Draft: Speaking Advice
- Find and repeat a core message on three pillars
- Don't take questions. if you do, repeat the question, but answer the question you want, don't buy into others' frame
- Stay positive
- Record and review your rehearsals
- Memorize and improvise; DO NOT READ
- Record your actual talk
- How to record your own talk (and archive it forever)
- How to Prepare a Talk https://www.deconstructconf.com/blog/how-to-prepare-a-talk
share an inspiring idea by re-explaining it in a simpler way.
memorize and improvise
Your job as a speaker is only partially technically correct content. Do not neglect your other job: Entertaining. Some speakers are 100% entertainment; I don't necessarily recommend that, but speakers can be extremely successful on that alone.
Entertaining doesn't have to mean being funny. Movies don't have to be funny for you to enjoy them.
Your audience can be just as entertained by your personal stories and cool demos as they are by funny jokes.
At the end, your audience aren't going to remember every point you made, but they will remember how they felt coming out of it. If they come out inspired, they can google and follow up on the points you made on their own. But first they must be hooked, or you are just wasting your and their time.
Topical ideas to entertain:
- your hobbies, things you are ABNORMALLY passionate about
- a common interest/experience you share with your audience
- Memes and pop culture applied to a technical context (COLLECT THESE AHEAD OF TIME)
- provoke an immediate response, set the mood
- aim for a series of buildups to a punchline
- leave breathing space after
- preserve momentum
- save some of your best for last
- avoid the anticlimax
- be brief, sudden, definite
Principles of Entertaining:
- Vividness: choose unusual words, create imagery
- Twists: thrill people with the unexpected, don't go in a straight line
Ways of Being Funny:
- Twisted Definition
- Make fun of yourself
Ways to Entertain Without Being Funny:
- Live code (for best effect, only use your IDE, no slides)
- Telling an embarrassing story - make the audience cringe, then release the tension
- Telling a DRAMATIC story - use build ups and sudden twists, vary volume, pitch and rate of your words, use body language.
- Other forms of evoking feels/emotions
- Bringing history to life - tell the hidden story of how a well known thing came to be
- Show a visually engaging demo like a 3d scene or animation
Entertaining talk examples (note: these are some of the best talks in the world, don't feel like you have to live up to this yet):
- Inventing on Principle
- Growing a Language
- Body Language
- 100 Days of Rejection (Embarrassing Story)
Building your story
- Write down the point of your story in one sentence
- Setting: where does it take place?
- Characters: Who's involved? limit the number of people
- Time: When was this?
- Statement: the problem or conflict
- Outline the plot: What happens in your story? list the events and make sure you reach a climax
- Decide where you begin and where you start
- (Optional) Vivid description: paint a picture
- (Optional) Expressive dialogue: make your audience live the moment with the characters you mention
Example storytelling talk:
Always Be Collecting
Good talks often aren't constructed on demand. They are grown over time, pulling various threads from your lived experience that you only subsequently realize are relevant to your talk. So building your talk will be easier if you have an organized, searchable archive of stories, quotations, anecdotes, jokes, memes, and images that you can use in your talk.
- The puzzle of motivation (collections of studies, anecdotes)
Use the Pause
The pause is one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.
It can be used in two ways:
- generate anticipation for what's coming (after posing a question or dilemma)
- allow the audience to reflect on a point you just made
Longer pauses can help convey emotion, or build up to a punchline.
A Cold Start is a great form of pause - you don't always have to start by introducing yourself.
Some cliches are easy to get audience engagement:
- asking for a show of hands on a topic
- including local favorites (or languages) in your talk
- shouting out community leaders
Creating the Community
⚠️ You are reading an unpublished, incomplete draft. Questions are welcome but feedback/criticism may be premature.