What’s the secret to giving great talks? And, how do you give lots of great talks without burning out?
Join me to learn about my workflow for crafting presentations, tips for presenting well, and having fun while doing so.
Hello, my name is Edafe Onerhime. I’m an Executive Director and Data Governance Architecture Lead at JP Morgan Chase.
In 2021, I gave 21 successful, well attended, insightful talks. Talks I learned a lot from and based on their feedback, talks my audience appreciated too.
How did I do it?
Before I dive into the tips, let’s get to know you – the speaker. The most important starting point for giving lots of great talks is to know thyself. By that, I mean understand what your motivations are as a speaker. What do you want to get out of speaking? Do you want to have fun? Build your platform? Exchange ideas? Find a community of like-minded people? Travel to exotic locales?
Understanding your motivations, or understanding that you don’t understand them yet and need to find them is crucial. Why? Because this will be your north star – the point towards which you build as you craft, deliver, and improve your skills as a speaker.
Next, what kind of speaker are you? There’s more than one way to be a great speaker. You can be motivating, fun, charismatic, a deep diver, all while bringing your audience along with you. It’s wonderful to aspire to be the best you can be, it can be tough to recreate your personality completely. Find the speaking persona you are most comfortable with and keep improving your delivery.
Finally, what do you want to be known for? Leadership? Diversity? Technology expertise? More than one thing?
I’m primarily known for my interest in leadership, data, and diversity with a lens on decolonisation. After a few years of delivering talks, I had enough evidence under my belt to decide what I enjoyed speaking about, am passionate about, and what my audience want to hear.
Arriving at this nexus gets you in the zone to deliver more talks without losing quality.
Here’s my north star.
What do I want to get out of speaking?
I want to inform, delight, and motivate. I want people to take action after my talks and I want them to be excited or intrigued by the topic. I want to make it easy for them to take the next step or steps.
What kind of speaker am I?
I see myself as collaborative and informal. I was raised in an African tradition of call and response.
Have you ever heard “Can I get an Amen?” – you, the audience, become part of the story. In essence, I am a story teller who wants you to be part of the story we share.
Finally, what do I want to be known for?
I want to be known for data, leadership, and decolonisation of data and technology. I’d love to be known for cats, I’m an avid cat mum, but I’m not a cat expert – yet. So although I love cats, I haven’t built my speaking career around our feline overlords.
So – fellow speakers, how well do you know yourselves?
Now we know ourselves, we know what we want, we’ve spent time delivering talks to refine that learning, what’s next?
Workflows. A good workflow is a joy forever. It means you can turn around a talk quickly and easily. When I say workflow, I mean how you get the work for speaking done: the process of crafting, practising, delivering, and refining your talks as well as the tools you use to do it.
You aren’t starting from scratch each time. Why? Because crafting, practising, delivering, and refining talks takes time and effort.
A good workflow minimises the admin so you can focus on the content. I like to think of the admin around a talk as the container and the talk itself as the content.
As a speaker, I want to change the content up as and when I desire, without changing the container too much.
Your workflow will be determined by how you work best. There is no one true way. Some people are motivated by the prospect of failure and love writing their slides last minute. Some plan meticulously. Some people deliver the same talk at every event, others want to deliver a new talk each time.
However you do it, find a workflow that works for you. You’ll want to review and refine it – a lot at the start and then less often as you become comfortable and competent.
Before I dive in, it’s important to understand how I use slides. This will help you understand my workflow better and adapt it for yourself.
I call my slides, my slidedeck. A slide deck is a pitch deck or a presentation deck – essentially a set of related slides.
I use slides as a visual aid for my audience and reminder for me. The points on the slide help the audience orientate themselves to where we are in the story and follow me on the journey. I rarely create slides with a lot of text, because you’re here to join my story, not read my deck.
After a talk, I like to share my slidedeck and narrative, including a bibliography of useful links. These may be things I referred to during my talk or things I found useful as I researched and developed my talk. I tend to link to articles I’ve written or reviewed that expand the points I covered and continue the story.
You needn’t do this – but if you recall my north star? I want people to take action and I want to make it easy for them to do so.
Now on to my workflow.
Complete a know-feel-do on my audience
For every presentation, I want to deliver the best talk to my audience. To ensure I understand them, I break down a ‘what’s in it for me?’ for my audience – (WII.FM) to tune me in to three categories: information, emotion and action. At the end of my presentation:
- What do I want my audience to know?
- How do I want them to feel?
- What do I want them to do?
I work on this till it’s clear then think about how best to communicate my message using a message structure.
Choose a message structure
It’s easy to lose your audience when you don’t set their expectations or they can’t remember why they’re there. A message structure helps me prepare so I can be present and my message has structure. This makes communication more enjoyable and memorable.
Matt Abrahams, professor of communication at Stanford University shares three communication structures to place content into:
- Compare – Contrast – Conclude: List things in common, things that are different, then identify your conclusion.
- Problem – Solution – Benefit: State what the problem is, how you solve it, and finally the benefit to the person. Alternatively, Opportunity – Solution – Benefit as above but start with the opportunity.
- What – So What – Now What: Matt’s (and my) favourite is to start with what you’re talking about (the product, the idea, the process), why it’s important to people you’re talking to, then next steps – what can you do with that information. This structure is perfect for agendas, email, getting feedback, delivering presentations and more.
I look for inspiration in previous decks or on Canva. I prefer to stand on the shoulders of giants. I reduce the number of topics I talk about, I reuse slides and tweak them, and I repurpose my content for each audience. This means I have a core of talks in each area I’m passionate about that I apply these principles to. For example, last year, I presented My Superhero Origin Story to Government Digital Services (GDS), a central government department in the UK. This year, I shared a talk about Transformation When the Stakes Are High – Getting to a High Performing, Data-Aware Culture – in One Piece. This is a mashup between the previous presentation and Leadership: Communicating well when the stakes are high article published in 2020 and lessons learned since.
At this stage, it’s pretty straightforward thanks to all my preparation. I write an outline and start a bibliography – remember I want people to take action, so I share links to make that easy. I also create or adapt slides to fit my outline and write the content as speakers notes.
Practise, deliver, get feedback
Practice makes perfect they say, but in reality, practicing bad habits isn’t the path to perfection. Practicing with good feedback will help you perfect your talk. I time my talk, and fine tune after sharing with friends who aren’t familiar with the topic, so they can highlight where I’ve lost my audience. You can gain confidence with speaking through practicing with others, for example, with a group like Toastmasters. I then deliver my talk and always, always ask for feedback.
My final step is to publish my speakers notes and bibliography. I share on social media and with anyone who’s asked for updates when my materials come out. By doing so, I tend to get great feedback and opportunities to deliver my talk to new audiences.
Thank you for joining me on this journey. Next, I’d love for you to:
- Visit my website ekoner.com to find my previous talks.
- Connect with me on LinkedIn and read my articles on communication and my featured articles.
- Share your workflow with me!