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Notes on speaking

I read a lot about speaking and about visual communication. Here's a quick checklist for myself of some of the things that I want to try and avoid when giving a talk.

  • Don’t talk about things you can’t talk about. "This project we’re working on is amazing, but it’s under NDA." Why mention it at all? Rather talk about another project that has similar qualities, that you can talk about.
  • Don’t read your slides to the audience. They can read them themselves. They should be listening to you speak: that’s what they came for.
  • Charts are hard. Anything with more than a few categories in is hard to represent clearly because the pieces become small. Concentrate on simple (or simplified) versions of the data and talk through the rest. Give the audience detail of the conclusions rather than the data itself.
  • Don’t use videos unless they are super short. People came to hear you speak, and they can watch the videos later if they want to. Rather show a few slides of stills from the video and talk about your take on the important things in the video.
  • Don’t use stats without context or source. It’s important to say where stats come from and what kind of conditions they were gathered in, to give them some credibility and authority.
  • Vulnerability is good, arrogance is not. If you are really great, show the audience, don’t tell them.
  • Answer the audience’s questions directly. Don’t redirect the question to talk about something you want to talk about or your personal hobby horse. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it’s fine to say so.

I bookmark articles on speaking when I find them, on Pinboard. is maybe my favourite: it has loads of good advice.