public speaking and comfort zone

I’ve done a few public presentations every now and then, and they’ve rarely been as smooth as I’d have liked. Honestly speaking, I’ve never enjoyed much of these smaller presentations that much. I usually start nervous and get to normal levels of adrenaline and other chemicals after several minutes. By then, the presentation can be over. The whole point, though, is not so much to enjoy myself, but to collect experience and step outside my comfort zone.

content & performance #

I believe when giving a technical presentation, the performance is not as important as the content. If the content is useful or can raise some thoughts in the audience, I think it can overcome any oratory problems. It’s not that I need to inspire awe with my speaking skills, but I am seriously self conscious about this. Concentrating on the content and putting the performance secondary, relieves some of the anxiety.

I think simple or maybe even no slides can be more effective than complicated and information packed ones. Information packed slides can be helpful for the speaker, especially with remembering different details. Slides with lots of text can be distracting for the audience, as they cannot be certain at which times to concentrate on listening instead of reading.

I also try to avoid being too technical, as it can be overbearing. Though genuine excitement about anything can be captivating even if the audience has no idea what is actually going on. More precisely, I’ve grown to like more and more abstract and broad spectrum talks that inspire myself to think about things in the bigger picture. Jason Silva’s “shots of awe” are a great example of short, effective and thought provoking clips. They rarely go to details but usually provide connections with different ideas. These are pre-recorder videos, but his live presentations are similar.

Jason there is quite enthusiastic about what he is conveying, and the enthusiasm transfers to the listener. Being excited about whatever the subject matter happens to be is a huge bonus. In comparison, if the speaker is themself bored and dry, it hinders the presentation. Despite of how intelligent or accurate their arguments might be.

comfort zone #

Overcoming fears and doing something personally unnatural can be mentally liberating. Stepping outside of one’s zone will usually broaden it, and reduces the difficulty on taking the next step. The next step can be to a completely different direction or consisting of totally another subject matter. Taking the step and surviving it provides one with a context to which they can compare any potential failure or hardship. The more diverse a person’s experiences become, the smaller and more insignificant the new adversities seem.

Doing something publicly, performing in front of people, generates this sense of seriousness. Using even 15 minutes of the audience’s time gives the speaker a sense of responsibility not to waste it. It raises the stakes for the speaker to be accurate and hopefully not misrepresent anything or cause unwanted confusion. I’ve also noticed it inspires more effort on actually learning the subject matter as well as possible.

I feel that when presenting, it’s best to concentrate on content and show legitimate excitement. The content, and slides should be simple and broad rather than complicated and detailed. These simple things can help with speaking in public, but can at best minimise the eventual anxiety. The anxiety is best dealt with exposure and repetition.

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