Confessions of a public speaker

The universe, it seems to me, is a teacher with a perverse sense of humor. The latest evidence I have of this is my most recent presentation in Germany.

The day started off well enough. I rehearsed my talk, had a fine breakfast, and caught my taxi on time. I remember smiling to myself at my good planning. 

The first hint of trouble was when the driver asked, “North or South?” I had no idea what he was talking about, so he explained that it was a big conference center and there were multiple entrances. Since we were ensnared in traffic, and I could see signs for the North Entrance, I told him I would get out there.

The instant I stepped onto the curb, I knew I’d made a mistake. There were no signs for the event, no crowds. I walked the hundred yards or so to the door and asked a lone attendant for help. “Ah, that’s the South entrance,” she said cheerfully, and told me how to get there. “Just five minutes,” she assured me.

I started walking, looking up at the bright blue sky, squinting at the sun. It was starting to get hot. Then I looked down and noticed a white splat on my shoe. How did a bird do that? I wondered. On closer inspection, though, it wasn’t a bird’s doing. It was fresh paint. And it wasn’t just on my shoe.

There’s paint on the bottom of my pant leg, on the back of my other shoe, and on my other pant leg. I consider going back to the hotel and changing but I’m afraid it’ll take too long. I assess the damage, hope it might not be noticeable on stage, and head towards the South entrance.

Ten minutes later, I’m wandering around in a park of some kind. When I turn right as instructed, I’m at a highway on-ramp. By this time the sweat is dripping down my face and neck. I take off my jacket, and notice there’s paint on my thigh now too, spreading like a rash across my blue suit. Where is it coming from?! I frantically look for a source, and see wet paint on the straps dangling from my backpack.

I begin to panic. Gingerly holding my bag at arms length, I check and recheck Google maps as I walk, and I eventually find the elusive entrance. It’s now a full 30 minutes after exiting the cab. Wet from perspiration and paint-speckled like a robin’s egg, I’m eager to get to a sink and clean up as best I can. Perhaps no one will notice, I think. 

On my way to the restroom, I see someone I haven’t seen for a year. “John!” he shouts out, smiling broadly. He extends his hand, and then leans in close to me and whispers, “You have something on your trousers.” I smile a frozen, awkward smile, and quickly move on. I curse to myself and look heavenward.

In the crowded mens room, I mop myself up with wet paper towels, Then I take off my shoes and scrub each one. Don’t touch the pants! Don’t touch the pants! I keep repeating to myself, imagining how much worse large cloudy white swirls will look on stage. 

At this point, I’ve done all I can do, and it’s getting close to the time for my talk. I head towards the stage. 

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about what happened that day is that, details aside, it wasn’t so extraordinary. In the past year, I’ve prepared a workshop for hundreds of people only to have 8 show up. At the end of one long conference day, I had to compete with alcohol and food for a crowd’s attention, and lost badly. I’ve experienced a cornucopia of devious problems with slides, room configurations, and technology - and now paint. 

What’s the universe trying to teach me with all of this?

I think the point is that it’s all part of the practice. Not the practice of becoming a better speaker, but the practice of accepting anything that might happen in work and life. All you can do is work on your craft as best you can, focus on offering your gift instead of focusing on the outcome, and try your best to embrace the universe’s lessons with humility and a sense of humor.

***

Note: This post is inspired in part by a funny, insightful, and practical book of the same name by Scott Berkun. I’m grateful to Scott for sharing his own lessons, as they helped me.











Getting better at public speaking

“You should go see Kelly,” my friend advised me. He knew I was starting to do more public speaking, and that Kelly could improve my performance. As with most good advice, I knew it was right, and discarded it almost immediately. Until yesterday. “Kelly” is Kelly Kimball, a director, writer, acting coach (and more) who founded the Kimball Studio over 20 years ago. Now that I get paid to present at conferences and corporate events, it was time to see her.

I was a glossophobic

Like most people, I was afraid of speaking in public. The technical term, “glossophobia,” is from the Greek words for tongue and fear. I presented at work, of course, but my talks were like everyone else's, dull recitations laden with bullet points from the standard Powerpoint templates.

