Every so often, I have to come up with a presentation topic. This is what happens when you know people who organize events and people know that you don't mind speaking in public. Sometimes I even volunteer for this, and then I wonder why I do.
I rarely have a specific topic in mind when I say yes. I trust that something interesting will come up, and I'm curious about what it will be. Then I end up in situations where I've promised to give a talk and I'm trying to figure out what it is.
There are a few ways I approach this challenge when I have to come up with a talk quickly:
Other helpful thoughts:
Next week, I'll be talking to a mostly-designer crowd. Sketchnotes are an obvious choice, but I don't want to do just a basic "You should draw your notes and here's how" presentation -- there's plenty of that on the Net. I'm curious about the deliberate study of sketchnotes that I've been doing by building the sketchnoteindex.com . I'd love to see if I can convince sketchnoters to share their notes with me and everyone else to build indexes like these for their own interests.
There might be a talk there somewhere.
As I was reading the transcript of my recent presentation on social media for hardware dealers and home improvement stores, I noticed a few things I don’t think I used to do before – or at least, not with this frequency. One of the great things about blogging and sharing my presentations through the years is that I can hop in a time machine, remember much of what it was like back then, and see these little changes.
Here are three ways I’m not the same speaker I was ten years ago:
I now start by acknowledging the “Yeah, but”s. You can see how I experimented with this pattern through the years. I started with very technical talks in 2001. I think my 2009 presentation A Teacher’s Guide to Web 2.0 at School was the first time I explicitly called out the “Yeah, but”s on a slide. There, it was near the end of the presentation. In 2010’s Six Steps to Sharing, I moved the “Yeah, but”s near the beginning of the presentation, where it has stayed ever since. (Yes, it took me that long to figure out that you want to get as many people as possible on the same page as early as possible…)
I then spend a lot more time on helping people imagine what they could experience in the future, dipping briefly into what they can do right now to move towards that. It’s like a small-scale version of the pattern that Nancy Duarte describes in Resonate (Amazon affiliate link, key points) – that alternation, the thrum of going back and forth between present and future. I’ve realized that my key contribution as a speaker isn’t usually to give people technical or how-to information – they can get that through the Internet – but to help them see the possibilities and get excited about what they can do, so that they can then learn more. So, I help people imagine point B, and then sketch the many lines from A to B. I didn’t emphasize this in my early talks.
I also find myself illustrating those futures through what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it feels like. What people might say. What their customers might say. How their customers might find and interact with them. I think this comes from all the viewpoint-switching and success-imagining I’ve been doing for both professional and personal planning. In my slides, I illustrate ideas with screenshots of what people are already doing. In my speech (I like planning for the “audio track” of my presentations!), I drop in imaginary quotes to help make the possibilities real. I didn’t notice myself doing that a lot before. I’m getting better at figuring out what something would sound like if it was successful, and it’s useful for explaining things to other people as well. (I’m trying to find the book that stressed this point – imagining the complete experience of your customer – but I’m having a hard time pinning it down. One of the E-Myth books? Hmm. I need to revisit and sketchnote more books.) I used to be a lot more abstract about this. Now I try to make things much more concrete, much more real. It’s like when people think, “I want my customers to say that to me, so maybe this is worth a try.” (Precisely!)
I know, I know, a decade to realize that I’m learning these things. I can’t wait to find out what I’ll be writing about in another ten years!
In a few hours, I’ll be talking about social media with hardware and home improvement dealers at the Hardlines Dealer Conference.
I’m excited! I’ve been looking forward to this
presentation conversation for months. It’s a different crowd. Most of my presentations and consulting engagements so far have been with people who are in front of computers all day, and it’s hard enough to address people’s concerns. What about people who are in stores or on the road all the time, particularly small businesses who might not have dedicated online marketers? I expect that some people in the audience will be very savvy when it comes to social media, and lots of people will be more hesitant. Instead of bombarding people with lots of tips or making mainstream people feel left out, I want to use that valuable face-to-face time to address concerns, show people that they’re not alone, and help them find small, concrete steps they can take that fit in well with their business goals. The Internet is changing so much that it makes no sense to give bleeding-edge one-size-fits-all tips; it’s better to make sure people have the confidence to take the next step and an idea of how everything might fit together.
