how toastmasters helped me present

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that Scott and I both gave a presentation at the Server Side Java Symposium.  (see summaries).  What you may not know is that I am a member of Toastmasters and it helped me present.  Here’s how.

Writing the presentation

My presentation was low on words.  Not as low as I would have liked, but I was comfortable with it. (I haven’t gotten my speaker feedback yet; will be interesting to see if it says to use more words.)  I was able to present without notes, use humor and tell a story.

Toastmasters also let me practice my costume to make sure I was comfortable with the antlers.

Preparation at TSSJS

A mentor from Toastmasters reminded me to look for a few things in advance of my presentation.  One advantage to being the very last talk is that it gives you plenty of time to scope things out.  Things to check for included:

  • the size of the room (about 150 seats)
  • how to advance slides(keyboard)
  • how big is the stage (not very and having a giant banana talking up part of it doesn’t help)
  • are questions at the end or throughout (mixture)

While speaking

I expected that I would be able to make good eye contact, use my hands and use the space from practicing with Toastmasters.  Well, two out of three isn’t bad.  I didn’t have much space to move without being hidden by the podium/banana on one side and falling off the stage on the other.

Back at Toastmasters, I had given a speech called “The Case of the Distracted Audience” where I assigned people annoying things to do so I could practice how I would react.  I’m glad I did because Mark Spritzler raised his hand during my presentation and asked a question that was basically a private joke.  His point was that I should relax.  If I hadn’t practiced distractions, that would have thrown me.

Finally, I got to take advantage of another opportunity from being last.  One of the keynote speakers commented that there are only two IDEs, Eclipse and IntelliJ IDEA.  Awkward given the NetBeans proponents who also spoke.  I happened to have a slide that shows Eclipse and IDEA as the IDEs used by CodeRanch.  This was a great opportunity to break the tension and make a joke by referencing what happened earlier.  Shared conference culture.


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