The thought of speaking at a public event filled me with dread. I had to do it once or twice when I wrote my first book in 1993, and I remember feeling grossly unprepared. That feeling compounded my anxiety, and I avoided public speaking altogether.

“Necessity is the mother of re-invention”

After almost getting laid off in 2008, I knew I had to do something to take control of my career, and began working on my skills, including public speaking. My preferred way to learn is by reading, so I dove in. Here are a few of the books that made a difference.

I began watching every TED talk so I could learn from a wide range of presentation styles. And I gave talk after talk after talk over the last eight years. After an event, I would often ask someone, “I’m trying to become a better speaker. What’s one thing I could do better?” Framing it that way assured them I would accept their constructive feedback as a gift.

Gradually, I got better. I grew to love speaking in front of an audience, whether it’s ten people, a hundred, or the 1,300 at a recent event. Now, I enjoy the preparation and find the connection with the audience exhilarating.

But I was still missing an obvious way to improve: watching myself.

When anxiety overwhelms common sense

I never recorded myself or watched the videos made at an event. It seems silly even to me that I could enjoy speaking in front of 1,000 people but would be afraid to watch my own performance. In preparing this post, I searched for information about this fear and found a discussion on a Social Anxiety Support site, where members explained why they were terrified to watch themselves on video:

“It’ll just confirm exactly what I think of myself…It’ll just confirm the worst.”

When I was preparing my own TEDx talk, my friend again advised me to see Kelly. We both knew that she could look at a few minutes of me speaking and make me better. But my anxiety once again overwhelmed my common sense.

Since then, I’ve started my own company and have a growing number of paid speaking engagements, including several this November. Public speaking is no longer a hobby or “nice-to-have” for me. It has become one of the ways I make a living, and I owe it to my clients and to myself to keep improving. So I asked Kelly if I could see her.

A master of the craft

We met at her studio. There was a group of actors doing a reading in another room. We sat in front of a small stage.

Beforehand, I had sent her a link to the TEDx talk and to a recent interview, and gave her a recording of a talk at a corporate event. She had analyzed each of them and began by listing what I was doing well. She noticed small things I wasn’t even aware of myself.

When she talked about things to work on, she demonstrated the behavior, why an alternative might be better, and how I might practice it. Things like how and where I walked across the stage. Where I focused my gaze. Facial tics. Synchronizing my movement and my words. How to use my breath at key points. Then she asked me - nightmare of nightmares - to step on stage and deliver a section of my talk. By this time though, I was so eager for her opinions that I hopped on stage and performed - and listened.

She made the improvements so simple and accessible, and delivered her advice with such humor, grace, and charm, that I was enrapt. We spent an hour together, and I compiled a long list of notes.

“Kelly is a genius,” I told my friend. She unlocked more of my potential, made me eager to do the work needed to improve, and inspired me to get better at other new skills, like on-air interviews and recording myself speaking to the camera.

Getting better requires an acknowledgement that you need help combined with the  willingness to be vulnerable so you can accept it. I struggled with vulnerability - “confirming the worst” - but my desire for improvement finally trumped my fears.

As we left the studio, I noticed a sign in Kelly's office, a reminder to "constantly challenge yourself." I think I'll hang one in my room too so, next time, I won't wait so long to take a step.

***

Note: If you would like to contact me about speaking or conducting a workshop at your organization, just send me email at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com. The practice I describe and implement, Working Out Loud, helps organizations be more open and collaborative. It helps you be more effective while you access more possibilities and feel better each day. 

I greatly appreciate each and every request.

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Preparing for your TED talk

Before you think “I’m not giving a TED talk,” you should know that there are 47 TEDx events happening today alone, and over 50,000 talks to date.

You should also know that the same lessons for creating a good TED talk can help you prepare for a wide range of big moments in your life.

Here are five things I learned from my TEDx experience that might help you.

"Working Out Loud: The making of a movement"

Learn the basics.

Public speaking is a skill like any other, meaning that you can readily get better at it. You can get better much more quickly by understanding what others have learned before you.

The book Resonate will help you craft a more engaging story that’s more likely to, well, resonate with your audience. Presentation Zen will make your slides better than 99% of most presentations. Talk Like TED will summarize the lessons of what makes for a good talk and provide and analyze excellent examples.

