Speaking in front of large groups of people, whether at IT service management (ITSM) conferences or elsewhere, isn’t a natural thing. It’s definitely an acquired skill with multiple facets – from being able to speak in a comfortable manner, knowing what and what not to say, to getting the delivery right such that you receive future invites to speak elsewhere. But this capability should start with the ability to speak well at work.
The great thing about a career in IT is that, at almost every level, you’ll find opportunities to speak in front of groups of people – whether colleagues, suppliers, or potentially customers. Then, once the workplace speaking is conquered, the ITSM industry offers numerous opportunities to extend your speaking prowess and reputation. For instance, there’s the Service Desk Institute (SDI) conference in March and the HDI conference in April/May each year.
Some workplace public speaking scenarios could include:
Your performance during any of the above example scenarios, and others, can affect the work lives of your staff or colleagues, stakeholders, partners, suppliers, and customers. Get your content and delivery right (which I cover in a moment), and your desired outcome is as good as assured. Get them wrong and your desired outcome, and perhaps part of your reputation, is lost. So, no pressure;)
Presenting, or leading group conversations, at work is also a route to presenting at industry conferences. Many of the same skills are used. Plus, of course, the more public speaking you do, the more comfortable you’ll become (not that there’s anything wrong with feeling nervous before speaking publicly – it shows that you care about doing well). Workplace vs conference public speaking: it’s the same, but different. Conference speaking is more difficult, but also easier. Why? Well firstly, conference speaking leverages many of the same skills developed through workplace speaking. But the differences are key to understand:
The good news though is that, while tainting your reputation at an industry event might feel risky, it will have far less an impact as doing the same at work. Plus, of course, a great performance in either setting can do wonders for your career.
In fact, plan as much as possible, find out about your audience and plan to help them learn something. Remember that the presentation should be more about them, and their learning, than you as the presenter.
Speaking is potentially the shortest part of the overall activity, with the suggested split being 40% preparation, 20% speaking, and 40% afterwards on follow-up actions (less for conferences). This will of course differ on the circumstance – for instance, creating a 30-slide presentation deck will potentially take a long time.
Go into any discussion/presentation with a view of what good, bad, and great looks like, to ensure that you manage the discussion, or presentation, towards your intended outcome. And remember to consider the impact your actions will have on the actions of others.
Take your time, pause, and breathe, which will all allow you to gather your thoughts and calm the nerves as you go. If your presentation has a lot of content, consider removing one section/topic to ensure that you give the other parts adequate attention.
Remember that many in the audience will have been in your shoes before and so they’ll hopefully be on your side if things go awry. Trust me, some people won’t even realize that you’re having an issue. The main thing is to take a deep breath, and a moment, while you think how best to regroup and continue.
If you’re using slides, having fewer words on them allows the audience to listen (to you) more rather than ignoring you as they try to quickly read the slides. Great visuals will also help to hold the audience’s attention.
If you can use a flipchart or whiteboard, or ask open-ended questions, then getting the audience or group to do more than just listen will help with keeping their attention and involvement. It might even increase their enjoyment.
It might be a serious topic but sometimes humor can help to engage the audience. Remember, a-ha is only one letter away from ha-ha
Your words need to provoke the intended reaction, actions, and outcomes. Less content might actually help people to think more themselves and arrive at the desired objective more quickly.
Particularly when presenting at an industry conference where your authority will need to be quickly earned.
If you follow these tips, you’ll feel more confident about your next speaking engagement and will hopefully garner greater respect from those who are listening. Plus, you’ll probably find yourself in even more speaking situations. In workplace scenarios:
And, if you are open to public speaking, you’ll see a different type of reputational improvement – for both you and the company you work for.
Finally, remember that your words have impact. Make use of words as though they are your most powerful tool and deliver them wisely to get to your desired outcomes.