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One of the things I noticed last year is how often people who are on the speaking circuit basically give the same talk, over, and over again.

Not all of them of course, but certainly a few people in my immediate network seem to fly around the world with basically the same set of slides, going from stage to stage, perhaps slightly tweaked for each specific context. And no, they aren’t promoting a book as that would be more expected.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but if other people realised it was an option, perhaps the idea of gathering together a narrative and slides for a talk (alongside rehearsing them) wouldn’t feel quite so onerous. Same slides, multiple audiences — feels like effort in versus value out, might be a winner.

The purpose of this post isn’t necessarily to encourage more people to do talks — it’s just if doing more speaking in public and on stages is something that you want to do more of, maybe the question to ask is — what would be your Talk of the Year?

If you had to speak for 20 minutes in 2019 about something you’ve done, you’re learning, you want people to act on — what would it be? I’m no expert on giving talks (in fact it’s not my preferred channel for putting things out in to the world, and I rarely do it), but there is something compelling about designing a talk if it’s just one for the whole year. And some questions I might use to start designing it?

  • What is the intention of your talk? — to rouse and inspire people to act? To broaden their perspective? To challenge them? To plant lots of seeds? To champion others? To assemble and thread points together in a new way? To bust open myths and firmly held views?
  • Who do you want to give this talk to? — if you do actually want to go and give your Talk of the Year, I know people who invite themselves to things to do just that. If you’ve an audience in mind, then get in touch with the event organisers or assemble that audience together yourself.
  • What do you want people to do because of your talk?
  • What do you want people to feel during and after listening to your talk?
  • How will you know your Talk of the Year has done those things?
  • And how do you want people to follow up with you?

If you decide to actually design a Talk of the Year, then there are a bunch of useful resources out there to turn your ideas and notes in to a set of slides. Alice Bartlett has made a white-label slide deck you can use. Russell and Giles have created a whole website dedicated to Doing Presentations, including Ella’s post with tips for people who don’t like giving presentations. Lastly, people like Alex Mecklenburg and Lauren Currie can help build your confidence to do them.

Good luck! And if you do a #TalkoftheYear, let me know.

Written by

Senior Head, UK Portfolio at The National Lottery Community Fund & Co-founder of the Point People. Previously Strategic Design Director at Doteveryone.

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