What I learnt about public speaking

This blog post has been sitting in my draft for more than two months. But my friend David Lewis’s recent post about his public speaking experience (an excellent post by the way) gave me the little nudge to finish mine, so here it is.


Last year was the first time I spoke publicly in front of people at meetups and conference. I only spoke a total of 25 minutes (2 x 5 minutes talk and 1 x 15 minutes talk). It’s not a lot at all, but I learnt something new each time. I’m not writing this post with the intention of advising people what to do. This is more just a reminder for myself about my experience and what I have learnt.

###Don’t be afraid to share what you know Before last year, I would NEVER have considered giving a talk. Not so much I was afraid of standing up and giving a presentation (still terrifying, don’t get me wrong). I felt that I had nothing to share, that the whole world already knew what I already know, and that people would find me boring. I told Nicole about my fear. She told me not to worry and that rather than try to be expert-like, speak from experience and don’t be afraid to show people what mistakes you’ve made and what you’ve learnt from it. I thought that was really good advice. It’s nice to watch a talk and go, “Ah yes. I’ve been there before!” or “I have the same problems!”. It helps to grab people’s attention as well when they feel like they can relate to what you’re saying.

###Speak what you’re passionate about All the great talks I’ve seen are done by people who are passionate about their topics. It really comes through when you are passionate about it. As a new speaker as well, I find it’s a lot easier to talk about something you know well and love. I am always nervous before I speak (is there anyone who isn’t?!). And sometimes I would think to myself “Oh my goodness, why did you agree to do this talk? You’re stressing yourself out!”. But once I get up there and started speaking, it feels good to be able to share. Though I think my favourite part is having discussions about the talk with attendees afterwards. What’s better than chatting with like-minded people about what you love?

###Everyone just wants to see you do well Back in the days when I was preparing for my piano exam, my piano teacher would often tell me, “Remember that the audience just wantto see you do well. So even if you make a mistake during your performance, it’s ok. The only thing you can do afterwards is keep going and don’t let it stumble you”. That particular piece of advice has gotten me through a lot of performances. I think the the advice applies to public speaking too. If something doesn’t go quite right during the presentation, don’t let it stop you. People are a lot more forgiving than we realise. And we are all just human afterall so making mistake is just part of the learning process, right?

###Speak more s.l.o.w.l.y deliberately When we’re nervous, we tend to speak faster than normal. I certainly did in my last talk. My friends who knew me well told me I was speaking a lot faster than usual. Oopse. I had no idea! I didn’t even think I was feeling nervous as I was speaking. No wonder my talk was quite a bit under the allocated time. So next time I do another talk, I’ll have to remind myself to speak more slooooowly deliberately.

As stressed and as terrified as I was when I gave my first talk, I’m really glad I gave it a go. It gave me the confidence I needed to start this blog (before I was too scared to share my thoughts so publicly), to start SydCSS and the opportunities to meet like-minded people.

If you’re reading this post and haven’t presented before, I really want to encoruage you to give it a try. Pick one thing you know well and try to do a 5 minutes presentation about it. 5 minutes is all you need to get started :)

Some blog posts with really great advice about public speaking: