Let’s Talk

Would you give a talk about giving a talk?

That was the invite that arrived in my inbox a couple of months ago. So today I found myself running a workshop entitled “Giving a talk the fun way”.  Which is an interesting title; what exactly makes public speaking fun for the audience and speaker?

As my blog probably reveals, I really enjoy sharing research and engaging in science activities with a wide audience. The excitement of a live radio interview, the fun of a festival or an engaged audience posing challenging questions I find exhilarating and enjoyable. However not all of my talks have been “fun” and for many of us the demands to speak and share our work publically can be a nerve-wracking experience.  Even if you can avoid it at work, public speaking still creeps into our lives. Wedding speeches, sport team talks, surprise birthday thanks, the need to talk to a crowd is there. So, how do we make it fun?

Well this blog, and indeed my workshop today, had no arrogant expectations of imparting the recipe for the “perfect talk”. Even if such a talk existed I certainly haven’t delivered it! Aspiring for perfection seems futile when what is perfect for one speaker or audience member may well not be perfect for another. Indeed, setting yourself up to talk about giving a talk is a recipe for things to go wrong. On this occasion the embedded video content in my slides would not play with sound. Fortunately I had time to spare so could fix it before the audience arrived – as always being prepared and early for a talk is a winner. So whilst perfection may not be an option, many talks can seek to be fun and not only for the audience but also the speaker.

I opened the session with a call for four brave volunteers to come and talk to unknown slides. Well done to those who managed to link a dog to a coat hanger, via a watermelon and hotel – you did it with humour and style!   Opening the session with Just a little bit of humour, alongside some interaction between the speaker and audience, quickly made the atmosphere in the room relaxed.  This gave a great environment to explore a range of public speaking aspects with lots of insight and input from the audience  – making my job at the front much easier and indeed fun.

We covered,

  • how to answer tricky questions
  • taking control of a Q&A session
  • to use a prop or not
  • where to place your main message
  • when to put down the smart phone prior to a talk
  • rocking content, clarity and charisma (thanks FameLab)
  • should you be funny (thanks Bright Club)
  • researching your audience and venue
  • how to keep the nerves in check
  • checking your demo
  • never being an unwelcome time over-runner (!)

Yet really, when it comes down to it, there is nothing like watching others, seeing what you like (and don’t) and then being bold to give it a go. If you have good content and are passionate about what you have to share, your audience will listen.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Oh yeah, YouTube exists…..