and never stops until you get up to speak in public."
I've done a lot of public speaking in my career, and while I'm comfortable now, pre-speaking jitters early in my career had me on a constant dose of Pepto-Bismol! If I could have bought the stuff in 55-gallon drums, I would have!
This is the time of year when many of you are looking back over your first quarter convention experiences and thinking about putting in a request to speak/teach at a convention in the future. So, here are some tips to help you in your quest.
- What's your topic? Right off the bat, don't bother to apply to be a speaker if you don't have something new to share or a unique way to present the topic. I've heard so many people over the years say, "I could have taught that class!" Yet, when they do, there's nothing new in the way they present the topic or they aren't good presenters. It's one thing to be a great photographer, but another thing completely to be able to teach.
- Confidence: Do you know what you're talking about? I know you think you do, but when you have to put your heart on the line and share your thoughts with a group of people, whether it's a room of twenty or a thousand, do you come across as an expert?
- Practice, practice, practice! Nothing beats practicing! The first time out, write out everything you want to say and then practice on the delivery. Practice alone at first and then pull in some family members. The key is to be comfortable in what you're presenting. Also, pay attention to your timing and make sure you're not running over the allotted time for your presentation.
- Count the "ums". We all do it and in the beginning, I used to "um" people to death. It's that noise we make when we're pausing to go one from one thought to another. The more nervous you are, the more the "ums" jump in.
- Relevance, humor, and balance. They all go together. If you're all work and no play, you may be perceived as wound a little too tight and your presentation is going to come off a little stiff. Find the balance between relevance to your topic and some fun experiences relevant to your career. You don't need to do stand-up, just be relaxed and plug in something to laugh about here and there.
- Always from the heart. Be honest in what you're presenting. Share your experiences in a way people can learn from your ideas.
- Death by PowerPoint. It's an expression I heard my buddy Sal Cincotta use, and it's made me outrageously paranoid about some of my presentations. My challenge is the topics I speak about, which are all business/marketing related. I don't have the same visual aids for example as a photographer teaching lighting. I only have one way to convey my thoughts, and that's through my words. Just remember your slides are meant to help you make a point, NOT be the point. Don't write everything you want to say on each slide. Keep the words to a minimum, but make them all keywords and concepts to things you're teaching and talking about.
Baby steps! I've met so many young photographers who honestly do have a great message to share, but they want to start at the top as a key note speaker, often because they have a huge fan base in social media. Having a great fan base is terrific, but they're on the other side of your monitor - not in the room waiting to hear what you have to say! So, don't rush it and start by speaking to smaller groups locally and then build your momentum. There's nothing worse than watching a potentially great speaker crash and burn because they simply weren't prepared.
Bernard Kelvin Clive