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Thoughts after my very first public speech

2019-10-20 4 min read Blog

Having a public speech seems easy. In some ways, it really is. But the first time can be hard. Here’s my thought after my first experience in public speaking.

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Days ago I had my first speech.

I was terrified.

It wasn’t perfect, and there is lots of room for improvement. But hey, I did it!! ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŽ‰

Here’s a list of things that I learned from this experience.

Focus on a specific argument

My presentation was about Azure DevOps. When I created the presentation, my main focus was on the pipelines for CI/CD. But to explain what Azure DevOps is and why I was presenting that topic, I needed to prepare the audience with an introduction. So I created a few slides, explained the evolution of Azure DevOps, listed pros and cons, glimpsed the main functionalities of the platform, and then, I drilled down to the pipelines.

Well, in the end, I didn’t explain so much about the pipelines. I spent so much time in the introduction and I just showed a simple working example. Oh, and I’ve created 4 demos to demonstrate, but I had only time for the first one (and I’ve modified it to cut it short and removed nice things too).

So my suggestion is: decide exactly the topic of your speech (a generic introduction? a specific functionality?) and focus on it.

Try, try, and then try again

It’s strange that even if you have everything in your mind, you have repeated mentally the whole presentation more and more times, when you say it aloud everything changes. I was at home, repeating the presentation to my girlfriend (and sometimes, even alone), and I couldn’t explain everything as clearly as I wanted.

I had to repeat the same slide about 10 times before being sure about what to say and how. It’s a very long process.

Keep your schedule handy

Print out the schedule, and keep it next to you. It helps you understand where you are and if you must cut topics out. If you need to show a demo, listing all the steps you must do helps you gain confidence and it’s a parachute if you go blank.

Measure the time for everything

My greatest error was to underestimate the time. I measured only the time needed for the presentation, and not for the demo.

I thought ยซOk, I can do all the slides in 20 minutes. I still have 40 minutes, so I definitely have time for the demos!ยป

I was wrong.

As I said, I had to cut out part of the presentation. I can find 3 reasons for this:

  1. I haven’t calculated the time for the demos. They took more time than I thought;
  2. While explaining the slides, I was stressed and I didn’t realize if I was on time or not (and, of course, the answer was NO);
  3. The audience interrupted me with some questions. I should have considered also that time.

Be ready to change your schedule on the fly

As time goes, you may need to change the schedule. I skipped lots of slides just to be able to show a bit more of the demo.

I suggest structuring your presentation in a way that even if you remove a part of it (of course, not a vital one) everything is still clear to the audience. So, if you have time, you can show everything, otherwise, you can cut it short without affecting the final result.

Don’t put too much humor

I didn’t want to be so boring, so I started my presentation with

Hello, I’m Troy McClure! You might remember me from…

Yes, I did it.

Not a laugh.

That was awkward. One of the most embarrassing moments of my life.

I put 3 more funny moments. No one laughed at the first two. So I deleted the last one during the demo, hidden from the audience.

So, don’t do it. Or, at least, do it when you have more confidence in yourself. The audience will notice it.

This article first appeared on Code4IT

Wrapping up

Well, this is my experience.

If you want to see this disaster, you can watch it on YouTube. Most of you won’t understand so much, since it is in Italian.

But I still have the excuse that it was my first time. So from now on, I can only improve my speeches.

What about your experiences? What can you suggest to someone who’s preparing his very first public speech?