and if they don’t have one, you can always organise one yourself—that’s how BarCamps work).

We have a comprehensive list of upcoming BarCamps and Unconferences around the world on Lanyrd: and