Resources for becoming a better speaker


One of the distinguishing features of my work since I joined the University of Edinburgh is the sheer amount of speaking the job involves. We have a number of vibrant and active communities, and regular events surrounding web publishing and user experience. So a big part of my job is to regularly present, to showcase our work and promote good practice.

I already knew I enjoyed presenting, and I already thought I was quite good at it. But the practice I get at the University of Edinburgh has allowed me to better understand where my weaknesses in presenting are, and how to sharpen up my act. And the culture is such that every time I present I get useful, positive and constructive feedback.

As such, presenting is one of the areas where I have improved the most over the past couple of years. The increase in volume and importance of presentations in my current role has made me seek out resources to improve presenting.

One fantastic resource is Doing Presentations, a set of articles developed by people who have worked at the Government Digital Service. These guidelines have particularly helped me focus on making clear and bold slides. I don’t always adhere to these rules to the letter. But since taking inspiration from these approaches, people have regularly commended my slides.

Having nailed the slides, more recently I have sought to improve the physical aspects of my presentation — how I behave on stage. So it’s great to see another fantastic resource on developing skills as a speaker.

Advent Speaker Tips from Notist is publishing an article a day in the run-up to Christmas. Such advent websites don’t usually work for me — the quality is often far too variable. But in this case, every article is succinct, purposeful and actionable.

Feedback has suggested I sometimes get hyper while presenting. I am terrible at making eye contact with the audience (also a weakness of mine in face-to-face conversations). Watching videos of my presentations has shown me just how much I move around in a distracting fashion while speaking.

These articles have given me useful ideas for how to improve on these aspects — as well as food for thought on aspects I hadn’t even considered before.

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