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Mac Daniel
Mac Daniel

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5 Realizations About Speaking (after attending a painful developer meetup)

Yesterday I attended the worst tech talk I've been in. It's a developer meetup-turned-workshop in Makati. As a designer learning Vue.js, I came in more of an observer so I already saw it not going so well for me. I really just wanted some perspective and to be able to say at least I tried. The thing is, even the developers in the audience couldn't quite understand what was going on.

It wasn't the venue nor the general topics that made the talk horrible but the way the speaker handled it. And instead of listing down what went wrong here are my five realizations about presenting/speaking, validated by the lack of them in yesterday's event.

1. Structure is everything

It's important to setup and communicate how everything will fit into the equation. A speaker shouldn't just randomly pursue ideas. He/she must specify the journey from point A to point B and the topics needed therein.

A talk/course outline needs to be presented to the audience. It's not just 'old-fashioned' but it's effective in marking milestones for the audience. It gives a sense of how far along the discussion is and how much more is to be discussed.

There should also be a sort of learning model to make things more predictable for the curious audience. For example, a talk could be broken down in a Principle-Example-Hands-on pattern which allows for a consistent flow. The speaker could first introduce a core principle before giving real-life examples related to the audience's work situations before allowing them to try it themselves.

It could also start with the endpoint (point B) making the audience understand WHAT they can achieve, and then break it down so they know HOW to arrive at such an output.

2. Know yourΒ audience

It's pretty much a no-brainer but I'm always surprised how many speakers disregard this. Knowing the audience either ahead of time or on-the-spot gives speakers an idea of pace and tone required for the talk.

Are they formal or casual? Are they timid or outspoken?Β Are they beginners or experts?

If the audience are adults, the talk needs to be practical and should directly convey its importance for adults that could be busy about their family, business, and other responsibilities. The value proposition should be obvious and upfront.

If the audience is a mix of experts and newbies, the speaker has to find the middle ground and make sure they're not heavily favoring one over the other.

3. Rehearse the presentation

I can't imagine the cringe people feel whenever a presentation is obviously rushed and unorganized. Good presentation just makes sense while bad presentation sticks out like a sore thumb. It's the responsibility of the speaker to make sure that the flow of ideas and the sequence of topics effortlessly moves the talk forward.

The speaker could impart relatable stories and sometimes jokes to break the monotony. Avoid using Google as a visual aid.

The speaker shouldn't set himself/herself up to fail and be caught in a situation he/she can't resolve.

4. Be mindful ofΒ time

Respect people's need to go to the comfort room, take breaks, and leave on time. A speaker should communicate that these are allowed and that some breaks occur at specific times.

Being mindful of time also help the speaker in identifying the scope of his/her topic.

5. Gather Feedback

As with anything interactive, speakers need assessment. They need to have feedback forms ready before dismissing the audience at the end of the talk. You never know how you did, or there could be unanswered questions that the speaker could have attended to if not for the lack of time. Giving people the option to rate and give speakers feedback imparts a sense of openness which is a quality of a good speaker.


In the end, it's important to assess ourselves as speakers. Good speakers can turn complex ideas into simple blocks that the audience can easily understand and play around with. Good speakers can turn things around to aid the dynamics of the audience while at the same time adhering to structure. And lastly, they should seek to inspireβ€Š-β€Šmaking the audience feel that the effort was worth it.

What other pointers would you add to these?

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