A Unique Speaking Opportunity
I got the email on April 11 – ‘We’d like to officially invite you to give a DisruptHR Talk on May 2.’
Cool! I get to do the talk!
But then, reality hit. I thought, ‘I get to do the talk that I’ve never done before. With those PowerPoint slides changing every 15 seconds!
‘Well, I wanted to get outside of my speaking comfort zone! I’m definitely uncomfortable!’
Speaking In An Unfamiliar Format
Two weeks earlier, I had applied to speak at the event DisruptHR Cincinnati. It’s a night of speaking for the Human Resources community. The goal is for presenters to give brief talks about ideas to disrupt the industry.
By brief, they mean 5 minutes — no more, no less.
And you must use 20 slides — no more, no less.
And those slides will change every 15 seconds — you guessed it, no more, no less.
I’ve only recently begun using PowerPoint-type slides. I applied to this event because I wanted to push myself into new speaking experiences. I wanted to use this presentation tool I’m still not completely comfortable with.
The event went well. When my 5-minutes were over, I felt like I had given a speech more than creating a memorable experience. That’s the ultimate goal whenever I give a presentation – connect through memorable experiences.
After further examination, here are some insights:
What I did do well?
(Always ask yourself this question first. It’s too easy to focus on the flaws and then beat yourself up. Also, if you know what you do well, you might continue to do them.)
One. Applied to an even I had no experience with. It’s always good to do something you’ve never done. You don’t know what opportunities may result.
Two. Practiced what I preach — I wrote the message first, then built my slide deck. (This increases the chances that the audience receive a valuable idea. And, that the slides will supplement that concept, not become the main attraction.
Three. Rehearsed at least three times every day. (48 practices will help you internalize your ideas.
Four. Socialized and made excellent contacts with audience members and other speakers. When not onstage, I tend to be more introverted. Forcing myself to be more ‘social’ allowed me to meet some more interesting people. SOme may become business associates.
Five. I had fun. I was ready to go by the time the emcee introduced me to the audience.
What I could have done better:
One. Improved my rehearsal technique. During the first week of practice, I continually repeated a common rehearsal mistake. It’s one I always coach people not to make. Call it:
STUMBLE – STOP – START OVER
This means that every time I struggled with a specific slide, I’d stop. I then gathered my thoughts and returned to the beginning and started the practice over.
Don’t do this!
Because you get very good at presenting the opening of your talk,. But, because you keep returning to that part, you never do well with the rest of your presentation. That’s because it doesn’t get an equal amount of attention.
What should you do?
Keep talking through the stumbles, fumbles, and forgetfulness. It feels counter-intuitive but it ’s crucial to gaining comfort with the entire talk.
After doing this a half-dozen times, I didn’t get caught on any one slide. As the comfort level increased, I presented the material a little differently each time. And that’s OK, because these concepts didn’t need to be memorized verbatim.
Two. Improved my breathing techniques. Speaking under the pressure of timed slides increases the pressure. I stopped more than once to take a deep breath. It impacted the flow of my talk. Not a critical issue, but I could’ve handled it better.
Three. Got over-creative with my title, which was ‘Forget Bitcoin. Stories Are Your Real Currency.
Although everyone involved loved the title, it was difficult to tie it into the theme of Disrupting the HR community and do it in five minutes. My main point was made, but I’d probably do it differently if I did it again.
Another Beneficial Speaking Experience
Overall, I’m happy to have participated in this event. These are the takeaways and recommendations I’d make, based on this experience.
=> Stretch your comfort zone. Seek out opportunities to present in new and different venues.
= Always tie your talk to the theme and the audience
=> Write your message first. THAT is what will stick with the audience
=> Rehearse, and always push through the mistakes
=> Give yourself credit when you do something uncomfortable and different
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