When I started public speaking in 2008 I was really bad. Nervous. Content didn’t land. Often times I didn’t “get” my audience.
I spoke a few times in 2008/2009, but it wasn’t until 2010 when I made strides towards getting better. As I did it I stumbled upon a framework of how I view public speaking.
My mental model of a talk has 3 aspects that should work in tandem:
Content can be inspirational, aspirational, tactical…maybe a few others?
The mistake I made early on was making my content too tactical and ignoring delivery and entertainment. So my talks came across very dry.
This was a reaction to watching speakers like Tony Robbins give talks almost completely devoid of actionable content, but his delivery and entertainment levels were off the charts.
And that bothered me. A lot. So I over-corrected in the other direction.
The key with content is to know your audience and their expectations.
If Tony Robbins took the stage at one of his events and gave an amazing in-depth tutorial on how to run Facebook ads, people would mutiny.
Because that’s not what they expect from Tony Robbins.
I think Tony is a phenomenal speaker for the RIGHT audience (those who need motivation, not those who need specific tactics). Gary V. is similar.
Delivery is about stage presence. Energy. Confidence.
You know it when you see it – some people have great stage presence, other people (like me in 2008) seem nervous and meek. Over-caffeinated and stressed.
This one takes a lot of repetition to overcome (for those who don’t have it naturally), whether on your own or with a speaking coach.
Entertainment is the third piece.
If you are funny on stage…I hate you.
If it’s not you, my best advice is to lean into being yourself. For me, this turned into telling super nerdy jokes about programming and physics.
Or showing 60-second videos during a short intermission in my talk. I’ve struggled to be funny on stage so I’ve taken a different approach that’s more inline with who I am.
Not saying it works, but it’s the best I’ve been able to pull off.
After running MicroConf for nearly 10 years we’ve had more than 200 speakers on stage (including attendee speakers).
With MicroConf, I’ve noticed the best talks have amazingly applicable content, good delivery (doesn’t have to be amazing), and a bit (but not too much) entertainment.
But your mileage may vary based on the audience.
Out of Balance
What’s interesting is if you imagine a talk with only great content (but poor delivery and no entertainment) – it’s super dry.
Great delivery and entertainment but shallow content? That’s a motivational speech.
Great entertainment but vapid content and poor delivery? That might feel like a poor stand-up comedy routine.
I have a hard time imagining a great talk that doesn’t have a dose of each of these 3 aspects.