Simon Willison’s Weblog

75 items tagged “speaking”

What are some tips for improving public speaking skills quickly?

Practice your talk, out loud, in private, as many times as possible before you deliver it. There’s no better way of ensuring you know your material and that you can deliver it at a sensible pace without freezing up.

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What are the most important things to keep in mind when doing a presentation?

Know your material, and don’t speak too fast.

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Presentations: What tools does Patrick Van Stee use to make his slides?

That looks very much like Apple Keynote (used extremely effectively) to me.

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First: I am a first time speaker at a convention (to happen in 2 days time) and I have no experience at all but I believe I can do so can anyone give me tips on how to look confident, engage the audience, inspire them and NOT SUCK...?

Practice your talk, out loud, at the speed you will be delivering it (which should be slower than you normally speak) as many times as possible. After the first few runthroughs, think about ways in which you can improve the talk—things you could communicate more clearly, slides that could be better presented, changes to the order that might help. Then make sure you practice the final version, out loud, at least three times in the exact form you intend to deliver it.

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Why does TED refer to its speeches as “talks”?

I think this reflects a more general trend in the tech conference world which TED emerged from.

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How do I overcome my fear of public speaking (of people just “switching off”, or simply getting up and leaving the room)?

Look for opportunities to give “lightning talks”—5 minute talks given as part of a series of talks. These are excellent for beginner speakers as they help force you to get to the point as quickly as possible, and you only have to survive for five minutes! They are good for the audience too as if they don’t enjoy our talk they only have to sit politely for a couple of minutes before the next talk comes along.

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What’s your opinion on sharing your presentation slides (online for anyone to access) after speaking at an event where eventgoers paid to hear you (and others) speak?

I think sharing slides is almost always the best thing for everyone:

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How long does it usually take you to prepare a presentation?

Damian Conway (one of the best technical presenters I’ve ever seen, who also runs amazing tutorials on giving great talks) says “to produce really top-class presentations, budget at least ten to twenty hours per hour of speaking”.

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What are some tips for a successful Ignite talk?

Practice. All public speaking can be improved by repetitive practice, but this is especially important for ignite talks. The one-slide-every-15-seconds format is extremely unforgiving—if you haven’t nailed it, in private, speaking out loud at a sensible pace there’s no chance you’ll be able to keep up with the slides when you are on stage.

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What are some creative ways to pitch a new initiative to my team without slides?

Use a whiteboard.

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What are those most annoying problems you experience while working on presentations?

Keynote crashing and losing all of my work.

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I have embedded videos in a PowerPoint presentation (using a fix), but now they do not play when I save the file as a .pdf. Any idea how to make this work?

It isn’t possible to embed a video in a PDF file. If you want the embedded video to play you will need to distribute the presentation in the original PowerPoint format.

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Presentations, when’s the best time to give your personal background?

It’s rarely a good idea to include this—usually it adds nothing to the audience’s understanding of presentation, unless you are speaking on a topic that really needs that additional authority (security presentations sometimes benefit from this)—in which case keep it to a couple of sentences, don’t share your entire professional history.

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Does preparing before a presentation actually help one’s presentation?

Yes, in all cases. Not preparing adequately is disrespectful to your audience.

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Hackers: Who is a good speaker or author on hacktivism and/or the recent events of leaking confidential information?

Danny O’Brien comes to mind. He’s worked for the EFF and the Committee to Protect Journalists, is fully immersed in hacker culture and is a fantastic speaker:

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If I write a blog, then use the same information to create a slideshare presentation, will that help or hurt my website’s SEO?

I would be absolutely amazed if you were hit by a duplicate content penalty for this. To a search engine spider (even a super advanced one) content formatted as a blog post and similar content repurposed as slides will look completely different.

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How do some public speakers memorize so many statistics when speaking on stage?

It’s really not hard. If you’re memorising a complete speech, remembering a few statistics is easy in comparison. Also, the stats you use in a speech should be meaningful (otherwise thy include them at all?) which means the have a built in mnemonic.

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What are the simple ways  to gain more self confidence in public speaking?

Be confident that you understand your subject matter. Practice, out loud, in private, as many times as possible. Have notes in your pocket so you know you can fall back on them if you really need to (you probably won’t, but I find knowing they are there helps with nerves). Then get as much speaking experience as you can. BarCamps / Unconferences are a useful place to get started.

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Does anyone ever had the experience where they could carry on a conversation with someone very well, but stutter and go blank when public speaking (eg. informal introduction) in front of a crowd?

This is extremely common, and will certainly go away with experience... but being well prepared is never a bad idea with respect to public speaking! Even for informal introductions it’s worth figuring out what you’ll say, writing it down, rehearsing it out loud several times in private and memorising it.

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How do you get invited to speak at high profile events?

SXSW has an open call for proposals—you’ll need to submit a suggestion to the panel picker and encourage people to vote for you.

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What are some good books on data/chart presentation?

Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is an absolute classic, and a truly beautiful book to own.

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How can I practice giving presentations / public speaking?

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

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Public Speaking: Where can I find someone to represent me as a speaker?

There are speaker agencies that specialise in this kind of thing, but they’re mainly targeted at larger events which expect to pay $5,000-$50,000 or even higher for speaker. They might not be as well suited to setting you up with gigs at startup events, which are less likely to pay enough money to make it worthwhile for an agent (most agents take a cut of the speaker fee).

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What are some creative programs to use for presentations?

Here’s a trick I’ve used with success in the past: set up your Mac to have 9 virtual desktops, then arrange your “slides” on each desktop using a combination of applications. I’ve done this with a title slide in keynote on the first desktop, a text editor with some sample code on the second, a terminal prompt set up for live coding on the third, a browser showing a demo on the fourth and so on. Learn the keyboard commands to switch between desktops and off you go.

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Events (leisure): How can I get into presentations, mixers and meetups without paying the entry fee?

Speak to the organisers and volunteer to help out at the event. This works for all different sizes of events and is a very effective way of getting in to an event for free. As a volunteer you also get a great excuse to interact more with the attendees and speakers.

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What are some tips for giving a lightning talk at a conference?

Tips for general public speaking still hold for lightning talks. Here are some tips that might help:

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Does PowerPoint has a mode, where I can show slides on projector and see the slide notes on my laptop screen?

Yes. It’s called Presenter View.

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What’s the best app to present animations and/or interactions for a UI/UX project?

I’ve seen designers use both Microsoft PowerPoint and Apple Keynote for this purpose to great effect.

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Product Demonstrations: What’s the best way to view/demo a website offline at an event?

If this is a static website (just HTML, images, CSS and a bit of JavaScript) you might be able to get it running on your laptop using a web server. OS X prior to Mountain Lion had a built in Apache which could be turned on using the “Web Sharing” option in the Sharing preference page, but it looks like they’ve now removed that option—a way of turning it back on again is described here:

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Is there a feed or otherwise centralized list of calls for proposals for technical conferences?

We have a crowdsourced index of calls for proposals from (mostly technical) conferences here:—you can also subscribe to the RSS feed for individual topics, e.g. if you want to hear about PHP conference CFPs you can subscribe to the feed linked to from this page:

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