Most people have hobbies, interests, jobs, travels, family history or stories of other kinds that can interest others. Most people, at some time, have to give presentations for jobs, which can be sometimes mean the difference between being offered or keeping a job and losing it. For both professionals and amateurs, giving a talk or presentation can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time. The most interesting of subjects can be made boring, embarrassing or off-putting if presented badly.
I have given good talks but I have, also, watched people fall asleep as I speak. I have presented my subjects slickly and held audiences in the palm of my hand and I have, also, fumbled and faltered and embarrassed myself. For more than forty years, I have learned a lot of lessons that I try to apply to improve my public speaking. Sometimes I succeed.
So often I have heard someone telling a new acquaintance about a hobby only to have the person say. ‘We’ve been wondering how we were to fill in our autumn programme; that sounds so interesting, you could come and give a talk about it.’ It doesn’t seem to matter that giving talks is a totally new experience and not the same thing as knowing about a subject. It is assumed that ‘anyone can do it’.
Recently I have attended several talks, which, quite frankly, were appalling. Just because someone is good at doing something, does not mean that that person can tell others how it is done, at least, not in a large public space. These talks were embarrassing, beyond belief. Technology was totally relied on and in some instances failed all the way. In one case, the computer program wouldn’t work – it had not been set up and checked beforehand – then the microphones failed, so the people at the back of the large hall could not hear the faint voice of the speaker unused to the task.
I considered that some potential speakers might like some hints that could help avoid some of the pitfalls and so I offer my learning experiences in the hope that they might assist others who read this.
Whichever way you are most comfortable with to present a subject, it should be done with good preparation, confidence, adequate knowledge, enthusiasm and a certain amount of panache. If suitable, a certain amount of humour usually helps.
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