I really like public speaking. About six times in the past year, I’ve gotten up in front of people and given talks on a bunch of different subjects related to what I do. I don’t use notes, I move around the room as much as possible, and I occasionally make totally unrehearsed references to 30 Rock. Talking about what I do (in public) is one of the things I love about what I do.
While I love the talking itself, I do not enjoy making the slide deck that goes along with the talk. I’ve grown to view them as supplemental to what I’m talking about as opposed to the focal point. I really think that a good deck supports or shows what you are talking about rather than containing your ENTIRE presentation. Over the last several years, I’ve noticed I follow a pretty particular pattern in crafting my slide deck, which I thought I’d share:
Step One: Outline – I typically make my outline have one line for each slide, with the point I want to (hopefully) make on the slide. The order rarely remains static, even during the initial outline.
Step Two: Transfer to slides – For years, I started off making index card slides between outlining and making the presentation. I’d write each line item down on the index cards, make notes on what visual I wanted on each slide, and then flip through them a few hundred times, adding a card in, or taking a card out when I realized it wasn’t flowing right. For my last presentation, I used an app called Haiku Deck that I highly recommend. It keeps you to two lines of text, which makes you really think about what you want to say.
Step Three: Assemble – Start building your slides. Try not to fall prey to the dreaded bullet point flu and try to pack your slides with as much information as possible. Instead, pick one (or maybe two) key points and tell the rest of what you want to say with visuals. Lay it out how you want it. If you have supplemental material you are DYING to share, do it verbally, rather than dumping everything you know into the slide.
Step Four: Rehearse, decide you hate it, throw it out and start over – I can’t speak for anyone else who presents a lot, but I cannot think of even one time that I boldly charged into my presentation with the first draft of my slide deck. In my most recent presentation, I did my initial run through and threw most of it out the window. On my second run through, I realized I was giving the director’s cut version – it was about 45 minutes too long. So I did another edit that became the final version.
Step Five: Rehearse again. – There is nothing worse than watching someone read a paper from the podium, or watching them read off their slides and say “Any questions?” after each slide is read. I rehearse with the final presentation until I know it pretty cold. I try to avoid a script, and instead work to make sure I achieve consistency between rehearsals. The good part of going note-free is that I don’t feel like I’m giving my 5th grade book report and the audience is much more engaged when you talk to them rather than your notes. The bad part is that you can forget a key point you wanted to make. However, if you have a follow up or takeaway, and if you have given your social accounts to the audience so you can connect further, you can always make sure to share afterward.
Of all of these steps, I think step four is where I spend most of my time. It’s also a total roller coaster. I love my presentation! I hate it! It’s going to be the best thing I’ve done this year! I am so going to bomb! However, usually when I go through the existential crisis that is step four, is when I hit something that I can feel confident of when I stand in front of a bunch of people.
Here are a few resources and articles I liked this week:
- Twitter/LinkedIn partnership coming to a close – I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad that this is happening. I got incredibly tired of seeing people’s personal stuff show up on LinkedIn.
- What should we call social media – A Tumblr devoted to gifs that every person who works in social media thinks about, but don’t say out loud.
- The IRL Fetish – Interesting look at what it means to be “offline” and “online” and whether or not those distinctions are important.
I spend most of my time helping people get their social media communication on a schedule (and then pester them to stay on that schedule), and several months ago, I knew I was in a situation that many of my clients were familiar with. I needed to put my money where my mouth is and get myself on a schedule. After all – if I spend all day long making my clients use their communication tools, I probably should as well.
However, I was never very comfortable with how my site looked. It was thrown together – thanks to a free WordPress theme and some rudimentary html skills I picked up back in 1996* – but I didn’t like it. I was actually embarrassed by it.
Enter Laura with Red Table. I met her through a friend, and she helped me get my act together, so that I have a site I can be proud to send people to when I write about online marketing. With her help, I have something I really love, including these really sweet business cards:
Over the next few weeks, I will be slowly revamping my own content schedule and I have some fun stuff planned – from interviews with friends in the marketing world to answering questions that I get a lot. (A lot a lot). Hope you enjoy the new look as much as I do.
*The best $10 I ever spent was on a basic html book back in 1996/97. I still use it to this day. No joke.
“Do you miss people?”
When I mention that I work for myself, I can always tell the more social types, because this is the first thing they ask. It’s funny because depending on the day, I totally vacillate as to whether or not I miss people.
On one hand, I miss being able to exchange ideas in conversation. I miss the nuance that comes from a facial expression rather than an email or an instant message. I miss being able to run to grab coffee around the corner for a break. I miss seeing the full sweep of office politics.
I don’t miss the constant grind of meetings. I don’t miss coworkers looking for an excuse to waste some time. I don’t miss having to put on a happy face for 9 hours when things aren’t going well. And I *really* don’t miss enforced fun (aka “team building exercises”)
The first time I worked remotely it was hard – I was close to everyone in my office, and I left to move back home. I found it hard to stay motivated, and days went by when the only person I saw was my roommate.
The second time I worked remotely (yes, I’ve done this more than once) it was almost effortless. My major job tasks required a lot of concentration and being able to manage the noise and distraction level really helped me get things done. From a productivity standpoint, I was a rockstar and I loved working on my own. At the same time, I was (again) very close to my office mates and had moved to a new city where I knew virtually no one, so it was lonely. I went back to the office once a month because keeping those ties were incredibly important. I almost had the best of both worlds.
At the start of my consulting career, I was effectively doing the same things I’d done at my old job but I wasn’t working on a team. My client was two time zones away and I wasn’t on the phone all day long. It was really lonely, but I did try to connect to the outside world more frequently. By the time I went into consulting full time in 2009, I had several clients in town. Over the past two years I’ve been able to cobble together that allows me to get my work done while also engaging with other people – clients, friends and other people in my industry – with whom I can exchange ideas.
Here are a few things that I recommend you do to keep yourself connected:
- Get some facetime with your clients – Email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Skype…etc….is great but it doesn’t give you the real nuances of a person. I try to meet with my clients in person somewhat regularly – for some it probably feels like I drop by daily, but for others it’s scheduled. Getting that time with them can give you some cues to how a project is going, and some understanding of the person behind the emails/phone calls/etc.
- Find a professional organization – I’ve been really bad about going to local events in the last year or so due to childcare reasons (as in “When I have childcare, I’m usually too busy to go to a luncheon”) but getting involved in my local professional organization was invaluable for my first few years in town, and working on my own. If you work for yourself, or if you work at home, I’d really recommend not just going to meetings but actually volunteering your time. Most of my clients came from referrals of people that I met while on the board of my local organization.
- Get thee a support network – One of the best things that’s happened in recent years is that several friends of my have gone off on their own as well. It’s been great for me, because it’s like a built-in support network of people who get it. We might not all do exactly the same thing, but its close enough that we can share ideas, commiserate (or congratulate) and address issues that might not be something your friend whose worked at the same job for 10 years can answer.
Most of these things can help you stay connected without pulling you outside of your work environment. I’ve actually thought about Coworking as an option, but ultimately the way my day(s) are scheduled I would lose an hour of work time driving, parking and walking into the nearest coworking place. Maybe in the future it would help me be even more connected, but for now, these things keep me going.