21 Sep

What makes a good talk?

I was at a business show, in Wolverhampton, on Friday. It was the inaugral event, and – from what I could see – it went without a hitch: roll on the 2015 show.

One of the things that contributed to the smooth running of the show was the wide variety of speakers – all from different business backgrounds, with different experiences and different subjects to talk about – who imparted their wisdom throughout the day.

I was a little greedy and treated myself to 10 of these individual talks. Every single one of them was lively, relevant, and engaging (the fact that most talks were 15 minutes, helped – just the right length to keep attention). This was, in part, because these were experienced public speakers, but there were similarities – traits, if you will – that I noticed, which all of the talks/speakers had in common.

Here are the things that I think (just opinion, mind) make for a good talk and keep the audience interested:

*Bring people into your talk: ask them questions, point them out, get examples from them of real life situations relevant to what you’re talking about. It shows you can go off-piste and aren’t just going from a previously learnt script. It relaxes them – puts them at ease.

*Give something of yourself: a personal story or learning experience – it helps your audience warm to you. It shows you as genuine, fallible, human… and that’s who you’re talking to: other humans.
Yes, you’re there as an expert, but you’re also there to show you have chinks in your armour too, just like anyone else… otherwise how can others relate to you?

*Humour works wonders. You don’t have to be a professional comedian – just warm and genuine, or able to tell a good anecdote… or ad-lib (I watched one talk where the individual overcame some issues whilst demonstrating Google Glass, and another talk where the speaker mocked the fact that he was supposed to appear on a certain TV show, but didn’t: in both cases, very funny).

*Leave people with at least three things they can nod to, write down, and/or take away and use … without you having charged them for the pleasure. They’ll see you as a true professional at what you do and know why to refer someone to you or use your services in future.

*Think of chunks or snippets of your talk that can be used as soundbites – just quick sentences or key phrases – shared socially, live, across Twitter, Facebook etc.
The hashtag for this business show (#TBNS14) was trending during the day, giving even greater publicity to anything tweeted from the show, including mentions of the speakers and what they’d said.

I’m no pro when it comes to public speaking, but these are the things (or some of them) – as far as I can see – that act as the key ingredients for a good talk.

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