Monthly Archives: January 2007

Avoid the five biggest mistakes made by speakers

  1. Failing to tailor your speech to the needs and interestes of the audience
  2. Being poorly prepared
  3. Trying to cover too much in one speech
  4. Failing to maintain good eye contact
  5. Being dull

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My quick guide to public speaking

To help prepare a major speech, I’ve gathered a few key principals of preperation and delivery.  They are:

  • Audience.  To reach listeners, find out as much as you can about them.  What are their ages, gender, education level?  What is their attitude toward the subject of your speech?  How much do they already know about the content you intend to present?  Once you’ve gathered as much info as possible, try to adapt your speech to meet thir needs and interests.
  • Topic.  Choose a topic that is intersting to you and about which you know a lot about.  Your topic should also be interesting to your listeners – one they will consider timely and worthwhile.  Narrow the topic so that you can comfortably and adequately cover it within the time allotted.
  • Organization.  Organize the body of your speech by devising two or three main points that explain or prove the central idea.  Next, try to develop at least two subpoints for each main point with material such as examples, statistics, and quotations from experts.  Subpoints should illustrate your main points.
  • Transitions.  Try to carry your listeners smoothly from one part of the speech to the next.
  • Introduction.  The first part of your speech should grab the attention of the listeners and make them want to listen to the rest of the speech.  A good attention getter may include stories, intriquing questions or intersting facts.
  • Conclusion. Summarize your key points and then close with a clincher (such as a quotation or story) to drive home the central idea of the speech.
  • Outline.  Put together all parts of your speech into an outline.  Make sure that everything in the outline serves to explain, illustrate, or prove the central idea, otherwise known as thesis.
  • Practice.  Rehearse your speach several times.  An hour speech should translate to aprox 8 hours preperation.  Don’t memorize the speech, but strive to rehearse ideas (as qued by your notes).
  • Self-confidence.  Develop a positive attitude about yourself, your speech and your audience.  Don’t let fear cripple you:  nervousnes is normal for most speakers.
  • Eye Contact.  Look at all parts of your audience throughout the speech, glancing down at your notes only occasionally.  Avoid staring at a wall, the floor or a window.
  • Speaking rate.  Speak at a rate that makes it easy for the audience to absorb your ideas, neither too slow or too fast.
  • Clarity and volume.  Pronounce your words distinctly and speak loud enough so that all listeners can clearly hear you.  Avoid verbal fillers such as uh, ah, um, er, okay, ya know and most recently, “right”.
  • Posture and poise.  Stand up straight.  Try to be comfortable, yet poised and alert.  Avoid leaning or slouching.
  • Enthusiasm.  Don’t simply go through the motions of giving a speech.  Your whole manner – eyes, facial expression, posture, voice- should show enthusiasm for your subject, and you should seem genuinely interested in communicating your ideas.
  • Ending and departure.  Say your conclusion, pause a few moments, and then ask – in a tone that shows that you sincerely mean it – “Are there any questions?”

A Speakers’ Responsibilities

I happen to attend (and participate) in alot of public forums; meetings, conferences, user groups, associations, clubs, etc – and it has recently become a priority of mine to become a better speaker.  To do so, I’ve begun researching various speaking techniques, etiquette and even responsibilities.  During my findings and while attending recent events I’ve realized, perhaps others can benefit from this process?

Now, I’m by no means claiming to be an expert here, in fact I often struggle at times myself as I tend to be rather analytical and occasionally long-winded; however, I’m very passionate and try to expose myself only when I have relevent content or experience that can add value to the conversation.  Recently, I’ve begun doing some speaking within small and local levels, but my intent is to continuously grow, feeling more confident within larger and larger groups until I can command the stage in front of 1000’s!  Thats one of my 2007 goals anyways..

So, in the weeks/months to come, I intend to periodically share in my ‘public speaking’ findings, whether from first hand experience, observing others or just general thoughts on the subject.  I hope we can all benefit from the excercise and provide a more meaningful experience to all that watch us one day speak.

To those of you that do currently exel at public speaking, feel free to share your input.  Until then, I’ll begin mine, with a wiki like format:

  1. Maintain high ethical standards.  Speakers should be honest and straightforward with listeners, avoiding methods or goals that are decietful, dishonest, misleading or unfair.
  2. Never distort information.  An ethical speaker should always be honest about facts and figures.
  3. Respect your audience.  Some speakers show disrespect for their listeners, talking down to them as if they were ignorant or foolish.  Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.  Will Rogers once said, “There is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in”.  When you are the expert on a subject, remember that your “ignorant” listeners, on other topics, can reverese roles with you.
  4. Reject sterotyping.  You should reject stereotypes because they are “mental cookie cutters”, forcing all people in a group into the same simple pattern.  They fail to account for individual differences and the wide range of characteristics among members of any group.  Some lawyers are dishonest, yes, but many are not.
  5. Enrich listeners’ lives.  To make a contribution, you dont necessarily have to present life-saving tips.  You can persuade your audience to take action to solve a vexing problem; you can provide fascinating information that satisfies intellectual curiosity; you can entertain with anecdotes that divert people from their daily toils – all of these messages can be worthwhile gifts.
  6. Take every speech seriously.  Simple enough, you should try as hard to communicate with an audience of five as you would with an audience of 500.  You never know when one of your listeners may start a national movement based on your ideas.

MashupCamp 3 @ MIT

Coming off the heels of , was even more impressive. The [un]conference moved down to the Hotel @ and pretty much took over the 3rd floor, containing 8 or so conference rooms. For those of you that haven’t attended a , as this was my first, I greatly welcomed the format.

