How to give an amazing talk without the nerves

Paul Boag

Has a fear of speaking to a room full of people prevented you from sharing your experiences? Would you like to be a public speaker, but are too nervous? Then this opportunity is for you.

Much of my success has nothing to do with my skill as a web designer. It hasn’t even got much to do with my years of experience. It is all down to the fact I am not afraid to give a talk in front of an audience. How messed up is that!

There are millions of amazing people you will never hear about. Not because they lack the skill. But because they are uncomfortable presenting to an audience.

I want to change that. I want to give a voice to those of you who have something to say. But may not be ready to stand up at a conference and say it. That is why next season of the podcast is going to be a series of lightning talks.

Introducing Boagworld Lightning Talks

On every show between June and September, we are going to include two or three lightning talks. Ten to Fifteen minute pre-recorded talks from anybody with something to share.

If you have never spoken at an event before, this is your chance. A chance to share your experiences from the comfort of your own home. And because the talk is pre-recorded you can do it as many times as you like to get it right!

Pre-record your talk from home until you get it perfect. No live audience, no nerves!
Pre-record your talk from home until you get it perfect. No live audience, no nerves!

With approximately 45 slots available there are plenty of opportunities for everybody. Although I am keen to support those nervous about speaking, that is not the only reason to submit a talk. For example, you might be a caregiver and never get the chance to go to events, let alone speak at them. Or maybe you have a disability that prevents you.

That said, this is open to anybody. Even if you have spoken before I would love to give your ideas a bigger platform. Each episode gets thousands of downloads. This makes it a great chance to improve your exposure. Maybe it will even lead to conference speaking opportunities as podcasting did for me.

Sounds good? Okay, let’s talk about logistics.

How I’ll choose who to feature

I don’t need your life history when you submit a talk. This isn’t American Idol. I am intending to include almost every talk that is submitted. I have a lot of slots to fill so I don’t think I will need to reject anybody. But there are a couple of other things to bear in mind:

Audio quality matters a lot

If the sound on your talk sucks then it might get rejected. Nothing puts off people more than straining to listen to a bad recording. Take the time to get this right. Use a decent mic in a quiet room. Check your levels and make sure your voice isn’t getting distorted.

This is the mic I use (Amazon affiliate link). But any mic that isn’t your built in laptop mic will probably do the job.

Presentation style

Nobody pays my listeners to listen to the podcast. They listen as much for me to entertain as inform them. Make sure your talk is enjoyable to listen to. It doesn’t need to be funny, but work hard on ensuring your voice doesn’t sound monotone. Also, avoid sounding like you are reading. Try and make it sound like a conversation.

Remember we can’t see you

I know this is obvious, but remember it is an audio only talk. That means no slides. No way to show the audience code or visuals. This is going to have an impact on the subjects you can talk about. You are welcome to point people at a website for examples, but don’t presume people will see them. Many people listen to a podcast at times when they cannot access a website.

A word on subject matter

As I said, I am hoping not to have to reject anybody. But please remember, my audience is broad and so we don’t tend to get into deeply technical subjects. Some technical talk is fine, but remember this has to be accessible to everybody.

But whatever your subject, try and make it applicable to as many people as possible.

Finally, don’t make it a pitch! If I get even the vaguest sense you are trying to sell something I will not include you. I understand we all have to make a living but don’t do it in your talk. You shouldn’t even talk about yourself other than to say hello.

Instead, I will introduce each speaker (see below). That is where I will mention any website address you want to promote.

A couple of minor logistic issues

Remember your talk has to be between 10 and 15 minutes. I may consider up to 20 minutes but you better be damn good!

Also, please submit your talk as soon as possible. I can accept submissions throughout the season, but it will reduce the chance of it getting on the show.

How to submit a talk

Submitting a talk is pretty straightforward. Once you have recorded your talk, put it online somewhere. Then email me the following information:

  • The title of your talk.
  • Up to 50 words describing your talk.
  • The web address where I can find your audio file.
  • Your name.
  • A short biography (again no more than 50 words). You can promote yourself as much as you want in this.
  • A web address where people can find out more about you.

I will feature every submission

If I happen to get more submissions than I can include on the podcast, don’t despair. I promise that I will make all submissions available via my website after the season is over.

I do reserve the right to not publish a submission if I decide the content is inappropriate for any reason. But I am sure you wouldn’t submit anything that is inappropriate.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning that talk!