Before I started working on more advanced projects, I never realized how important public speaking is to UX. I never thought of myself as a good or bad public speaker just kind of a “blah” one. But that’s not how I wanted to enter my new career. I wanted to enter with gusto. So as part of my UX training, I endeavored to become a better speaker. Here’s what I did.
1.Have a Conceit
I started every presentation with a hook that was usually likening the subject matter of my presentation to something more known or sensational. Aside from grabbing the audience’s attention, this helped structure my presentations. For example, my team developed an app for teen mental health, and we likened being a teen — particularly during the pandemic — to being an astronaut without training, stranded on an unknown planet. Throughout the presentation we referenced space travel, used space imagery, and the dreaded conclusion was even easier to do with a conceit. For UX in particular, an “empathy exercise” seems very appropriate.
2.Talk like a Human
This was easier said than done when trying to get a point across in a short amount of time, but no one — not the presenter nor audience — wants to get bored. While my slides contained a more scholarly voice, I had speaker notes written the way I actually speak. Which brings me to my next point.
I cannot read my speaker notes well on the first go. I need practice to speak in front of others, even with notes. I found it a little embarrassing to stumble through a speech while practicing, whether I was by myself or with a group. But I knew it wouldn’t be as embarrassing as losing the client’s interest.
4. Make a Character
As I mentioned, I don’t see myself as a “speaker”. But Evil Pete does. He smokes, drives a motorcycle, and has a pencil thin mustache. Evil Pete unabashedly loves the attention that public speaking gives him, unlike his less-evil counterpart (me).
Obviously I’m being a little sassy, but my point is that, not seeing myself as a speaker, a little make-believe helped put me into the proper headspace to deliver a speech.
My path to becoming a strong public speaker may not be the same as your own. But practice, authentic storytelling, and a little more practice will always help.