How to give a good talk when you don’t like doing talks.

How to give a good talk when you don’t like doing talks.

1. Nerves are good.

It shows you care. It shows this matters to you. It shows you are human. Showing your vulnerability is one of the most powerful ways to win over an audience. Remember, they have come to see you win. They are rooting for you.

“Speak the truth even if your voice shakes.”

2. Emotions connects us to your story.

Emotions are a pathway for us to feel something for you and your story. But, the emotion must be genuine. And it can’t be overused. Use it in short bursts only.

"Learning takes place when you kick them into a higher attention level. Touch their hearts, their minds will follow. "Lilly Walters

3. Each talk is a journey.

Your journey. Your struggle. Your worst moment. Your aha moment. Make them walk each step with you. Don’t just tell your story, make them feel it.

“The content matters so much less than we think it matters, we think so much less than we think we think. We feel. We are feeling creatures. You have to make them feel something.” John Kearon.

4. Slick doesn’t engage.

We relate to imperfections better than perfections. We need to see you the human behind that presentation. Let them see a human. Not a robot.

5. Stop telling yourself you can’t.

One of the biggest fears most people have is public speaking. They have told themselves that they could never do that. And, over the years they have convinced themselves that this is true. But, it is not.

To be able to give a great talk, you have to start telling yourself a different story: That you can give an amazing talk.

6. Empty stomach. Empty head.

Dopamine and epinephrine help regulate mental alertness. Both come from tyrosine, an amino acid found in proteins. So eat a good protein-packed meal before you talk. There are some studies out there that suggest skipping breakfast can lead to a 20-40% reduction in concentration, memory and alertness.

7. Have a Plan B.

At some point during one of your talks, the slides will not come up in the order that you put them in, that great film you want to share will play without sound, the projector they have will not work with the lead you have. You will stutter. You will fluff a line. It’s going to happen at some point.

So rehearse what you are going to do when it goes wrong, not just for when it goes right.

8. Hit the bottle the night before.

The brain is 70 per cent water, so keeping hydrated is important for your memory. Water also improves the brain's function as a whole - when it is dehydrated it works more slowly.

9. Be you.

Winnie the Pooh said it best: “The things that make me different are the things that make me”. So stop trying to be someone else. You do ‘You’ better than anyone else on earth.

10. Routines help.

They take your mind off things especially in the hours before a talk. Develop a routine. It calms you down. It reminds you that you have done this before. It acts as a distraction for your fears and nerves.

11. Pause.

Silence is powerful. Use it after your key point. It gives them time to digest the gravity of what you have just said.

12. Be loose.

Practice. Practice. Practice. There are many stages of practice. The first stage is where you suck. Then the next stage you suck a little less. Then the next stage is where you know it pretty well. But not off by heart. Most people stop here.

And so when they give the talk, they still have to remember the words. Accordingly, it doesn’t flow 100% naturally. And the audience can feel it.

But the next stage is where the words become effortless. Where no matter how nervous you are, you nail it. This stage is being loose. You care the most but are the most relaxed.

I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee

13. If they are not inspired, it’s your fault.

Passion is infectious. Passion can be felt. Passion can’t be faked. Your energy matters. Transfer it. If you want your audience to feel something, you have to feel it the most first.

14. Repetition.

Every talk you make should have one or two key points. These points need to be repeated. Winston Churchill always repeated his key points slightly differently each time. So he kept their attention.

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time - a tremendous whack.” Winston Churchill.

15. Ten minutes in.

In a feature film, almost without exception, there will be a turning point around the 22-minute mark. In a talk, people start to lose attention around the 10-minute mark. When you write your talk, you should pay attention to when your audience begins to lose attention. And build in a turning point around this time.

16. People remember stories, not facts.

We are hard-wired to remember stories. So if you want someone to remember something, tell them a story. But make sure your story brings to life the point you are trying to make.

17. Analogies work.

Familiar things help us understand complicated things. We can draw analogies from everyday life to make a point. They are simple and familiar. And we remember them.

18. More slides doesn’t equal more retention.

We remember less than we think. We fill our talks with way too much information than we can remember. When it comes to impact, less is indeed more. If you could get your audience to remember three key points, what would they be?

This is from Harvard Business Review:

Some studies suggest that two months after listening to a talk, the average listener will remember only about 25% of what was said. In fact, after we have barely learned something, we tend to forget from one-half to one-third of it within eight hours.

It might seem logical to slow down our thinking when we listen so as to coincide with the 125-word-per-minute speech rate, but slowing down thought processes seems to be a very difficult thing to do. When we listen, therefore, we continue thinking at high speed while the spoken words arrive at low speed. In the act of listening, the differential between thinking and speaking rates means that our brain works with hundreds of words in addition to those that we hear, assembling thoughts other than those spoken to us. To phrase it another way, we can listen and still have some spare time for thinking.

The use, or misuse, of this spare thinking time holds the answer to how well a person can concentrate on the spoken word.

19. We are all visual learners.

John Medina in his book Brain Rules tells us that retention goes up dramatically when pictures are used. Sometimes by up to 60%. But, like anything, they need to be good to be remembered.

20. Examples help us understand.

This is tried and trusted technique. To understand new things, we can give examples of how they worked in the past. So, something complicated becomes much easier to understand.

21. Humour.

People learn a great deal while laughing their heads off. Make them laugh. At the same time, you will make them remember you and your story.

22. Learn to breathe.

And you will learn to cope with nerves, stress and fear. Indeed, if you can learn to breathe, you will learn how to do a great talk.

23. Exercise before a talk.

That can be a run, a walk, a little yoga. Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands. It stops you from being in a peak state. The best way to burn off cortisol is to exercise. Have a great run. Do a great talk.

David Hieatt

David Hieatt

Bankrupt at 16. Thrown out of college at 18. Joined Saatchi + Saatchi at 21. Started howies in 1995. Sold it to Timberland. Left. Started The Do Lectures. Started Hiut Denim Co.

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