It’s no secret there is a lot of work that goes into creating an entertaining, informative and enjoyable talk. No matter if it’s a soft/work skills talk, a talk about your experiences or an in-depth deep dive — taking that first leap into presenting a topic to a crowd of people is challenging.
Everyone in our community has something valuable to share, whether they are aware of it or not. As part of the work that is organising DDD East Midlands, we would like to make presenting at our conference as accessible and unintimidating as possible.
In this series of posts, we are going to explore the beginning to end of creating and presenting a talk. When talking through the aspects of this process, we realised it’s very much like a choose your own adventure story, there are many different ways to conquer the demon that is public speaking.
The content of this series is based on the things we have learnt in the last couple of years. It’s our hope that it may help you on your submissions to DDD East Midlands, and other conferences.
Section 1: Coming up with a talk
Fantastic! You have taken the very first step on your speaking journey. You have at least considered giving a talk!
You have now reached the first hurdle — Choosing what you will talk about.
You much choose your weapon wisely. There are a few approaches you can take when deciding on a talk topic.
Pick a theme, any theme
First, you might want to consider the different themes of talk:
1. The guide on how to do a cool thing you did
Have you done something awesome at home or at work? This doesn’t have to be innovative, new or incredibly useful, you just needed to enjoy it or think someone else might find value in knowing how to do the cool thing you did. Then how about doing a “how-to” guide style talk. This can be as high-level or in-depth as you like. Walk your audience through how, why, and what to watch out for.
2. The battle story
This may be a victorious tale or a tale of woe. We’ve certainly all experienced both. Whether the topic is highly technical, process or work skills based, we can all learn from each other’s experience. Voice your tales publically like some Bard singing the tale of dragons and knights, but in our case, it’s more like Damsels and Docker…
3. The rocket up the… well y’know
This style isn’t for everyone and does involve a considerable amount of work, effort and time. Is there something you want to learn about, but you are struggling with a reason to work on it or the drive to put the effort in? Well, there’s nothing quite like knowing you are going to asked questions on the topic in front of a room full of strangers to make you want to know that topic inside and out!
Maybe commit to talking about a something you want to learn and spend the next few months learning it inside-out.
4. The empowering speech
Again, this isn’t for everyone. Some speakers do a great job of rallying troops, inspiring everyone to go out, learn and better themselves. Do you see yourself as that person who can do an empowering monologue in that favourite film of yours? Help to inspire your tech warriors to take to their keyboards and type! Do you see yourself writing a keynote one day? This style of topic might be up your street.
These are but a few broad areas you could consider when coming up with a talk topic. There are many more.
Now you’ve thought about what kind of talk you might like to do, next is to explore different topics. This is how I approach this problem:
- Bullet point rough one-line summaries of what you might talk about.
- Find a victim who will be brutally honest with you or someone that is great for sparking ideas off.
- Take that person for coffee and talk through the ideas with them
If you find that you have spent 20 minutes getting excited and discussing a particular topic — you probably have the passion to pull off a great talk on that subject.
Just remember: everything can seem “easy” or dismissible as uninteresting once you’ve learnt about it, but your experiences and knowledge is different from everybody else. It is really common and easy to dismiss something as “simple” after you got over the complexity of learning a problem. What you think is easy or obvious, may be invaluable to another person and I’m guessing you probably didn’t think it was obvious before you learnt it.
If you are passionate and can share that enthusiasm, you’ve already started on the road to success.
Good luck with choosing your weapon speaking champions!
Until next time,
Jessica ~ Director of DDD East Midlands