Speaking in front of an audience can be daunting and thrilling at the same time. There are many ways to become a better speaker or perhaps you are a great speaker and looking to fine tune your skills. Over the past year, speakers all over the world came to grips with virtual talks and began adjusting their approach to online. In November we hosted the very first EuroSTAR Online and it was awesome! Everyone learnt so much, both the attendees that joined us and the speakers who were giving virtual talks, a new experience for many!
This year, EuroSTAR Online is back and taking place 28-30 September. We are welcoming 57 speakers from 14 different countries and will be organising community sessions throughout the conference which will bring even more speakers to the virtual EuroSTAR stage.
A number of experienced EuroSTAR speakers have come together to share their top tips for preparing for your talk. We hope these help you!
Keep it short, keep it focused.
I know that all your ideas are totally brilliant, but you really do only have 20 minutes to get one idea across and embedded into your audience’s minds. With a typically tight schedule and an abundance of interesting information, you will need to be tactical about this.
Try this: Put each point you have onto a separate, rough slide, then practice talking through each slide. You will run over the 20 minutes. Now, think about your one central message, that one idea you need inside people’s minds at the end. Ask yourself – is the point on this slide absolutely necessary to that message? If not, ruthlessly cut that slide out. Also, cut it out, don’t trim it down, hoping that you can briefly cover this plus a myriad of other points. You most likely can’t.
If you think it tough to get your idea over in only 20 minutes, have a look at a few of the totally brilliant TED talks for inspiration; none of which are longer than this time.
The above tips are provided by Andrew Brown of Expleo. Check out Andrew’s talk on Software Quality and Human Factors – our next challenge at EuroSTAR 2021
Your talk is a distillation of your knowledge.
In general for presenting: Your presentation is a distillation of what you know. Remember you have a story to tell, which needs to be gripping. But to tell your story – to make the distillation – you need to know the back-story. In other words, you have more material in your mind and your notes than you will present, because you won’t have time. Having that background will help you tell your story. Writing a paper can give you the chance to expand on your ideas. Think how J K Rowling built up a whole world: her notebooks have details that didn’t make it into the books, and the books have details that didn’t get to the films.
Take time to set up your recording location.
For speaking on-line on zoom: Take a few minutes to get set up, as people are going to have to look at you and your backdrop for the duration of the talk. Check your camera angle, background, appearance before you start – for example if this is a zoom meeting, you can check your set up before the meeting by having a zoom meeting by yourself to see what you look and sound like. Plain background, and check there is nothing that shouldn’t be visible in the broadcast. Raise your laptop/device up so it is level with your face (I put my laptop on a shoe box) – then you won’t be filming the inside of your nose. Lighting from the side and front, not from the back, gives a good light to your face.
Isabel Evans provided the above tips and you can check out Isabel’s talk on Who are we? What are we doing? How are we doing it? at EuroSTAR 2021.
Imagine your talk is a Q&A.
Many speakers are much better in Q&A than presenting their topic from prepared slides, so turn this to your benefit: Imagine your talk is a Q&A and think about what questions your audience would ask. Structure your talk in a way like you would answer these assumed questions. You can even show or say out loud the question you are going to address as a kind of section intro. This way you can ensure that your talk will be more relevant. When you record/present the talk, imagine a person behind the camera as one who was asking the questions – it will appear more natural both for you, and also your audience.
Gáspár Nagy is a coach and trainer with Spec Solutions. Check out Gáspár’s talk on Living Documentation with BDD: Structure, Consistency, Traceability at EuroSTAR 2021.
Keep it Simple
Don’t try to squeeze too much in! I was really challenged with the shorter 20-minute time that works best for online talks compared with the usual longer 40 minute in-person track session. I created a shorter presentation focused on fewer key points, took some notes, and did a dry-run or two on my own to ensure that I did not run over.
Do a couple of dry runs so that you are certain about what you want to say, how you are going to get your message through. The better prepared you are, the less focused on your notes during the presentation.
If at all possible, stand up during your presentation 🙂 I found that I got more energy when I was standing up, and using my gestures as I would normally do in a physical presentation.
Gitte Ottosen (Key2Quality) won the EuroSTAR 2020 Best Paper Award. Check out Gitte’s talk on Quality is not about testing… It’s about value! at EuroSTAR 2021.
Everyone has their own approach to speaking and these are just a few helpful tips for giving an online talk. If you are attending EuroSTAR and wish to get involved in hosting a Community session then keep an eye on your emails this summer. We will release all details of how to get involved and would love to welcome you. We will also be hosting a free community event Testing Voices on 29th June if you’d like to attend.
In the meantime, check out the full EuroSTAR Programme and get in touch if you have any questions.