Last week I attended a public speaking workshop with Dylan Beattie. It was great to be able to take time out of my day-to-day to focus on developing a skill like this. In previous jobs, there either hasn’t been the time or the money to do workshops like this, so I am trying to make the most of these opportunities in my current role.

Each day, we spent an hour or two working through some theory and tips from Dylan, followed by time to prepare and give our own talks. We then got feedback on what others thought about our talk plus suggestions on how we could improve it. Our talks were also recorded so that we could watch ourselves back and see how we actually did! I had never thought of recording myself talking before. Although it is a bit uncomfortable to watch, I found that it made it easier to see where I needed to improve. When I’m talking, it goes by in a bit of a blur, so I never really know how it went. I found this technique very helpful and it is definitely something I would try again.

On the first day, I found the idea of doing a talk really daunting. I felt like I didn’t know what to talk about, and then was quite nervous when I presented it. However, everyone was very supportive and once I watched myself back, I felt more confident on the second day, as I knew what I needed to improve.

I always like the idea of doing talks, but I struggle to come up with ideas. One of the tips I got from the workshop, was about keeping a bank of ideas. It could be something you’ve learned or an experience you’ve had. It could be something you are interested in or going in depth into how an every-day thing really works. The talks I enjoyed most during the workshop, were the ones where people told little stories or anecdotes. I found this really brought to life the topic they were talking about.

One of the other key tips was about rehearsing and not always starting at the beginning. I have definitely been guilty of this in the past! If you always start at the beginning, but inevitably stop partway through, then the end of your talk is often neglected. This is a technique I would always employ when I used to sing and I was practising. You would know where the difficult passages were, and would practice those in isolation, rather than running through the whole piece multiple times. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to apply that to speaking before. It is definitely a new habit I need to work on though, as even when I was rehearsing during the workshop, I caught myself starting over and over again, so the end of my first talk was not well-rehearsed.

I think my last key takeaway was that you don’t always need to have visuals to give a talk. On the first day, we did our talks with no slides or visuals and I found it quite freeing. I definitely fall into the trap of starting with slides rather than thinking about what I actually want to say when preparing a talk. Sometimes I think we just make slides because we feel that we should, but that they are superfluous to requirement. We also talked about how you don’t have to have slides full of text. I did my second talk using just images, and this helped to not fall into the trap of just writing what I wanted to say on the slides.

In summary, I am glad I took the time to do this workshop. It has given me the tools to put together a good talk and deliver it well. I have committed myself to talking at our community dev meeting at work next month. I will see how that goes and then maybe look for a bigger audience? It has also inspired me to start this blog! When I did my first talk, I wrote it all out beforehand. I realised that I enjoy writing as much as talking, and so this is a skill that I would like to practise too.