Top 10 Public Speaking Tips

Most people would like to present their work in one way or another, either at a local event like the DC groups or a well established con, like HITB but sometimes the fear of submitting is too much or the fear of speaking overwhelming.

I even saw this today…

Yes, it does suck being rejected but it gives you time to reflect, and don’t worry it happens to everyone, yes, everyone! What does not kill you makes you stronger, when it has happened to me I hit the books and lab hard and try again. I have done a lot of public speaking, not under this alias but under two other names you may know me as in this industry 😉

I do have a lot of experience public speaking so I will share with you what I have learnt over the years:

  • Focus on research you love, the right opportunity to present will follow.
  • People are not as technical as you think they are, the best received talks were more entertaining and high level than deeply technical, deeply technical talks are awesome but for bigs cons you will no doubt loose people. This is a great talk from CCC showing a good balance between technical content and a good talk, they accompanied talk with deep dive blogs that covered the technical aspects, nice approach…
  • Always start with a joke, it breaks the ice and makes you and the audience feel at ease. Go with something safe, since starting with a bomb of a joke will just throw you, I have seen it happen to people!
  • Submit your best CFP to just one or two of the ones you really want to speak at, I have spray and prayed before which was good, got talks but meant the ones I wanted said no because they needed exclusive content because they saw me listed for other events.
  • Write your CFP with a great title that captures the attention of your audience before the event, take a note out of Buzzfeed’s book… “I flipped some bits, you will never believe what happened next.” or “I battled with Apache, now I‘ve won the war”. These are pretty dumb but you get the idea, a good one a few years back from CCC was “SCADA ($)HELL”.
  • If you get rejected, polish up the research, improve it if you can and then submit somewhere else. Giving up is the only bad move you can make.
  • Speak at a lot of small events, it’s actually harder to speak to 20 people than 2,000 so speaking at these events is great prep, and if you screw up not many people saw it, win-win.
  • When on stage at a big event, always scan around the audience, make eye contact with a people, smile and be dynamic this will keep the audience more engaged. Don’t be afraid to use the stage.
  • Pre-record demos, even if you want to do it live. I have had many things fail so it’s best to have a fallback video, now I tend to just play videos as it works just as well but it’s 100% going to work every time.
  • Don’t feel like an imposter, sure some people know a lot more but many people know a lot less. Sharing knowledge is not about being 1337 but about helping others and feeding back into the research community. And honestly, just look at really old videos or posts from some of today’s greats, we all start somewhere.