Then read what speakers write about their experiences, and watch as much as you can to refine your own taste of what you like and don’t like.

Doing this research helped me. Next time, I’ll do even more.

Make the audience the hero.

The initial drafts of my talk were too much about me and my own story. While some of that is necessary for context, the key is focusing on how you can help the audience. Though my talk was about “Working Out Loud: The making of a movement,” it would be more engaging and useful if it helped the audience with their own movements.

As Nancy Duarte says in Resonate, be more like Yoda than Luke Skywalker. Enable heroes instead of trying to be one.

Get live feedback earlier.

I waited too long to practice in front of a live audience. Although I solicited feedback on the script two months before the talk and went through many iterations, I waited until just 36 hours before the event to rehearse in front of friends. Not good.

I fell into a trap of thinking I had to memorize it first. But by then, I had become too attached to the material and had little time left for major changes. That made everything more stressful than it needed to be.

Keep working on it till it’s authentic.

I’ve always confused spontaneity with authenticity, figuring that practice would somehow make my talk feel artificial, literally “scripted.” Now it’s clear that was just an excuse to avoid work I found uncomfortable.

The truth is that it’s hard to be yourself when you’re struggling to recall what to say, particularly on camera. There is no substitute for putting in the time to memorize your material - to know it so well that it’s a part of you and you can offer it naturally.

Make it fun.

Perhaps this seems obvious. After all, it would be hard for the audience to enjoy my talk if I seem anxious and miserable on stage.

Yet, I almost failed on this point entirely. In my rehearsal just before the event, I was practically somber. I was so focused on not losing my place that I lost myself. My small audience had to tell me to “Put more of you into the talk.”

I tried making the talk a bit lighter, and even got a laugh on my second slide, but I have a long way to go before I can relate to this kind of audience like I relate to people in my other talks and in my every day.

Your second TED talk

Yes, the process was uncomfortable (and worse) at times, but going through it unlocked learning and possibilities, including the chance that I’ll be better next time - and less anxious.

Whether you’re about to deliver a TED talk or make a video or give a performance in your own living room, treating it as a learning experience is liberating. It might even be fun.

“How did the TEDx talk go?”

The talk was this past Saturday, April 9th, at just after 4pm. I was so far outside my comfort zone that the uneasiness lasted for months, punctuated by alternating fits of excitement and panic. In hindsight, it was more like acting in an eight-minute movie than like any presentation I had ever done.

People who knew about the event will naturally ask, “How did it go?” The most direct answer is, “It went well.” (Or, more precisely, "it went as well as it did in practice." As soon as the video is available on YouTube, I’ll post a link and you can judge for yourself.)

The rest of this post offers a longer answer, and describes the process I went through in case it might help you prepare for something similar.

“Can I give a TEDx talk, please?”

In 2014, my friend Melody was in a Working Out Loud circle with me, and said she knew some of the organizers at TEDxNavesink. “You should apply,” she said.

I sent an email to one of the them, and we met in a cafe and had a great conversation. I submitted an abstract and was excited about the possibility. But I was rejected.

A year later, the organizer sent me a nice message suggesting I should apply again. The conference theme would be “Makers.” He had noticed that Working Out Loud had spread to many countries and organizations - that I was in the early stages of “making a movement” - and he thought the combination of progress and uncertainty about how far things would go would be interesting to the audience.

I hesitated, my pride still stinging a bit from the initial rejection. Thankfully, my friend Melody said what only a good friend would say: “Are you nuts? Get over yourself and apply!” I did, and I was thrilled when I got accepted.

That was in December, almost four months before the event.

Two months before

A draft of the slides was due in February. I’m used to writing stories and putting slides together, and I submitted my slides with reasonable confidence.

Looking back, it was terrible: 29 slides. Five stories. A long description of my work history and the definition of working out loud. Slides showing the book cover and some statistics. It was boring and would never fit in eight minutes.

A rehearsal with the organizers was scheduled for March 14th via Skype. For this, I needed to write a script but didn’t need to memorize it. To help me prepare, my wife bought me a copy of Talk Like TED and it contained good advice I knew I needed to follow.

