Technical presentation tips please!
January 30, 2012 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm giving a technical presentation at an industry conference in two months, with an audience (guessing 50-100 people) including people I'd really like to impress. I am extroverted but terrible at public speaking. How do I prepare and build confidence for the presentation in the next two months?

I have 20 minutes to present a paper I coauthored. The audience could be anywhere 50-100 people, including colleagues and supervisors who will be there to see me.

The technical content is probably going to be rudimentary for much of the more experienced audience (it's based on new applications for the existing technology) so I am feeling some (probably unfounded) self-doubt about presenting. I'm specifically afraid I won't have enough material to fill 20 minutes.

I'm confident and outgoing in person but terrible at public speaking. I usually um excessively, speak very quickly and forget what I'm saying mid-sentence. I understand most of these things are fixed by confidence and comfort with the material but HOW?

Due to a busy travel schedule Toastmasters isn't an option. I might have one or two chances to practice in front of colleagues a few weeks prior to the conference.

I'm looking for advice, tips, books, articles, words of wisdom or anything else to help me prepare. Thanks!
posted by ista to Work & Money (8 answers total)
Practice, practice, practice. Doesn't have to be in front of colleagues. In a mirror, while commuting, before going to bed. Practice whenever you can.

Sounds simple, but that's how it's done.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:50 PM on January 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

I 100% agree with that advice. Learn your speech like a script. Learn it so you it's so ingrained you could do it in your sleep. Learn it so no amount of nerves could put you off. Only when you know that you really know it, will you feel comfortable and confident. Then you can start to be more free with the material, add the emotional colour that makes a great speech, and improv a little, so that the audience think you are extemporizing.
posted by roofus at 4:10 PM on January 30, 2012

Preparation and Practice... I practice when I'm driving, in the shower, when walking the dog, in front of the wife.. until I can do it in my sleep.

And, spend some time telling yourself that it is NOT as important as you think it is...keep it in perspective and take some of the pressure off...
posted by HuronBob at 4:23 PM on January 30, 2012

You don't need to practice in front of people. Record yourself. And just do it over and over and over again. It's just like any other kind of public performance.
posted by empath at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2012

Agreeing with the above advice, to practice and also to record yourself, on video. It'll be painful but worth it. I also try to think of questions that might come up during the question/answer segment, and think about how I might answer them. Think about examples of the application you could use to pad out your presentation, or outside research you could draw upon to support some of your arguments. Connect with your audience; what do you think they will want to see/learn about?

And really, after years of presenting at conferences, I'm always reminded that just because something seems rudimentary/simple to me, it's not necessarily so to everyone else. You just think so because you're the expert, right? Right!

You might also look into beta-blockers. Just sayin'.
posted by stellaluna at 5:16 PM on January 30, 2012

Practice! Also schedule a session or two with a presentation skills coach or trainer, if that feels like a useful investment of cash for you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:33 PM on January 30, 2012

You need to be able to stand looking at yourself talking. Practice in front of a mirror, making eye contact with your talking self, or take a video and watch it. The second is excruciatingly awkward, but also very informative.
posted by pmb at 6:05 PM on January 30, 2012

I saw the author of this book:

give a talk on this subject. He had some good advice. I ended up buying the book and thought it was pretty good, although I don't tend to speak in front of many people.

Good luck!
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 7:31 PM on January 30, 2012

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