Become a Better Public Speaker with

Public speaking is tough. You’re trying not to say “um” too much or speak too fast or crash your presentation or poop your pants or do any of the million horrible things that, in those first few minutes you’re up on stage, feel way too possible.

I started speaking at web conferences a couple years ago, and have since given a few dozen talks, many in front of hundreds of people. It gets better—way better—but those first few times? They were pretty rocky. Not only was I anxious as hell about being onstage (Is there food in my teeth? Did I remember deodorant?), but I also felt exposed. My ideas—things that had been rattling around in my head for months—were suddenly on display. Would people relate? Would they find my topic useful? My words meaningful?

Am I full of shit?

Don’t answer that question. Instead, go check out, by Github’s Zach Holman. From how to find an appropriately focused topic to writing pitches to determining whether your font is too small (hint: probably), Zach offers guidance for every stage of the process. Even stuff that, usually, you only learn the hard way:

No one told me I’d have to put my laptop down on the ground twenty feet away behind a couch because that’s the only place the projector’s VGA cable would reach.

That sure would have been useful before I spent a day last spring at an under-construction Marriott in a business park in La Jolla trying to explain to a disinterested organizer why no, in fact, it didn’t work for them to play my Keynote file from a mystery PC located at the back of the room.

But enough about me. Like writing, speaking about your work “makes all of us smarter for the effort, including you.” It’s been one of the most satisfying parts of my career. And it’s something I think more people in our field can learn to do—well.

Reading all of won’t suddenly make it easy, but it will help you avoid some rookie mistakes—like forgetting to use the flaming fire explosion slide transition. “That one is gold,” after all.