Rex Black will deliver a keynote address at PNSQC 2016. He shared his thoughts on how to make an effective presentation. When Black first began his public speaking career some 20 years ago, he says he battled such problems as stage fright and the anxiety that goes with putting one’s self out there in front of a few hundred people. But over time he improved. Today, he is in demand as a speaker both for the content of his speeches and his delivery of them. His observations on how to improve one’s presentation should prove useful to potential conference speakers.
Stage fright is normal: “When I started, initially I was scared. I’m not an extrovert. As a professional I was never afraid to share my opinion in business meetings with colleagues. But that’s a different environment from standing up there in front of a lot of people who are expecting you to deliver value on a specific topic. So that initial anxiety shouldn’t be too discouraging—most of us experience it.”
Be organized: “I don’t think my mind is that different from a lot of peoples’. Before I wrote my first book, my mind was sort of like a really messy but well stocked garage. Open the garage doors and there are piles of shovels and chain saws and rototillers, lots of stuff. But it was messy. That first book helped me organize my thinking about these software testing. I would strongly advise speakers to sit down and make sure their presentation is well organized and proceeds in a logical fashion.”
Don’t get side-tracked: “It’s one of the worst things you can do as a speaker. You go off on a tangent, you stray from your topic. Before you know it, your time is up and you haven’t gotten to the main points. I was at a conference recently where someone made the classic horrible conference presentation because this person sidetracked themselves immediately. The speaker engaged in in-depth digressions and ran out of time on slide three.”
Keep an eye on the time: “There’s nothing worse than a speaker who doesn’t stick to their allotted time. One of two things can happen: They never reach their conclusion, which is what a lot of folks came for. Or they spill over into the next presenter’s time, which is extremely discourteous.”
Attend other presentations: “Go hear other people speak and look at them from a critical point of view. What do they do right? What do they do wrong? There’s nothing better than learning from others.”
Don’t present if you hate it: “If at the end of every presentation you make, you’re walking away feeling negative, it’s probably something you shouldn’t do. You can’t hate doing it forever and be successful at it. Eventually, you have to start getting that feeling of energy, of enjoying the interaction, that I get and I assume that other successful presenters get during a successful presentation.”