I wrote the script and read it out loud several times before my rehearsal. I was extremely nervous. There were five or six people listening, and it lasted only 25 minutes. They gave me helpful feedback on things to include and remove. 

I felt relieved. Just a few adjustments, I thought, and I would be all set.

Two weeks before

We went on a family vacation. I shared the latest talk with my wife, and was looking forward to finally having time to go through it together. I re-read the excellent book Resonate to refine the talk further.

But my anxiety was starting to increase. It dawned on me that I needed to memorize this script and I had never done anything like that. Though I’m used to presenting in front of audiences, I always have more time and I’m able to improvise liberally, to interact with people in the room. I’ve never memorized a poem or song lyrics, never mind an eight-minute script. 

My wife pointed out several problems, including the need to make the presentation simpler and the stories more powerful. We discussed Ken Robinson’s TED talk as an example. It’s the most popular talk of all time, and yet all either of us remembered was the story he told of a little girl presumed to have learning disabilities. After going to see a specialist with her mother, the doctor turned on the radio and took the mother out of the room. From the window outside, they watched the girl move to the music. “She isn't sick. She's a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” That little girl went on to become a famous choreographer.

We remembered little else, but we agreed that the one story made it an excellent talk.

All my wife's comments were good but I was resistant. I knew that the more I kept changing things, the less time I’d have for memorizing. I could feel my anxiety about to overwhelm me, and I kept hitting the pause button so I wouldn’t go into a negative spiral. Still, the talk consumed my thoughts. During the vacation, I kept editing and simplifying and sending my wife new versions. Chip, chip, chipping away until the story became simpler and smoother. I sent updates to the organizers too. They needed final slides and had their own feedback. Towards the end of the trip, my wife finally began to like the talk.

It was remarkably better than what I had rehearsed just a few weeks earlier. Now it was just 15 slides and three stories. No long history or definitions or statistics. No book cover. Two of the stories were expanded and took up almost half of the eight minutes.

I start to work on memorizing it. By Wednesday, three days before the event, I was able to record myself giving the talk without notes.

Two days before

On Thursday evening, I gave the talk in my living room in front of my wife and two friends. At this point, I had submitted slides. I was certain I couldn’t change anything and still have time to memorize it. But my small audience pointed out three key adjustments that proved to be crucial.

“Be yourself.” I was so focused on repeating the words I memorized that I wasn’t sounding authentic. The more I could relax and be myself, the more the audience could relate to me.

“Lighten up.” The tone was so serious! My wife suggested a few comments I could make to bring some life and light to the talk, and make it more engaging.

“Say it clearly.” My tendency to write in overly-complex sentences was coming through in the talk, and at times the many clauses and sub-clauses would lead me to mumble. Simplifying the language in places, and enunciating the key words would make it easier to understand.

I made the changes the next morning and made a new recording. Then I headed to the event for a rehearsal at the venue. I entered the theater 15 minutes before my scheduled time, and that was a mistake. Everything was so new: the room, the people, the microphone, the red dot. I began my talk and almost immediately lost my place. By the second slide, I realized I couldn’t continue.

“Can I start over?” I asked. My heart was pounding. Start over?!? That’s the worst thing that can possibly happen! I must have looked panicked. The speaking coach kindly asked if I would like some water. 

I made it through on the second take, and sat in the audience watching other speakers rehearse. I noticed several other people stumble, and realized that’s what rehearsals are for, to get familiar with the environment. I went back to the hotel and practiced.

On Saturday morning, I got up early and practiced more. Thanks to Nicola, my extraordinary friend and a personal stylist (and also a circle member), I brought my best blue suit, white shirt, new brown shoes, and even a neatly tucked-in pocket square.

I felt good, confident, and still anxious. I got there by 9am just as the event began. There were still seven hours remaining till my talk. 

Two hours before

The talks in the morning were excellent. The crowd, estimated at 700 or so people, was clearly supportive and encouraging. All the organizers and volunteer staff were lovely, helpful, and well-prepared. 

My wife and friends came during lunch. They got a seat near the front and I sat next to them, mouthing my script as I continued practicing. It relieved my nerves.

