Public Speaking 101

By Sasha Shynkevich, Mofope Ojosipe-Isaac

Public speaking is one activity many people shy away from because it is highly perceived as a difficult skill. However, numerous benefits make it an essential skill to possess. Some of them include:

Knowledge: In the process of gathering enough information and resources for your talk, you gain more knowledge.

Visibility: Public speaking helps with visibility in your community. It gives you general expertise on topics from different fields.

Attention: Speaking to people most likely means that you have their attention. If you love attention and enjoy the spotlight then public speaking is perfect for you.

In addition, you can always create and attach personal reasons to public speaking. It allows you to stay motivated.
Public speaking becomes an even bigger task when you do not know how to go about it. These twelve steps will guide you to success in public speaking.

1. Pick a topic: Picking a topic to speak about is usually the most difficult part, especially for beginners. An easy way to begin is to explore new and interesting topics you have always been curious about. This way, it is an enjoyable yet knowledgeable process. You could also decide on a popular topic, share a work experience or ask event organizers. They sometimes have a list of topics you could choose from. Feel free to ask.

Tip: Always start with easy topics.

2. Where to apply: You can apply for public speaking opportunities in a couple of places depending on what you’re looking for. For small talks, you can look at places such as local meetups, online local meetups, and tech communities or even ask your colleagues. They might know some great opportunities.

3. Looking for content: While gathering content for your talk, never forget to note the deadlines. At this stage, you're to also note the type of event, target audience, and other limitations that could affect your delivery. Make use of enough materials such as books, videos, stats, fail stories, etc. It is best to avoid leaving out vital information at the early stage.

4. Structure: Structuring your content is necessary for great delivery to your audience. You need to ask yourself if you are going to tell a story, give a tutorial, a demo, or even do something that has an element of everything. When you do this, there is a good sense of direction.

A good talk should have at least three parts: an intro, the main content, and an outro. The different types of talk you can give are:

  • Lightning talk (5-10) minutes
  • Meetup talk (15-30) minutes
  • Conference talk (30-40) minutes
  • Workshop (1hr-days)

Also, knowing the type of talk you’re giving could help you structure your content better and be time conscious.

5. Slides: Slides are helpful and fun for your talk. Although they are not mandatory, they help give shape and context to your content. Feel free to use memes, gifs, videos, and all the fun stuff. However, use fewer words and make sure your jokes are suitable enough for the general public.

6. Online speaking: If you’re speaking at a virtual event, being audible enough for your audience is the most essential thing. You can then worry about your light, camera, WiFi, and surroundings. Make good use of equipment that makes your online speaking delivery top-notch.

7. How to talk and behave: The way you talk and behave during public speaking matters to your audience. Learn to speak slowly especially when you have to speak in a different language you’re not so used to. Control those nervous hand gestures and leave out certain information your gut tells you to.

8. Rehearsals: Rehearsals go a long way in preparing you for a great talk. Ask organizers, friends, or even rehearse on your own. It is very important to get feedback. It is the benefit of your rehearsal and you need to implement all the feedback gotten from your rehearsals.

9. Right before the event: Right before the event, it is essential to get enough sleep and make adequate preparation mentally for the talk. Mental preparations differ so do what works best for you. It could be physical exercises or meditation.

10. During the talk: During the talk, being nervous is pretty normal. To get rid of the nerves, remember you won't be giving a talk if the organizers didn’t believe in you. Look in the camera, be time conscious, drink water, and enjoy yourself.

11. Questions and Answers: A short question and answer session is a good way to get feedback from your talk. Give your audience a chance to ask questions and help them clarify things. Remember to be honest if you do not know the answer to any question.

12. After the talk: You have achieved your goal of public speaking and can now heave a sigh of relief. This is a good time to share materials and network. Lastly, if you can, watch your presentation. This will help you notice one or two things you can work on getting better for your next event.

Pros & Cons of Public Speaking

Pros: Knowledge, soft skills, confidence, popularity, traveling, community, career growth, and of course, great photos.

Cons: Stressful, time-consuming, a lot of responsibility, causes fatigue, inquires expenses, and can be addictive.

The art of public speaking can come into play in a lot of aspects of your life and if your goals align with the benefits of public speaking, you should definitely go for it. As a beginner, it might seem overwhelming at first but embracing this soft skill and constantly practicing helps you build confidence to become a better speaker.

This article is a summary of Public Speaking 101, a presentation by Sasha Shynkevich as part of our Lunch and Learn series at Bravado. You can check out the slides here!

Sasha Shynkevich

Sasha Shynkevich

Engineering Manager at Bravado
Minsk, Belarus
Mofope Ojosipe-Isaac

Mofope Ojosipe-Isaac

Frontend Engineer at Bravado