Giving presentations got me my current job – so i’m going to use this blog post to hopefully convince a few people that presenting is a Good Thing™ and that you should give it a try!
The main reason you should be presenting is simple: to make other people smarter. You’ll be doing your small bit to increase the intelligence of the world. If everyone did it, how much better off would the world be? Imagine if millions of people around the world were imparting wisdom / knowledge to others. I think that’s a worthwhile thing to aim for.
Another reason is to build your reputation (or personal brand, if you will). This can be very helpful in small or localised industries. Last time i was in a job interview, the interviewer recognised me from a presentation i gave at a local meetup. Although he still grilled me with due diligence, it was more of a formality and the interview was a cinch.
If you’re in a technical industry like me, you probably could also stand to benefit from the increased communication skills and confidence that you’ll learn from giving a few presentations. These kinds of skills are what will set you ahead of the pack and make you that much more valuable of an employee. Not to mention that communication skills and confidence help in many other arenas of life too.
Networking, in particular, is one of those areas that presenting can really help with. If you go to a meetup, you can only meet one or a few people at a time, however if you give a presentation you’ve basically just introduced yourself to everyone in one fell swoop. And then afterwards the fact that you gave a presentation acts as a great icebreaker for people introducing them to yourself at the meetup.
One of the biggest things that puts people off is the thought ‘but i don’t really have much to contribute’. Nonsense! Everyone knows something. This is usually just a cover for the fear of public speaking. To beat the fear, keep in mind that:
I’m a believer in starting small, and building up to something larger. With that in mind, i recommend starting off by presenting at work during lunch on fridays in a ‘brown-bag’ session (these sessions are so-called because the idea is that everyone brings their lunch to work in a brown-bag and eats it while you present). Send an email around the office to see if a few people would be interested in hearing more about a topic.
Once you’ve become comfortable with that, try meetups. If you’re in a reasonable-sized city, there’s likely to be several meetups related to your industry you could try. These meetups are usually informal groups of a few dozen people interested in getting together, making friends, having a laugh and hearing a presentation or so. Normally they’ll let you have a 5-10min slot. Giving a presentation is a great way to meet people at these meetups.
Other ideas of mine that i haven’t personally tried:
You should use your existing area of expertise as a guide on what you should present. Try picking a very specific area, with one or two points you wish to get across. Or you could present a tutorial showing how to do something.
A subject you’re just learning at the moment is another good idea to use as a topic. Chances are, if you’re learning something currently, that it’s a topical thing that would be of interest to others.
If you’ve got an interesting work (or personal) project you’re working on, this also can be an interesting topic to discuss. Even a sub-part of your project can be interesting to people.
Remember, you only want to present for 5-10 minutes until you’re confident you know what you’re doing, so keep it simple and interesting. It’s probably worth practicing a presentation at a work brown-bag before presenting it in front of a bigger audience at a meetup, to ensure that it is interesting for people.
Since I’m a fan of giving presentations, i created an iphone app called ‘Impromptu’ to make it simple to create and give presentations. You might hopefully find it interesting! Do me a favor, and please check out Impromptu here.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading! And if you want to get in touch, I'd love to hear from you: chris.hulbert at gmail.
(Comp Sci, Hons - UTS)
iOS Developer in Sydney.
I have worked at places such as Google, News Corp, Fox Sports, NineMSN, FetchTV, Woolworths, and Westpac, among others. If you're looking for a good iOS developer, drop me a line!