I texted my friend Eve, a singer and actress (among other talents), and asked if she had a ritual before she performs. She shared hers with me and I decided to borrow it for the day. 

An hour before, I’m in a small room with other speakers about to go on. I know that other people do this every day - perform on TV and in plays, give talks - but it feels so new to me. I rehearse how I will say thank you to the person introducing me. How I will advance to my first slide when I step onto the red dot. How I’ll smile and look around the room before I begin.

Ten minutes before it’s my turn, they lead me down a dark hallway behind the stage. They put on my microphone and hand me a clicker. “Don’t press it. It’s live and controls the slides on stage.”

Tick, tick, tick. I do a power pose (thanks to Amy Cuddy's TED talk), whisper my opening line, and recite Eve’s mantra. Then I do it again. And again. I hear the applause for the last speaker, then a short introduction and my name. I bound onto the stage and into the light. I click to advance to my first slide.

As I’m speaking, I’m aware of what I’m saying but I feel oddly detached, as though it's a kind of out-of-body experience. I hear the familiar words and notice the minor mistakes. I advance one slide too quickly, but catch myself and make the point I had intended without anyone noticing.

In the middle of the talk, I’m thinking that it’s all going by so quickly. Perhaps I’ve missed something. But the slides and words are familiar now, and it’s just my experience of time that has changed. Slide by slide, I’m increasingly relaxed and confident, and for my final slides I’m fully present. Then it's over. I hear the applause, and walk off stage.

Afterwards

I feel weightless afterwards. The burden of the talk having been lifted, I am light and unencumbered, not thinking about anything.

I walked back into the theater, watched the final talks, and met up with my wife and friends, who congratulated me.  I checked for messages for the first time since the event began, and so many people had posted comments, Likes, tweets, texts, and emails. It was a beautiful outpouring of support and something I’ll never forget it. Later, at a reception, we all met other speakers and attendees and organizers. I had a glass of wine, and I felt happy and fulfilled.

Once we got home, I fell asleep almost immediately.

The next day, I noticed a shift in my thinking. Before the event, I was afraid of being on camera, and I’ve almost never looked at any recordings of myself. I was also too embarrassed or shy to invite people to the event. But at a spontaneous get-together for dinner, a group of friends watched the talk my wife recorded on her phone.

As we watched, I didn’t feel any embarrassment at all. I didn't feel pride either. I was just comfortable saying - to my friends and to the world - “I made this. I hope you find it useful.”

At approximately 4:03pm on Saturday, April 9th

I’m asking for a rather strange favor. My friend and coach, Eve, would call my request a bit “woo-woo.” That’s our way to describe mystical things we can’t explain but we think just might work.

Mystical - and maybe it works

This Saturday afternoon, I’ll be on stage at a TEDx event in New Jersey, delivering the most important presentation of my life.

I’ve been increasingly anxious about it for months. Though I’ve given many talks, this one is more like an 8-minute movie than a regular presentation. I’m acutely aware that every mistake I make will be amplified on video.

So here’s my woo-woo request. If you’re reading this before 4 o’clock this Saturday, would you think a positive thought for me? Perhaps send me a mental message encouraging me to act like myself instead of The Presenter. Or wish that the audience receives my talk as a gift and not an imposition. That instead of being nervous and tense, I project humility, openness, and happiness.

I’ll be sure to provide a detailed update next week. In the meantime, please #BringTheWoo.

Thank you!

The kid who wouldn’t talk on the phone

It was back in the day when AT&T owned the phone on your wall. When you didn’t have to dial an area code. When phone numbers began with words instead of numbers. Ours was TAlmadge 8-9635. I can still remember my mother holding out that phone every so often, urging me to say hello to some relative. “Go ahead, Johnny! They’re waiting!”

I was petrified.

Hurry up Johnny! They're waiting!

40 years later

Over the ensuing decades, I learned to talk on the phone and in meetings, but speaking in front of a public audience was still terrifying. Yet I knew I had to get better.

