The Meet’n’Greet Of Public Speaking

Mihai Bîrsan L2, Romania

Mihai Bîrsan L2, Romania

You walk into a coffee shop because you heard they have all the fancy coffee and you’re looking for something interesting today. As you walk into the shop, the barista begins to tell you about all the flavors they have and, after taking a few eye-ball measurements of you, recommends three possible flavors from which to choose.

How does that make you feel? If you’re delighted and intrigued, then you’re one of the more sociable people out there. Many people, however, depending on their mood and personality will feel various degrees of disbelief and defensiveness. Disbelief because… “they’re just trying to upsell me because this is business” and defensiveness because “I just want to browse, why don’t they leave me alone”. What if as you walk into the shop, the barista would start with “Hi! I’m here to help you find the best flavor for you. I’ve tasted all of these.” re-read the first paragraph, and imagine how you would feel then.

When someone has established the right contextual rapport, they are suddenly much more believable and you’re more open to listen.

When you’re about to give a talk at a Judge Conference, or with any other public speaking opportunity, put yourself in the audience’s shoes. Who are they? What do they care about, with regards to the topic you’re presenting? As you picture what those things may be, find opportunities to connect with them. So before you even begin to talk about your topic, tell the audience why they should believe you and help them open up.

Personally, I like to establish belief through my credentials. For example, when I give a talk about web technologies, I talk about the years of experience I have building web apps and my passion for the open web. If I give a talk about public speaking, I’d mention that I speak 6-7 times a year in front of audiences of 80+ people and have become increasingly at ease with it over the past 5 years.

To make an audience open up I usually share something outside the context, funny or quirky. Like how I’m planning to take a weekend to serve in a coffee shop because I think it would be an awesome experience, or how I once mistakenly fooled an entire audience of 250 attendees into thinking that I’m 42 years old. (I was 27 at the time.)

Now, hoping that I was able to establish my credentials, here’s some advice for your next intro slide. Before you even begin to talk about the content, ask yourself:

Who will be in your audience? What types of people? What do they have in common?

Knowing who they are will help you answer the next couple of questions, but also tailor the content for the audience. (Are you talking to judges? Players? A mixed audience? How much knowledge do you expect them to already have?)

Why should they listen to you? Who are you in relation to them?

You don’t have to be an expert to give a talk, but if you are, it’s worth mentioning. And if you establish that you’re not, then mention the research that went into the topic and your proficiency with it.

How will you set the tone of the presentation so that they are open to listen actively? How can they empathize with you?

Winning an audience is different for everyone, because it’s closely related to your personality. If with the previous question you were trying to establish a connection at the logical level, here you will try to connect at an emotional level. Making people laugh is a good idea, so long as you don’t make a goof of yourself.

Are your answers to the questions above genuine?

Often when we think of what others think we tend to try and please them at all costs. If by re-reading the answers above you recognize something that’s not 100% true, or anything that could be misinterpreted, go ahead and rewrite it.

As you practice delivering your presentation, practice this intro slide as well, and imagine what the audience’s reactions might be. Thinking of different scenarios ahead of time will make it less frightening and you will feel in control in front of your audience.

So now you know who they are, you have established your credentials and you picked an appropriate tone to make them listen actively. Thus, you have earned an audience that’s eager to find out what you have to say!


Is this an interesting read? Do you also have something to say about slides and seminars? We are always looking for feedback, but even more for collaborators! It doesn’t matter if you want to help writing already scheduled articles, or share entirely new ideas. Contact Theo, and let the Judge Community know what you think.