Think about the last conversation you had via text or phone. Now think about the last conversation you had in person or via video. Consider the differences. How well were you able to pick up tone or meaning? Were there subtle communications you missed over the phone that you likely would have picked up in person? How much is lost when you’re not looking at the person you’re talking to.
When Steve Jobs presented the iPhone for the first time, he didn’t get up on stage and say, “Hey this is an iPhone.” Instead, he told a story – specifically the story of Apple. He built up the iPhone in terms that people understood. This made for an excellent presentation. It sucked people in, it made them invested in what it was talking about, and ultimately, he announced the iPhone to huge cheers. Steve Jobs knew how to give a great presentation.
Now, I’ve been speaking in front of people for a long time. My first on stage performance was at 7 years old, when I was in 2nd grade. I love being in front of people, whether I’m acting, teaching, or just talking. But giving a good conference presentation takes practice. After professionally speaking for almost 10 years, I know what works and what needs work. Here are my 5 steps to putting together a good conference talk.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Socratic Method? At The University of Scranton, we loved good old Socrates, so we studied him and his methods a lot. The general idea, derived from how he would debate people, is to ask a series of questions until you get to the truth of the matter. He would often question people until they backed themselves into corners. Another, similar method is the “5 Whys.” You keep asking why until you get to the real root of the issue. The idea here is that you want to solve the right problem, so you need to know what the real problem is.
One year ago today, I launched Episode 1 of How I Built It, the podcast I started to learn from other business owners. I announced it by telling the story of Il Duomo, which I had seen in person 2 months prior. That’s still a great story that gets at the heart of what I’m trying to do on the podcast: learn from other people. I knew when I launched that it would be successful if I got great advice from people who’ve built great things. What I did not expect was the other successes I’ve seen. A year in, I have over 72,000 downloads. Each episode gets downloaded at least 1200 times 2 weeks after launch. And podcast sponsorships have become a major part of my income.
So…I write about learning a lot. Turns out, I really love learning. I also like coming up with plans about learning, and telling you about them. The last one that went really well was the one I did in January 2014, when I learned Sass. But now that I’m no longer at an agency, I feel like pushing myself to learn is even more important because it’s not part of my daily routine; I don’t have amazing co-workers I can learn from anymore. So with that in mind, I came up with a learning plan for the next few months of 2017.
Over the last few months, I’ve interviewed dozens of people, asking a pointed question: “How did you build that?” In that time I learned common tools, business decisions, and generosity. Recently I gave a talk where I went through the most important lessons I learned, and some tools to get the job done.
It was around this time a year ago that I decided to start my podcast, How I Built It. I started it as a way to generate buzz around building things so I could send people over to my online courses, where you learn how to build things. But a funny thing happened. Thanks to Rebecca Gill (Season 1, Episode 2) I reached out to Justin Ferriman of LearnDash about sponsoring her episode and he said yes! Since then, basically all of my episodes have had at least one sponsor, Season 2 was sold out, and Season 3 is on its way to selling out. In that time I’ve picked up a few things that I feel can help anyone who is thinking about Podcast Sponsorship.
So I’m a bit of a technophile and an early adopter. Always have been; I had a Palm M100 in 9th grade because it looked cool. Plus it helped me keep my busy schedule of drama club and homework straight. Since then, I’ve tried to get new tech sooner rather than later. Sometimes I write about it. When the iPad Pro was announced, it wasn’t something I was able to buy. But I’ve been looking for a good way to draw on a screen since my first “tablet” in 2005. Well, I was able to get the iPad Pro 10.5″ this year; so how does it stack up?