So in 2010, at age 46, I decided to apply to present at a conference, the Web 2.0 Expo. As soon as I decided, I was already nervous. I procrastinated for weeks, submitting the application ten minutes before the midnight deadline. Once I learned I was accepted, I was anxious for months before the conference. The day of my talk, sick to my stomach, I walked around the block over and over in an attempt to steady my nerves.

In the following years, I read books like Presentation Zen, Resonate, Confessions of a Public Speaker, and The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. I watched hundreds of TED talks. I would ask people after one of my presentations, “What’s one thing I could have done better?” And I spoke and I spoke and I spoke to different kinds of audiences in different kinds of places.

The small steps I took, practiced over time with feedback and peer support, helped me become a better storyteller.

Now

Recently, someone told me I was a “natural speaker.” That was nice of them, but I know it’s not true. Like any other skill, I was pretty awful at first and I’m just gradually getting better.

Next year, I have a range of new skills I need to develop. For months, for example, people have been telling me that I need to make audio and video recordings. But I’m petrified. It feels like my mother is handing me the phone again: Go ahead, Johnny! They’re waiting!

Now, though, I know that the fear I feel is a natural part of learning something new. I could defuse the fear by avoiding the new thing, by not growing, or I could do something to get better.

This morning, I chose to take a step, and I bought a microphone to make my first recordings.

Hello? It’s me. 

Hello? It's me.

The slides and scripts I use when I present Working Out Loud

If you’re trying to tell other people about working out loud, this talk might help you. It’s called “Better for you. Better for the firm,” and it’s the same title as a recent interview I did with Forbes. You can download the material in 4 different formats at the end of this post:

  1. PDF (which is what I display)
  2. PDF with presenter notes (to share what I say for each slide)
  3. Keynote (which I used to create the slides)
  4. Powerpoint (in case you have to)

My goal is to make it easier for you to give this talk inside your own organization.

"Better for you. Better for the firm."

"Better for you. Better for the firm."

The main objective

Even the most inspiring talks won’t change behavior much. The key to changing behavior is having people intrinsically motivated to make the change and then helping them take small steps, practiced over time, with feedback, and peer support.

The best way to help people work out loud is to have them join a working out loud circle, and so the purpose of the talk is to motivate people to form circles.

When I first did a version of this talk, 25% of the audience signed up. A few months later, it was up to 50%. Last month it was 72%.

Part of the reason for the upswing is that the talks and my delivery are getting better. Perhaps more important is that word is spreading - more people have heard of working out loud and are interested in learning more. Your results will vary, but I expect your numbers will also improve as you give the talk more often inside your organization.

The short version and the longer version

I’m including two versions of the talk, one that lasts about 10-15 minutes and another that lasts 30-40 minutes. The shorter one is aimed at a general audience, perhaps as part of a town hall or other regularly scheduled event, and is meant to introduce the topic of working out loud.

The longer talk is intended for a dedicated session on working out loud, and is for audiences who have voluntarily registered for such an event.

The main difference is that the longer talk includes several stories and examples, some of which you’ll customize to make specific to your audience and organization.

“I gave the talk. Now what?”

During the second half of the longer talk, you’ll refer to signup sheets where people can add their name and join a circle. After you collect the names, there are only two more simple steps.

First, put the names in a single spreadsheet and form them into groups of 4-5. Make them as diverse as you can and logistically simple. For example, try to make each group include different job functions, corporate titles, and genders, but group people in the same location so it’s easy for them to meet.

Second, send out a simple set of instructions to each group. Here’s a variation of what I use:

Subject: Your Working Out Loud circle

Hello and thank you for signing up to form a circle. Now you’re ready to get started and build a network toward a goal you care about.

Here are 2 simple next steps:

1)      Read the WOL Circle Guide – A simple overview. You’ll find a short guide for each meeting here.

2)      Schedule your first meeting.

That's it! If you like, you can also subscribe to workingoutloud.com or Like the public Facebook page for weekly updates every Wednesday. Or you can ask questions by joining the private Facebook group.

Your circle is confidential, so there’s no reporting or oversight. What happens in the circle stays in the circle.

Good luck and enjoy your 12 weeks together!

That’s all you need to do. If people come to you with questions, refer them to the FAQ on workingoutloud.com, the Facebook page or group, or to the book. If that doesn’t help, they can always email me at john.stepper@workingoutloud.com

If you’re interested in spreading working out loud in your organization, contact me and let me help you.

