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6 truths for first-time public speakers

If you want to design product experiences in a corporate setting you will have to present your work out loud. The size of your audience will grow as your career does. Eventually you might share your work or ideas with people you don’t know. This practice goes by the municipal sounding term: public speaking.”

Public speaking is a powerful tool, and with great power comes… you know. It is not enough to show up and talk. When you are given the privilege of focused attention from a crowd, you must respect the craft and prepare accordingly. The audience will support you, but will you show up for them?

Truth #1

Public speaking is hard work
It’s writing, rehearsing, re-writing, re-rehearsing, punctuated with moments of self-doubt and pain. It can be a slog. But you already know that. Anything worth doing is hard work. And if you put in the time it gets easier. Besides: if it was easy, everyone would do it and you wouldn’t be reading this. So do the work, and trust the process.

Truth #2

Public speaking may make you feel stupid
You are not going to nail it right out of the gate. In fact, like any new skill you’re going to suck at first, and in this case you get to suck in public. But you have to go through this in public, because that’s where the improvement happens. The only way to get to good is through the forest of bad.

Truth #3

Public speaking is always scary
And worse: that fear never never goes away. Fear is a holdover from prehistoric days when making yourself vulnerable could get you killed. But luckily you’re not going to die on stage. So embrace the fear. Making yourself vulnerable will actually help you connect with your audience. Use your emotions instead of fighting them and you’ll become a better performer.

Truth #4

Public speaking is contrived
There’s nothing natural” about talking into a mic. Public speaking is performance so think like a performer. Don’t wing it. Script every word and rehearse. Use the whole stage and your whole body until the words are baked in. Performance is a craft that demands respect and preparation. Great performances only look effortless; they are anything but.

Truth #5

Public speaking is inevitable
If you care deeply about an idea, and want to change the world, you’re gonna need help. Public speaking one of the best ways to get other people involved. How else can you impact 10, 100, or 1,000 people in a single go? (You could write a book but who wants to do that?) At some point, you’ll want to share your story. Might as well get practicing now.

Truth #6

Public speaking is magic
Words can take an idea, your passion, whatever it is, and make someone else feel that exact same thing. A speech can literally change the world. Martin Luther King had a dream, that he shared in a speech. He didn’t invent some technology or use an army to make his point. Only his voice. Words are the most powerful thing in the universe.


See some of the talks I have presented in public

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