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How to give a presentation - How I fared at Talk Web Design 2014

8 May 2014

Speaking for the first time at a conference is a daunting experience and I was very lucky to be able to do so. Props to David Watson, programme leader at University of Greenwich for giving me the opportunity.

So how did I fare?

The hook

As with any presentation I had to have a hook, some underlying theme to tie everything together. As a previous student of the MA course at the University, my theme was to talk about my experiences of getting into the industry and exactly what the students would want to hear about it, as either post-MA or current students of the course.

Drafting words

In order to stand up and have the confidence to not come out with only verbal diarrhea and very little content, I began to draft my presentation and it’s various sections. There was a lot I could talk about so I had to make sure that all my points went back to the hook (see above). I found that it helped to write everything as it comes out your brain and then edit by picking at each sentence and deciding whether it serves its purpose. This actually helped me cut down a lot of waffle and nothing-ness!

Drafting slides

Once you have your words, you need visuals.

People tend to have a short attention span should you bring up one slide and talk for 10 minutes. So by drafting your words first, you can now prepare visuals for what you are going to say.

I found that by doing this, it helped me cut down my words even more in my presentation. Or even just to split it into chunks that make more sense. Based on producing the slides I even rejigged an entire section to go elsewhere to make more sense and to help the flow.

Practice

Sounds daft. But for my first speaking experience, I’m going to have to practice right? I didn’t want to over practice though, I did want it to sound natural. I ran through my presentation maybe once a day in the week leading up to it. I practiced it once in front of real people though and I actually got pretty good feedback, they told me that certain jokes didn’t work, and I went and cried in the corner…not really.

If I was to change anything about this, I would have practiced in front of real people probably sooner rather than a day before I was to speak. This is so that if anything drastic is wrong you have time to deal with it rather than panic on the night before!

Advice from others

In the week before the day, Brendan Dawes posted an article about speaking at conferences. I took these words on board and a lot of it actually helped! Mainly these points:

Injecting silence - I found that I was just talking fast, talking really fast and this bit of advice made me speak a little slower and more clearer just to get the point across.

Assume nothing - I hadn’t thought of this at all! But I think it saved the day at the conference! I backed up my presentation in Dropbox, I placed it on a USB, I brought my charger cable. Everything was ready.

On the day

To be real honest, I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be. I had prepared. I mentally, didn’t want to run through anything, especially a couple of hours before! If I spotted any mistakes I would have panicked. So my mindset was to just get in front of everyone and whatever came out would come out. I had run through my presentation enough, that just by looking at each visual clue that came up on the slides I could reel off the relevant section to that part.

Overall

I felt like it went well. A few stumbles but probably not noticeable. I received lovely feedback via email and twitter about giving inspiration and motivation. I felt unbelievably happy and thankful for those that had responded with this and wasn’t that my hook in the first place?

My Speaker Deck slides.

About the author

Pui-Ling Lau, front end web developer and designer based in Kent and London

Pui is a User Experience developer working for Reading Room, a digital agency based in Central London.