Files to download

Short version (10-15 minutes):

  1. PDF:Working Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (10-15 mins)
  2. PDF with Presenter NotesWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (10-15 mins) w: Presenter Notes
  3. KeynoteWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (10-15 mins).key
  4. PowerpointWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (10-15 mins)

Longer version, with stories and examples (30-40 minutes):

  1. PDF:Working Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (30-40 mins)
  2. PDF with presenter notesWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (30-40 mins) w: Presenter Notes
  3. KeynoteWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (30-40 mins).key
  4. PowerpointWorking Out Loud - Better for you. Better for the firm. (30-40 mins)

On presenting well

Many of us have seen good presentations. Just not at work. In your career, you might sit through 10,000 presentations and most of them will be dreadful. And you may be guilty of some of those.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Presenting - that is, engaging an audience while articulating a point of view - is a basic life skill. And, like writing, it’s something everyone can learn to be good at.

Here are 4 things that can help you.

Creating better visuals

Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds is a simple, beautiful book. It will teach you that it’s okay to be different. To step outside of entrenched communications traditions and templates and to create, instead, visually interesting presentations. And it will teach you how to create them.

The book is full of examples of what to do and not to do. It’s full of simple, practical guidelines and gorgeous images that will inspire you and will absolutely improve your very next presentation.

Every student, every knowledge worker, every person who might ever present material  should read this book.

Telling a better story

Nancy Duarte’s “Resonate” uncovers the patterns underlying great narratives. She dissects and diagrams historic speeches, TED talks, and keynotes, and shows you the common framework they all share.

Whether it’s Ben Zander or Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King, “Resonate” exposes the same basic patterns in all great talks. The same narrative arc. The same kinds of changes in rhythm and tone. The same kinds of aspirational endings.

After reading “Resonate,” you’ll view your role more as storyteller than presenter. You’ll understand why you need to engage an audience instead of just deliver content - and you’ll learn how to do it well.

Learning from others

TED talks allow you to sample from a wide range of disciplines and a wide range of presentation styles. Each one holds a lesson in refining how you present your ideas.

How could you use props? In Jamie Oliver’s talk on teaching children about food, he rails against the amount of sugar in elementary school food, notably in chocolate milk. Then he takes a wheelbarrow full of sugar and dumps it onstage. “There’s 5 years of elementary school sugar...just from milk.” It’s a more powerful and memorable statement than any slide.

How could you present complex data? Hans Rosling  is a Swedish doctor and statistician. And he’s also a master at making statistical analysis of complex subjects sound like commentary for a good soccer match. His talk on China and the developing world, for example, will surprise, inform, and entertain you.

How could you tell a good story without slides? Imagine a talk on spaghetti sauce research and how dull that might be. Now imagine it without any slides or other material. And then watch Malcolm Gladwell bring the story to life. He informs and engages you by making it personal - by framing it as the story of his friend, Howard Moskowitz. He artfully weaves in details and quotes and anecdotes while he’s making you care about his main points.

Every talk you watch can give you something new. Something you might emulate in your next presentation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

In Carmine Gallo’s “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs,” I was surprised to read about Job’s meticulous preparation and planning before his keynotes. He seemed like such a naturally good speaker with decades of experience. Yet he practiced?

In “Confessions of a Public Speaker,” Scott Berkun also wrote at length about preparation and practice. And my friend, Gina Rudan (author of “Practical Genius”) described how she prepared for her TED talk for 62 hours.)

Talking about practicing is much easier than doing it. If they all practiced, why didn’t I? Perhaps I was too afraid, or lazy, or self-conscious.

Only recently, before a particularly important talk, I screwed up my courage, stood in front of a mirror, and delivered my talk start to finish 20 times, making adjustments along the way.

It wasn’t about memorizing it. It was about becoming comfortable with the material - the slides, the main points on each, the transitions, the overall flow.

That comfort gave me a much better chance of being me. It let me put my energy into my authentic passion for the topic instead of on the mechanics of my talk.

You deserve better

When it comes to presentations, don’t be like everybody else. Be better.

