Earlier in May, I was invited to speak at the Trend Day 2008 conference in Hamburg to an audience of about 600 marketing type/executives from around the world.
The Promax conference is similar where folks are mainly media types.
After lighting and media check, its networking dinner with the other speakers.
Some of the folks have been presenting for many years and yet still get butterflies in their stomach before speaking. One of them mentioned that he took a particular prescribed drug to calm down the nerves before speaking. He said that many performers took this drug. I'm personally not into taking medicine unless I'm ill so think I'll learn other methods of dealing what what they call Stage Fright.
An entry in Wikipedia for Stage Fright lists some causes and solutions - most which I had already learned but seeing it in sentences helps.
I've only spoken a few times in the past but would like to share some of my learning's so far.
1. Embrace the opportunity to speak and know that you will learn a lot from the experience - and each time you do it you will grow and develop. This should help you look forward to it rather than dread it. The more you dread, the worse you'll perform.
You should consider yourself fortunate and grateful to be given such opportunities to speak in front of hundreds or thousands of people - especially considering that one cant even pay money for the opportunity that you are getting.
Speakers are usually invited to present and is rare to have a conference full of presenters who are paying money to speak.
2. There is no such thing as a perfect presentation so don't aim to be perfect. Even the best speakers drop the ball on stage from time to time - we are human after all. Having said that, just aim for your best.
3. Know your subject. If you know what you are talking about then the more confident you will feel. I've declined many times requests for me to talk about subjects which I have the foggiest about. If you don't know what you are talking about then the chances of your audience giving you a blank look will be high ^^;
4. The worst that could happen is that you get shot or eaten by a giant snake and digested over 2000 years while speaking but apart from that, you have absolutely nothing to loose and all to gain.
5. One of the techniques that I've learned from other presenters is to try to get the audience involved in your presentation. Ask questions and ask for a raise of hands. This will put you "in touch" with the audience and bring them closer to you from being just a stranger in the audience.
6. You can also start off with an "ice breaker" - could be some sort of joke to get the audience to laugh. Hearing their laughter will calm you down more as their laughter is a sign that they have already accepted you - thus you need not worry about whether they think you stink like a pile of steaming baboon droppings.
Having said that, you should not have to worry about what the audience are thinking anyway - just concentrate on what you are there for - to speak about a subject that you are knowledgeable about.
7. You should take the opportunity given to you to also talk about yourself or your business too - most conferences who invite you should expect this.
You should set expectations with the organizers however and make it clear that you will talk about "otaku subculture, dannychoo.com and Mirai Inc" for example.
Remember, people are not going to guess unless you speak up. The audience is likely to be filled with folk from the industry who you will want to impress with your knowledge or services that you have to offer - this will lead to further business opportunities and advances in life.
7.Rehearse! When I first started off speaking out aloud to myself, I did feel like a right wally but if you feel like a wally in front of yourself, how are you going to handle speaking in front of hundreds?
Speaking out aloud to yourself is the first challenge - you dont have to do this on a packed train or bus or in front of a police station either.
8. Dont ever show a single slide with a ton of text on it - the audience will start to read it without listening to you. Use the features of your presentation software (Keynote or Powerpoint) to show bullet points one at a time.
9. Use as little text on slides as possible. The slides are there to support you - not to speak for you. The idea is that you know your subject so don't need to read your speech from anywhere.
10. If possible, use images instead of text to support what you are saying. Try not to have too many images on one slide or the audience will spend time processing each image on the slide and thus end up not listening to you.
11. Give your audience time to digest what you have just said. If you are speaking too fast the chances of the audience not being able to follow what you are saying will be high. Have a look at Steve Jobs Keynote below. Notice how he pauses to let the audience digest the major points.
Also notice how simple the slides are. The worst slides I saw were at Microsoft. Microsoft has a culture of "wanting everything" and you needed binoculars to see their slides which were always filled with copy and past Excel charts. Keep your slides simple.
12. If you are talking about a heavy subject like something technical or political, you may want to occasionally include a photo or something completely off topic as a breaker to allow the audience to relax and take a break for a few seconds from the heavy subject. For example I was in a conference where the speaker was talking about Microbiology. He paused after a few slides to look at photos that he took about his home town in Canada. At each photo he would say "and this is blah where I do my shopping every moo."
13. Look at your audience - something which I should have done more of. After looking at the video footage, I realize I paid most of my attention to the left of the audience - I think it was because Hector and my wife was sitting over there. Looking at your audience put you "in touch" with them.
14. Get hold of photos or videos of your talk afterwards - the footage will help you improve yourself for future talks.
15. Never take the last slot of the day to talk. While I have not experienced it myself, I spoke to many people who have and say that by the end of the day many people in the audience are either dozing off or have gone home. Sitting in the dark in silence while trying to pay attention to a day full of speakers takes a toll on the viewer too.
While I cant give advice through experience, I would say that if you do end up with an end-of-day slot, have something short n sharp n loud n bright to waken them up ^^;
And thats all I have to say about that. I think I've asked before but feel free to share speaking tips or share horror stories too!
At the media cockpit which controls all the video, lighting and cameras. The footage that they took was...not very good. They focused just on myself and you cant see the slides. I currently have the offical footage, video cam from the audience and slides and am looking for a contrubutor to help throw it all together as mentioned in this earlier news item.
For all talks, the organizers had two photographers run up n down taking photos.
My mac displayed the current and next slide with a few foot notes. I also had a monitor in front of me so I can see the current and next slides too. I've used Power Point on Windows for years but find Keynote on the mac far far far superior iin terms of usability and looks. A great example of Keynote in the video below.
And its all over 45 mins later. 45 mins sounded like an eternity but felt like 5 mins on stage. When you get into the groove of things you will enjoy it thoroughly and before you know it, it will be all over.
After each talk I give, I find myself enjoying it more and more. I think its because of the challenge and I love new and challenging experiences - its one way to help us grow faster.
I find that purposely placing myself in situations which I don't usually get to experience helps me grow fast - it makes up for the time I feel that I lost as a teenager wondering what to do in life - I still need to write something up on that.