You may have heard about our SHIFT Speaker Database, a project to highlight the diverse tech and digital public speakers of the South West – if not, find out more here!

Whilst this database will encompass a range of experienced and expert public speakers here in the region, we also want to encourage talented individuals who haven’t taken to the stage before to get involved

It’s important to ensure experts aren’t dissuaded from sharing their knowledge and opinions simply because they haven’t had access to public speaking training and support. 

To offer some guidance for budding public speaking in tech & digital, we’ll be publishing a series of resources available for anyone to use. 

First up we’ve outlined some key pieces of advice to bear in mind before your first public speaking event.

Know your stuff

A black woman named Joyann Boyce standing at a podium giving a talk. She is behind a black back drop, she has a laptop in front of her and a microphone. She's wearing an orange top and blue jeans.It may sound obvious, but knowing the topic of your presentation inside out will make all the difference.

Taking the time to research your topic in depth, whilst engaging in discussions that surround your selected talking point, will allow you some leeway during the presentation. 

Giving yourself room to think on your feet will most likely result in a much more engaging talk, whilst ensuring you’re ready for any questions the audience may have.

In turn, having well rounded knowledge can help bolster your confidence on the day.

Understanding the expectations from your audience is just as important as being familiar with your topic. If you know your audience, you can align your speech to their interests and ensure your presentation gives them value. 

Deciphering what needs your speech should meet – whether that be impactful, insightful, entertaining etc. – will allow you to frame the presentation accordingly.

A useful tip is to memorise your first and last lines. These are the most important for grabbing attention and creating lasting impact. The rest doesn’t have to follow a perfect script, just know the main structure and learn enough to give a reactive presentation. 

Finding your public speaking style 

Public speaking requires a specific style of communication. It’s easy to accidentally speak too fast or to get lost on a tangent, but delivering a clear and concise talk will increase the value for your audience.

You want to strike the right balance between keeping the talk moving at a fast enough pace to maintain engagement, but keeping it clear enough for them to properly digest the information. 

Remember that long pauses are fine, you don’t need to rush through your content. Allow yourself a moment to collect your thoughts whenever necessary. 

Avoid making detailed notes if possible; this will also stop you from regularly looking down. 

The same goes for slides – your audience is there to listen, not to read! Make your slides minimal and only include features that can enhance your presentation – think diagrams and images.

Keep your eyes on the audience to portray confidence and keep them engaged. If you’re feeling nervous, you can always look at people’s eyebrows – it’ll make them think it’s eye contact! 

Practice makes perfect

If you have little to no experience in public speaking, rehearsing in front of people can be a really helpful way to prepare. 

Presenting in front of family and friends can help to familiarise yourself with the feeling of being on stage, and also solidifies your knowledge on the topic. 

Getting feedback from anyone you can present to is super valuable too and can focus your practice. 

If you can’t emulate a real audience, practicing in front of the mirror and recording yourself are useful alternatives. It’ll feel cringeworthy, but it’ll put you in good stead for the real thing. 

Just getting familiar with the sound of your own voice for an extended period of time can really help navigate any nerves whilst on stage.

Building confidence

A South Asian person is in her wheelchair sitting in front of a brick wall, holding a microphone while giving a speech.Nerves are expected before public speaking or performing. Even the most established performers experience stage fright, meaning there’s almost no point in attempting to beat the nerves. 

There are a few tactics you can try to emulate confidence.

You’ve probably heard of ‘fake it til you make it’ and it can be a helpful mindset to embody. Our minds will look for evidence to prove what we tell it, so trying to remind yourself that you are qualified, talented and knowledgeable might help to negate any anxiety. 

If reaffirmation of confidence seems to help you, trying to reframe nervousness as excitement might be another useful outlook for you. 

Another way to craft confidence is look good, feel good. 

Taking some time to get ready before the presentation can help you to relax. Creating a self-care regime and preparing a nice breakfast on the day of the talk are two ideas, but having a think about what relaxes you the most is the best way to go. 

Planning an outfit ahead of time can also eliminate any last minute morning stresses. 

Remember, if your anxiety feels overwhelming, it’s OK to speak out. Finding someone you trust to confide in can sometimes relieve an aspect of the pressure. 

Shona Wright

Shona covers all things editorial at TechSPARK. She publishes news articles, interviews and features about our fantastic tech and digital ecosystem, working with startups and scaleups to spread the word about the cool things they're up to. She also oversees TechSPARK's social media, sharing the latest updates on everything from investment news to green tech meetups and inspirational stories.