Public speaking meeting

The Public Speaking Roadmap

So you look around, and all the cool kids are speaking at SQL Saturdays and PASS Summit and the like. You want to be the cool kids too, so how do you start public speaking?

Step 1: Know things

While you absolutely don’t have to be a 30 year veteran and world-renowned expert, it does help if you’ve got some experience with something. In other words, teach what you know.

Maybe what you know is TSQL, or Powershell, or R. Maybe it’s performance, maybe reporting. If you know a topic, talk on that topic. I hear you saying, “But plenty of people are already talking about my topic!” Well sure, just like plenty of people are already writing rock music…it doesn’t mean we’re all done making it!

So, develop your session. Say what you want to say. It’s your unique experiences and expression that will make your teaching valuable. Speaking of which, it’s time to develop your material and your personal style.

Step 2: Practice

Oh my dear word, you need to practice. Once you’ve developed your session, practice it out loud.

Practice your session to your dog.

Practice your session on video, and watch it back. (Yes, you have to listen to yourself speak.)

Practice to your significant other, or a friend, or some co workers.

Set up a webinar, and practice to a live audience online, even if only 2 people show up.

You absolutely must practice your session, out loud, many times. It’s going to suck at first. Practice is how you make it not suck, how you work out the kinks and figure out how it should sound.

Step 3: Try the local circuit

Quite a few people skip this step, and they really do pay for it. Before you go submitting your session to conferences, speak at your local user group. Speak for a PASS virtual chapter. Present for your team at work. Get some live performances under your belt! The responses and feedback – you’re going to ask for feedback, right? – will further refine your session.

Step 4: Level up your public speaking

Okay, you’ve done steps 1 through 3, yeah? Good job, you. Go ahead and submit to a larger event, like a SQL Saturday, or a Code Camp.

If you’re feeling really froggy, then sure…submit to one of the big conferences. I do recommend that you get a couple of smaller events done first…it’ll up the odds of being accepted, and of presenting a good session, in the big leagues.

Bonus: Ask questions!

Throughout this process, make sure you’re asking advice from at least one other experienced speaker. The input from someone who has already been there and done that will make things a great deal easier. Experienced speakers can point you to speaking resources, help you with abstracts, recommend events, and so on and on.

That’s the very high level path, my friend. Now, what do you want to talk about?

Happy days,
Jen

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