Illustration. Tips on giving a talk about your work

Unaccustomed as I am to…

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Giving a talk about your work is great publicity but it can be daunting standing up in front of a group of people. Here’s a few tips.

“Would you like to give a talk?” she asked.

Yes, of course, I’m a tutor and a photographer – talking is what I do.

“You get paid and there’s a free lunch.”

Sold, yes, where do I sign up? “How many will be there?” I asked, picturing myself for a moment as Stephen Fry in a black tie.

The vision faded. I’ve a lot of experience as a creative writing and photography tutor which involves cosy groups of around ten people. I worked as a trainer in industry but my biggest group there was fifteen.
“I think it’s usually around fifteen to twenty.”

Great, that sounds manageable.

Scroll forward a couple of weeks, I’ve had a nice lunch, the projector is fired up and I am standing in front of fifty-six eager faces. Oh, and they have just been eating lunch so they are spread out around tables like guests at a wedding. This is the U3A so they are all of retirement age, the majority are wearing hearing aids and there is no microphone. This is going to tax the teacher voice.

Good advice when speaking to a group is, talk to the back wall. It helps you to project your voice. In this case, the back wall was an awfully long way away.

Here’s a few more tips on giving a talk

Make it fun – tell stories. Forty years as a photographer has given me a rich fund of stories but I never use these just as a story. I use them to illustrate points. If people remember the story they often remember the message as well.

Keep away from the technical. OK some people will relish knowing that you took the picture at 1/125 of a second at f8 using an Olympus OM5 with your zoom lens set at 26mm but most will be more interested in how you thought about the composition, how you climbed a stepladder to get the best viewpoint – especially if you fell off (yes it did happen but there was a soft landing).

Powerpoint does the pictures – you do the words. Ever been to one of those presentations where the speaker puts everything they say up on the screen as bullet points. It’s boring, and worse, it’s confusing.
Most people respond primarily to the visual. Show them an interesting image, whether a photograph or a sales graph climbing steeply and most of them will listen to you to find out more about it. Add what you are saying as words to that image and most people will tune out the speaker and just read the bullet points.

Know your script. It’s about eye contact. Some speakers just use notes; I write the whole talk out but I know large sections of it. This means I am looking at the audience for most of the time and only looking down if I need to check the headings or read a section I haven’t memorized.
Pause. Nervous people speak quickly – slow it down. Just told your audience something interesting? Wait a few seconds for them to digest the information. Changing subject? Pause a few beats. You do not need the oratory skills of Winston Churchill or the conic timing of Billy Connelly but inflection and change of pace in your voice keeps the listeners interested.

My talk? The feedback was good, my voice has recovered and I’m off to buy a portable microphone kit.

More digital photography tips

The Basics

Using shutter speeds and apertures to take better photographs

Creative Writing

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