The value of public speaking is tremendous.
If you cringed already, this post may be for you.
I grew up last of three, and was the “Baby”. Others spoke for me, and defended me.
When I got to college, I had one course called “Engineering Modeling and Design”. Besides a technical writeup, we had to present our ideas to business people. By this time I was less shy, having been away from home, and with new people I met in college.
This forced me to do two major things: Learn how to write well for others, as well as learn how to speak (with feedback given).
My career started as an engineer. What does an engineer do? Design things? Be immersed in technology? All true. One critical piece to success is the ability to present your ideas to someone less technical. Why? Sometimes, those are the people who understand business, and therefore, can fund your project, to make money for the business.
I moved into Programming. The same ideas applied: without communication, your ideas would be stuck inside your head, and basically, not worth anything. I also later learned if you advocate your ideas, you are “Selling” them. Not too scary, especially if you believe in what you are doing!
Finally I moved into a customer-facing role. This helped, with lots of practice, fine-tune my ability to speak at very technical, somewhat technical, and eventually, nontechnical levels.
If you wish to get to this stage more quickly, I advocate you join a public speaking club like Toastmasters, or user groups or meetups. Present your ideas in a safe zone. How safe is it? I would say very safe.
Take a topic you know a little bit about. Train yourself up on it, and present it as a quick talk at a group! The general rules are:
- Tell them what you’re about to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you told them
Assuming you have practiced your material, I will divulge some secrets:
- People in front of you want to hear what you have to say!
- Most do not know the material even a fraction as well as you do, so you are sharing valuable information.
- People are generally polite, and forgiving of stumbles.
- Speak clearly, and take pauses. Pauses are fine, and let the audience hear and process what you said.
- Take questions. If you do not know the answer, tell them “I do not know. Let’s take that offline and I will research further.”
- Do not let yourself get bogged down with questions. You are speaking, and you are in charge of the movement through your presentation. Own that!
- If someone wants to show off their knowledge, thank them for their contribution, and move on.
Finally, more suggestions:
- Ask for feedback. What went well, what did not?
- Remove emotion from all of this. You are a person, your presentation is something you do, but it is not you.
- Get a mentor, or many. Most people with experience love to help. Just make sure you use the time wisely, ask for specific things, and then act on those that need action!
Life is long, but one common thing about it is communication. Make the most of it, and share yourself through presentations. People want to hear you!
I regularly speak in front of user groups, SQL Saturdays, and of course, customers.
Come to a SQL Saturday, or join a user group near you. Nowadays, I’d say Meetup is the way to find them.
Now, do us all a favor: Go and present! We want to hear your ideas!