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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Confessions Live! (Now with Speaking Tips)

Over a year ago I began getting requests to share my "Confessions" live by presenting the stories behind some of my best discoveries. I have been enjoying the attention of community groups and libraries and even educational institutions who provide me with an hour or more to share my weekend obsession.

At the end of October I was the guest of the Greenwich RMA (Retired Men's Association). This invitation was a pleasant surprise that was revealed by a family friend who pointed out that I was scheduled to speak in-between Charles Grodin and a former director of the Securities and Exchange Commission.  I don't think they were ever able to book Charles Grodin, but I was available.

Not only were they a very responsive and friendly crowd, they also asked a lot of good questions and recorded the whole presentation.

Greg van Antwerp, Urban Archeologist from Greenwich Retired Men's Assoc. on Vimeo.

I didn’t intend to become a public speaker when I began blogging about found treasures 5 years ago. It just happened.
Saturday, I finished my 10th public presentation on Urban Archeology by speaking at the Edith Wheeler Memorial Library in Monroe. I am by no means a professional speaker, but I thought I could document a few pointers because there could be others starting out like me.
1) Arrive early and practice.
If it’s your first time in a new location make sure you know the technology works, from audio visual equipment to the heating and AC. I have had a few stumbles because I relied on computers that were supposed to work but ultimately didn’t.
2) Settle your audience
Even after you been introduced, talk to them like they’re a guest in your home. Asking if everyone is comfortable and can hear your voice, shows you are in the moment with them. If they are unruly find some way to burst on the scene. I once tried yelling “Look what I found!” which worked for my topic, but now I use a 40 year-old pop-up projector stand which is loud and eye-catching. It gets their attention if I need it.
3) Love your topic
Even if you are just practicing or maybe preparing an assigned topic, at least pretend it’s the greatest thing in the world. Well, don’t over do it, but passion is something people connect with. If you like your subject matter, so will your audience.
4) Be yourself
My voice sounds shaky when I begin a presentation. When I think it can be noticed I will often stop and say, “If my voice sounds like I’m nervous, it is actually shaky because I am very excited to be here today.” Telling your audience upfront that you know how you sound and feel, wipes away your anxiety.
5) Tech problems? Meh!
Organizing visuals with a microphone and speakers is sometimes a recipe for something to go wrong. Audio feedback, computers that go to screen saver, and video projectors that suddenly lose signal are common to every speaking situation. The thing to remember is, the time you are taking to fix it seems infinitely longer than what the audience is actually experiencing. So? Roll with it. If moving doesn’t fix the feedback, then kill the mic and raise your voice. Computer hardware can usually be fixed by quickly escaping the program and re-entering. Your audience is always more sympathetic to your situation than annoyed.
6) Q &A
Leave time for questions. You have given your audience new information, they’ll want clarification in some form and questions help fill in the blanks. Also, it makes you approachable and you gain so much from the quick reviews people give in their questions. You’ll know they got it, or tip you off as to how to adjust for the next talk so they will.

That’s not all there is, but as I continue to be invited to new locations I am sure I will glean more from the experience. If you have any tips for successful public speaking please share them in the comments. 

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