I was so pleased when my copy of Naomi Karten’s Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals arrived the day before I left for Agile Testing Days in Berlin. I started presenting at conferences in the late 80s, and have presented at many conferences in this millenium. I’ve worked hard to improve as a speaker, facilitator and coach, I’ve taken lots of public speaking and presenting classes, I study the evaluations from each session’s participants, I read blog posts about how to present. But behind my conference persona, I am an extremely shy person, so it’s always a fight.
I read Naomi’s book on the flight to Berlin. It’s an easy and entertaining read, and I learned a lot. One gem was the advice to pause occasionally – when finishing a key point, when inviting questions, before advancing to the next slide. It gives participants time to let the information sink in, and to formulate questions. I talk WAY too fast, so this was a good tip for me. I remembered many times during my Agile Testing Days tutorial and keynote to pause for a moment, and that helped me remember to speak more slowly and clearly. (I still got evaluations that said I was hard to understand, but I hope I was better than in the past).
Another important takeaway was to set up ground rules at the beginning of the session. I always do this, but I liked the suggestion for managing time, to say to the group, “If we’re running short on time, would it be alright if I discontinue some discussions in the interest of moving on?” By framing a ground rule as a question, you get buy-in from the group.
Building rapport with the audience before the session starts was another good tip. I’ve done this in the past, but because I am such an introvert, I didn’t do it enough. I made a coliminating bad habits.