At 9:30am, aprox. 200 developers, evangelists and even a few VCs packed into the welcome room. After a few announcements, and two key principals (below), we began selection of topics to be covered in the several conference rooms. It essentially starts with volunteers, those proposing topics come to the front, give a quick blurb about the intent of the conversation and gage audience interest, assuming there is, a time slot in one of the conference rooms is reserved and the topic is slated. This continues until all slots/conference rooms are booked. The range of topics include technology tools/platforms/vendors to tutorials, demos and even philisophical modeling of virtual currencies.

The two core tenents of the conference are:

  • Law of two feet

– If you are not learning or contributing it is your resposibility to respectfully go somewhere you can learn or contribute

  • Principals:

– those who are in the room are the right people

– what ever happens is the only thing that could

– when ever it starts is the right time

– when ever its over its over

– Oh, and document on the wiki.

Next, we began attending the sessions of our choice, a few of which i sat through entirely, others, i excercised my vote by walking into another room as my input (or interest rather) had expired. After lunch is where the real fun began, speedgeeking. works just like it sounds, mashup developers and vendors have 5 minutes to persuade on-lookers they’ve built the most compelling mashup. Each developer gets one vote – the coveted wooden nickel. You give your wooden nickel to the developer of the mashup of your choice, the dev with the most wooden nickels wins. – Sponsors supply swag to the winner(s), and its actually some pretty cool stuff, such as a dual-core laptop to the winner, along with other various prizes for top placement.

Aside from the great conversations, presentations, and demos – i managed to learn a few things. Most notably were some emerging technologies. I met many talented developers from all facets of the web; , , , , , , , , , – you name it. Notice i didnt say or ? 70% of the devs sported and I was anxious to see these tools/technologies in action and they were quick to offer some insight. Probably the most impressive to me was . For a quick tutorial showcasing the power and dynamic nature of ruby and why its playing such an active role in this arena check out: Creating a weblog in 15 minutes.

Special thanks to Frank, , , , , , , and of course . And without further ado, here’s todays [mashup] links of interest:

In summary, I found to be a great success. Having not attended others I had no basis for comparison, however the format was refreshing, ideas and conversation stimulating and overall I not only learned a few things, but equally important made some new friends. I, along with several others, built my first mashup there and will now begin my preperations go make a run at the 2008 mashup competition. hope to see you there!

Mashup University @ MIT!

Well, my first came to a close today, not without resisting the urge to rollup my sleeves and sling some code competing in the . While, overall I ejoyed the [un]conference, attendance did appeare to suffer abit from a cold snap that hit Boston the first day. Mashup University is an extension to , (which I’ll be writing about soon) whereas API providers/vendors provide classroom style instruction to developers. The format was good, as this was my first Mashup event, i was a little unsure what to expect. These first two days covered presentations from MIT, AOL, Microsoft, Adobe, Sun, AutoDesk, as well as eventful.com, lignup.com, and kapow technologies.

As I expected, the majority of mashups concentrated on maps, as they’re bar-none the easiest to mash. I confirmed this observation by writing several [map] mashups myself while listening to the speakers. I must admit, while not having created an offical “mashup” prior to the conference, i was shocked at how easily the map providers have made it. , and have each made their APIs extremely easy to use/consume, each with good documentation, samples and cross-platform support. AutoDesk also deserves a nod, however, their implementation appeared slightly more complicated.

I found several of the presentations both interesting and educational, being a moderate follower of mashups to date. While the concept of APIs have obviously been around a while, mashups present a new opportunity. While most “mashups” still lack true real-world value, the excitement within the community is sure to continue to push the envelope until more developers take notice. Each year Mashup Camp holds a competition for the best mashup, vote upon by the attendees, and it appears this years contenders have set out to test new waters moving away from the traditional geolocation or spatial data rendering. More on that soon.

A few quick notes on the presentors, firstly, i thought did a great job to get things kicked off. He touched briefly on the machup tenents, XML, JSON, YAML, SOAP, XML-RPC, REST, AJAX and of course RSS. He went on to discuss some of the pain points, which included:

  • – API Abuse/Metering
  • – API Versioning
  • – IP Copyright
  • – Reliability& TOS
  • – Monetization
  • – Privacy/Security

John then finished up with his take on the future of mashups, which included: mobile mashups, more AI, increased use of microformats and openID. The guys over at had an intersting demo in the converged communications space, with several APIs available for immediate use. also offered some details of their and showcased their new “By Eventful Demand” feature that looks quite promising.

Another interested presentation was by Adobe, which featured their and Apollo technologies. The highlight of the show, in my opinion however, was . Open Kapow offers a tool called RoboMaker, which is a visual scripting tool that allows for an easy point and click interface to mashup anything on the web that has a URL. Seriously. Andreas Krohn did a great, fully functional demo, wrapping an around whois.org – not-scraping, but actually programmatically interfacing with the website that had no public API. The toolkit looks almost infinantly extendable and in my humble opinion just upped the mashability ante. It essentially makes any site/service mashable and in his words makes “HTML the worlds most common API”!

Whew, lots of new stuff in just two [long] days. I myself thouroughly enjoyed the [un]conference, specifically the people, it was a pleasure meeting and learning from the many talented developers and their technologies of choice. One of the coolest aspects is that the conference almost intentionally represents an open-source type community, while sure there were .net and java folks there, they didnt dominate discussions, in fact quite the opposite. I had an opportunity to conversate with fluent , , , – even connousouers. The event helped introduce me to some new things and I look forward to the next couple days.

For those of you just getting started with mashups, or APIs for that matter, here are a few links to get you started: