Tag: public speaking

Use the Data You Have: Explanation and Context

Most conference talks are the worst. We can acknowledge that, among ourselves, right?

Many folks don’t properly prepare, they don’t expend any care into their visuals, and they fail to bring anything like the kind of value that they could.

I’m not saying that people who present at conferences are the worst. By and large they’re actually the opposite – they’re some of the best and brightest and most interesting people in an industry, and that’s why they’ve been invited to speak at a conference.

(sometimes they’re even being paid to speak at the conference)

I think it’s more that socially, at least Americans, we conceive of public speaking the same way we conceive of learning mathematics. It’s like a light switch. You’ve got it or you don’t.

“I’m not a math person.”

That’s nonsense of course. But, it’s pervasive, and it unfortunately really sells us short on both ends – folks who have a ton of amazing things to say don’t use their voice because they think it’s simply the way, when it’s more a matter of work, and practice, and preparation.

The other side of the coin are the folks who think they’ve got it, that charisma, and preparation is for squares who don’t have it.

That’s nonsense, too, naturally.

This is a long way of providing context for a series of Posts I’ll be doing over the next few weeks. I’m speaking at SupConf later this month, and I am determined to provide a mountain of value to the folks who have travelled to San Francisco and trusted me with twenty minutes of their time. My talk is called Use The Data You Have. 

It’s about how customer support teams can create value within their companies and for their customers without running experiments or trying new and crazy stuff – just by using the data they already have.

One way I am assuring myself that I can provide some value is by creating the value way ahead of time, in the form of these blog posts, that will serve as a supplement to what I discuss in the talk.

(Don’t worry, they’ll be helpful in their own way as well, I’m not going to keep anything special away from folks who aren’t going to the conference, or are reading this in the future)

In some way this blog series is a way for me to hedge my bets: even if I completely mess up the presentation and look like a total buffoon, I’ll still be able to click through to my final splash slide and cry for redemption; look, look, all hope is not lost!

Plus, this series is going to be somewhat dry, with some screenshots and Google Analytics talk, which is important, but super dry and not at all suited for an in-person conference talk.

Watch this space!



Dale Carnegie on Public Speaking

Before my recent talk at the Wine Blogger’s Conference, I reviewed Scott Berkun’s post on the best reading for a public speaker. He recommended ‘Public Speaking for Success,’ Dale Carnegie’s book. I picked up the audio version and listened to it on my drive down to Corning.

There’s a lot to pull out of this book – especially the exercises at the end of each chapter, which I would love to do but were not a great fit for an audiobook – but there were a few things that stood out to me, and really had an impact on how I approach public speaking.

  • Pauses: The way Carnegie discusses pauses, and the examples he uses to demonstrate the power of being selective and intentional in their use, was really interesting.
  • The Golden Mean: Carnegie didn’t describe it this way, but in nearly every area he touched on (gesture, pitch, volume, preparation) rather than advocating an absolute, he encouraged the reader to find a happy middle ground that suited their particular style.
  • Success: He mentioned in a few different ways the fact that an audience arrives hoping for your success. They want nothing more than to gain value from your talk – it’s up to you to respect that expectation, and to really deliver your very best.

If you plan to make public speaking part of your professional or personal life, this little book is absolutely worth your time. It’s a bit dated, but the bones are solid. I would recommend against the audio book, however – the exercises at the end of each chapter sounded very useful, and are really only feasibly usable for folks with a hard copy or digital copy.