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Speaking tips

Mind the Gap

Making a living out of public speaking I find it important to keep trying to improve my performance. Here are a couple of basic, but effective details that I use and which I am going to re-polish over the next few talks.

Decide in advance exactly what your first sentence is going to be. This will remove the umm-ing and ahh-ing that often marks the start of people’s talks. There should not be an awkward gap between being introduced and getting into your stride.

Open with something that grounds your talk in the “right now”. No waffle.

Don’t turn round and talk at the screen. Talk to the audience. Glance at your computer if you need to, but you should be comfortable about which slide comes next.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what works and doesn’t work in any talks that you have heard. Tips much appreciated!

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  1. Such great succinct advice Alastair. The first 20 seconds will have more affect on the audience perception than any other 60 seconds in my experience.

    You are also right about not giving the talk to the slides! Maybe turn around if you need to point to a particular area of a slide that requires attention, but not much else.

    Have a great 2009!

  2. The bottom line is that you’re there to entertain 1st and motivate second. Get that wrong and it won’t work. Also be who you are – not who you imagine who they want. If you’re not who they want then talk to people who want you (and if no one wants you get another job).

    Fianlly it never fails to amaze me how poor peoples images and graphics are – even by pro’s.


  3. And my spelling!

  4. This is a must-see 14-minute TED Talk on how to Pitch to VCs. In spite of the fact that your audience and theme are quite different, a great deal of the tips given here can be applied to almost any presentation. I believe you’ll find it valuable.

    And thanks for your inspiration.

    Andr Branco

  5. 1. Ask the person who organised the talk what the audience wants to learn.

    2. Tailor everything as much as you can to them, talk about their school, their city, how your talk will benefit them.

    3. Give the audience a compliment early on, it’ll relax them and get you on their best side.

    4. “Start with the end in mind.” Know where you are heading when you start the talk and make sure that most of what you talk about revolves around this.

    To see more, go watch Alastair Humpreys or Tony Robbins. 🙂



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