Learn the mechanics of preparing better materials and telling better stories. Watch what others do. Practice before your talks and learn by giving more talks.

If you get nervous each time (I certainly do), think of that anxious feeling as a reminder that you’re learning. A reminder that, with each effort, you’re getting better at a skill that’s incredibly useful and will help differentiate you.

On presenting well

Many of us have seen good presentations. Just not at work. In your career, you might sit through 10,000 presentations and most of them will be dreadful. And you may be guilty of some of those.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Presenting - that is, engaging an audience while articulating a point of view - is a basic life skill. And, like writing, it’s something everyone can learn to be good at.

Here are 4 things that can help you.

Creating better visuals

Presentation Zen” by Garr Reynolds is a simple, beautiful book. It will teach you that it’s okay to be different. To step outside of entrenched communications traditions and templates and to create, instead, visually interesting presentations. And it will teach you how to create them.

The book is full of examples of what to do and not to do. It’s full of simple, practical guidelines and gorgeous images that will inspire you and will absolutely improve your very next presentation.

Every student, every knowledge worker, every person who might ever present material  should read this book.

Telling a better story

Nancy Duarte’s “Resonate” uncovers the patterns underlying great narratives. She dissects and diagrams historic speeches, TED talks, and keynotes, and shows you the common framework they all share.

Whether it’s Ben Zander or Steve Jobs or Martin Luther King, “Resonate” exposes the same basic patterns in all great talks. The same narrative arc. The same kinds of changes in rhythm and tone. The same kinds of aspirational endings.

After reading “Resonate,” you’ll view your role more as storyteller than presenter. You’ll understand why you need to engage an audience instead of just deliver content - and you’ll learn how to do it well.

Learning from others

TED talks allow you to sample from a wide range of disciplines and a wide range of presentation styles. Each one holds a lesson in refining how you present your ideas.

How could you use props? In Jamie Oliver’s talk on teaching children about food, he rails against the amount of sugar in elementary school food, notably in chocolate milk. Then he takes a wheelbarrow full of sugar and dumps it onstage. “There’s 5 years of elementary school sugar...just from milk.” It’s a more powerful and memorable statement than any slide.

How could you present complex data? Hans Rosling  is a Swedish doctor and statistician. And he’s also a master at making statistical analysis of complex subjects sound like commentary for a good soccer match. His talk on China and the developing world, for example, will surprise, inform, and entertain you.

How could you tell a good story without slides? Imagine a talk on spaghetti sauce research and how dull that might be. Now imagine it without any slides or other material. And then watch Malcolm Gladwell bring the story to life. He informs and engages you by making it personal - by framing it as the story of his friend, Howard Moskowitz. He artfully weaves in details and quotes and anecdotes while he’s making you care about his main points.

Every talk you watch can give you something new. Something you might emulate in your next presentation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

In Carmine Gallo’s “Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs,” I was surprised to read about Job’s meticulous preparation and planning before his keynotes. He seemed like such a naturally good speaker with decades of experience. Yet he practiced?

In “Confessions of a Public Speaker,” Scott Berkun also wrote at length about preparation and practice. And my friend, Gina Rudan (author of “Practical Genius”) described how she prepared for her TED talk for 62 hours.)

Talking about practicing is much easier than doing it. If they all practiced, why didn’t I? Perhaps I was too afraid, or lazy, or self-conscious.

Only recently, before a particularly important talk, I screwed up my courage, stood in front of a mirror, and delivered my talk start to finish 20 times, making adjustments along the way.

It wasn’t about memorizing it. It was about becoming comfortable with the material - the slides, the main points on each, the transitions, the overall flow.

That comfort gave me a much better chance of being me. It let me put my energy into my authentic passion for the topic instead of on the mechanics of my talk.

You deserve better

When it comes to presentations, don’t be like everybody else. Be better.

Learn the mechanics of preparing better materials and telling better stories. Watch what others do. Practice before your talks and learn by giving more talks.

If you get nervous each time (I certainly do), think of that anxious feeling as a reminder that you’re learning. A reminder that, with each effort, you’re getting better at a skill that’s incredibly useful and will help differentiate you.