How to Ace Public Speaking at a Tech Conference

public speaking

There’s a vital new trend in the tech industry: community-style learning. Hackathons, think-tank style startups, community forums, and, of course, tech conferences.

Speaking confidently in public is now essential to many career choices, including the tech and tech recruiting industries. The higher your profile, the more important this skill becomes. Politicians, TV presenters, actors, IT representatives and CEOs, and even comedians are public speakers and cannot afford to get stage fright.

However, it is also worth noting that some of the best speakers have plenty of help from technology. TV presenters or politicians will actually read from a teleprompter, and filler words are removed from any speech before it airs on TV. Of course, many of these high profile speakers are able to speak at public venues and have become skilled in the art of public speaking.

The following tips can help you be the best speaker possible.

public speaking

Practice is the best way to improve your public speaking skills

The basis of any good speech is practice. This may be something that you avoid overdoing, because you’re afraid of sounding unnatural or robotic. However, the best thing you can do is practice as much as possible. The more you practice, the better you will know your speech and the key points you wish to portray. It is only possible to sound spontaneous and natural if you truly know your material.

Controlling expressions and body language

If you chat to anyone in an everyday scenario you will naturally alter your expression and move your hands in response to the conversation. Your voice may change in pitch and speed; it is these attributes that make you human and easy to listen to. This is one of the first areas to suffer if you are nervous when speaking. Your voice becomes monotonous and your hand movements forced. The only cure for this is practice. Just as actors must rehearse and know their lines, so should you! This will enable you to relax and speak with confidence while sounding natural.


Careful planning

It is essential to visit the venue where you’ll be speaking. You need to be prepared for any obstacles at the venue, knowledgable about what, if any, technological help they can provide. If possible, practice your speech at the venue. The more you’re able to plan and practice for the event, the more spontaneous your speech will sound. This is because practice and planning place the words and movements you make when delivering your speech into your muscle memory. Automatically remembering your lines or hand movements will actually free up your mind to add a little extra into your speech. This will make you relaxed enough to ad lib a little and stray off your pre-planned path because you know you can easily return to it.

Teach, don’t compete

There’s a popular piece of advice tech conference attendees should live by: “learn, don’t compete.” The same goes for speakers at a tech conference. When explaining technical best practices or technical recruitment strategies, it’s easy to try to be flashy and rely on buzzwords to maintain engagement. With so many “brogrammers” raising the popularity bar, speaking in front of a software development, IOS development, or startup audience can be daunting. One of the most effective ways to engage your audience is to sincerely try to teach them something that will better their careers. When people learn from you, their sense of gratitude and engagement skyrockets. Remember, you’re at a conference to share your knowledge, not to be under the microscope. It’s a safe space for community learning, and speaking like a leader will come naturally when you’re passionate about helping your audience.

Don’t be promotional on purpose

Before you skip this advice section, remember that “promotional” is a grey area you unconsciously utilize more often than you think. It’s common practice to place product links in your blog posts, to aggressively name-drop over a business lunch, and to become downright outspoken about the integrity of your product and mission. A conference simply is not the place to talk about your company’s products. Public speaking is an area where even the tiniest bit of inauthenticity falls flat on the stage floor. You will, of course, be introduced by your company and title, and you will definitely tell stories about what worked and what didn’t in your product development. But don’t overemphasize your brand for the sake of promotion. Your brand will ring loud and clear without extra emphasis. Focus on the conference lesson, not the brand visibility.

Master the key points of your speech

Even though you must practice and plan, it is essential not to write out your speech and attempt to learn it line for line. This will create anxiety whenever you deviate from your rehearsed lines. Instead, make sure you have noted the key points that you wish to get across and rehearse the information relevant to each of those points. It can be beneficial to have prepared your opening and closing statements to ensure you know how to start and finish.


Filler words

The best speakers avoid using “filler words.” These are the little “ums” and “ers” which cover gaps in your lines and will reduce the effectiveness of your speech. Do not be afraid of silence! A short pause every so often will allow you to collect your thoughts and the audience to absorb the information you have told them. It will also make you appear calm and in control. In the tech environment for example, attendees are usually experts in the domain. But, there will also be people in the audience who know all the technical terms. It is important to use common terms in the conversation that everyone can understand. This way you avoid awkward situations when people will interrupt you with questions about the meaning of different terms.

written by William Taylor and


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