Speak Up! is the latest of Jesse Noller’s community-oriented projects. [I’m pretty sure he has cloned himself to do all this stuff.] Having sat in many ‘how to give a talk’ talks (meta!) I’m amazed how often people focus on construction of slides, the narrative and practice (feh!) and forget the most important thing.
I’ve been saying this for a while, but this paragraph from Cheek was my hero sums thing up well.
Later that season, Cheek would give me the most important piece of advice anyone has in this business â€“ Be Yourself. Itâ€™s easy to lose that once you get close to the pinnacle of the profession, to try to change who you are or how you do what you do in order to impress people or to make your way up the ladder that much easier, but Tom told me squarely that there was a reason I was in that booth with them and it was because of what Iâ€™d done on the way there. That my success was based on how I went about my work both on the air and off and that any future success would be based on the same thing.
Pulling it back to speaking, people want you and your content not something and someone else when they select you. Don’t change. Even if that means blatantly ignoring cultural norms. For example:
- When I did Set Course for Awesome I was warned that having cussing in the deck could be offensive to the audience. Noted. Did I change it? Not a chance.
- If I am speaking at your event I’m going to wear what I am comfortable wearing that day which is likely to include some sort of snarky tshirt. Looking at some of the photos from Justin Hunter who is over in India at a conference today the audience is in jackets and ties. I don’t think I own a jacket and tying a tie is an exercise in hilarity.
Also, if you put a mic in front of me, you are going to get snark. And opinion. Because that is me. That’s what you get. Anything else would be dishonest. And being dishonest to your audience is not a good way to engage them.
Yes, I think that slides that have fewer words are better in general and that you should tell a story when behind the mic. But if that isn’t you then don’t do it. Be yourself.