We’re also going to test this idea of an enriched speaking engagement: not just a talk, but also slides, transcript, additional resources, answered questions, and maybe even sketchnotes of the two talks before me. Because I don’t like boring people with bullet points, my slides have very little text on them. I want people to be able to remember and share the key points afterwards, though. I’m going to record the talk, turn it into a mini e-book, and share it with people as a follow-up.
Here we go!
I like reading much more than I like listening to someone talk, and much, much more than listening to myself talk. Text can be quickly read and shared. Audio isn't very searchable. Besides, I still need to work on breathing between sentences and avoiding the temptation to let a sentence run on and on because another cool idea has occurred to me. Perhaps that's what I'd focus on next, if I ever resume Toastmasters; my prepared speeches can be nice and tight, but my ad-libbed ones wander. More pausing needed.
So. Transcription. I could do it myself. I type quickly. Unfortunately, I speak quite a bit faster than I type, so I usually need to slow it down to 50% and rewind occasionally. ExpressScribe keyboard shortcuts are handy. I've remapped rewind to Ctrl-H so that I don't need to take my fingers off the home row. But there's still the there's the argh factor of listening to myself. This is useful for reminding me to breathe, yes, but it only takes five minutes for me to get that point. ;) The other night, it took me an hour to get through fifteen minutes, which is slower than I expected. An hour-long podcast interview should take about four hours of work, then.
I could use transcription as an excuse to train Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, the dictation software I'd bought but for this very purpose but haven't used as much as I thought I would. It recognizes many words, but I have a lot of training to do before I get it up to speed, and I still need to edit. This would be a time investment for uncertain rewards. I still need to time how long it takes me to dictate and edit a segment.
Foot pedals would be neat, particularly if I could reprogram them for other convenient shortcuts. Three-button pedals cost from $50-$130, not including shipping. In addition to using it to stop, play, and rewind recordings, I'd love to use it for scrolling webpages or pressing modifier keys. I often work with two laptops, so it's tempting. (And then there's the idea of learning how to build my own human interface device using the Arduino… ) - UPDATE: I've built one using the Arduino! I can't wait to try it out.
In terms of trading money for time, I've been thinking about trying Casting Words, which is an Amazon Mechanical Turk-based business that slices up submitted files into short chunks. Freelancers work on transcribing these chunks, which are then reassembled and edited. The budget option costs USD 0.75 per audio minute, which means an hour-long interview will cost about USD 45 to transcribe. That option doesn't have a guaranteed turnaround, though, so I could be waiting for weeks. In addition, I tend to talk quickly, so that might trigger a "Difficult Audio" surcharge of another USD 0.75 per minute, or about USD 90 per audio hour.
For better quality at a higher price, I could work with other transcription companies. For example, Transcript Divas will transcribe audio for CAD 1.39/minute, and they guarantee a 3-day turnaround (total for 1 hour: CAD 83.40). Production Transcripts charges USD 2.05/minute for phone interviews.
I could hire a contractor through oDesk or similar services. One of the benefits of hiring someone is that he or she can become familiar with my voice and way of speaking. Pricing is based on effort instead of a flat rate per audio minute, and it can vary quite a bit. One of my virtual assistants took 14 hours to transcribe three recordings that came to 162 minutes total. At $5.56 per work hour, that came to $0.48 per audio minute, or $28 per audio hour. oDesk contractors are usually okay with an as-needed basis, which is good because I've scaled down my talks a lot. (I enjoy writing more!)
So here are the options:
I'm going to go with dictating into Dragon NaturallySpeaking because I need to train it before I can get a sense of how good it is. It takes advantage of something I already own and am underusing. Who knows, if I can get the hang of this, I might use it to control more functionality. We'll see!