The 5 Things I Learned from Teaching Others about Public Speaking…


I had the opportunity to teach a six week public speaking class at Salesforce Tower and as our students are preparing for graduation on 25-August, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on a few things.  For instance, how we got here and what I’ve learned. I thought I would share what I learned  before we publish another post on what the students learned.

So the person that hates public speaking, helped to teach a class to encourage people into speaking at Salesforce events.. Yeah, about that.  I am not sure whose idea it was at first, but there was an email from Keir and then a hyper-kid-on-a-lot-of-sugar-email from Will.  Which then turned into an opportunity for me to make a project plan (love those) and the rest was history.  Well history in as much as we got together, had some objectives, I got to use my project plan and we divvied up content / speaking among ourselves with assists from Antonina, Pauline & Kerry. We were running like a well oiled rusty machine!

But enough about the behind the scenes stuff, if you’ve stuck with me this long, you clearly are insane or REALLY want to know what I’ve learned.

  1. Body Language is Important.  I know a lot of the feedback that I give other people are things that I struggle with myself.  Flinging my hands about all over? Yup, do that all of the time.  I tell myself not to, but it still happens.  I’m Italian.. it’s natural.
  2. Keep it Simple.  The KiSS principle really does apply.  As we worked with students to refine their presentations and hone in on one or two key things per slide, I realized how many times I had been guilty of jamming a ton of text on to a slide cause I REALLY NEEDED IT TO BE THERE.  Actually, I didn’t but it tends to be a crutch if you haven’t prepared enough for your talk.
  3. How to be a better prepared speaker and presenter.  I have been giving tips of what to do and what not to do from experience and other resources, but actually all of us can definitely learn a thing or two about what to do better.  Some of these include conducting dry runs, having a prerecorded demo (IT’S NOT CHEATING*) and having screenshots available in case you aren’t able to deliver a live demo.  Can’t wait to try these out at Dreamforce!
  4. Bring a bit of yourself to your presentation.  I have a tendency to keep personal stories out of my presentations but the ones where I have interwoven anecdotes (good and bad) with best practices have been the talks that have been the most successful for me.  Don’t be afraid to let others learn from your mistakes or successes.  It’s easier to relate to you and others may have had similar experiences.
  5. Lastly, I really enjoyed teaching this class.  I was able to see people who may have struggled to find a niche or a reason to tell their story, but they worked at it to find a message and pull it together.  Just watching the progression and hoping even one tiny thing I might have said inspired that, was incredible.  (I’m pretty sure it was probably something that Keir said that inspired it!)

As our students prepare to deliver lightning style talks on Thursday night at a joint London Dev & Women in Tech meeting, we can hope they learned something, remember the tips from class and continue getting up on stage.  The aim of this program was to diversify the speakers at our User Groups, World Tours and even Dreamforce.  We spent a session talking about barriers to speaking and hopefully everyone will come out of this energized and ready to go, because everyone has a good Salesforce story or two to tell!

Thanks to everyone that attended class.  We appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to be a part of this program.  We’re hoping your feedback will make it an even better experience the second time around!

*Pre-recording your demos so you can avoid the anxiety of whether or not the wifi will work, Salesforce won’t be slow or you just plain forgot what you were doing is good prep and NOT CHEATING.  Some of us are not adrenaline junkies!