Demystifying Public Speaking: Now Online For Free!

Originally posted Aug 24, 2021

Y’all. I’m SO excited to share that I’ve just published the entirety of my book Demystifying Public Speaking online. Making it accessible for you to read, for free. :)

Creating a little website for the book to live has been a really nice pandemic project. And going through each chapter again reminded me of how much of what I wrote in 2016 is still applicable now, even though the vast majority of talks and presentations are online these days!

For example, I highly recommend everyone preparing to give a talk (no matter the venue: virtually or in person!) follow all of the tips in Chapter 5, Practicing and Gathering Feedback. This is a ready-to-go remote tip:

If practicing in front of people is less than comfortable, but you’d like feedback on narrative, word choice, or other non-body-language aspects of the presentation, consider recording a dry run privately. My coworker Ian Malpass practices alone, records his talk on his computer, and then sends it to others to get their thoughts asynchronously. This lets him dedicate time and focus to each separate activity (practicing, receiving feedback), and gives him the mental space to shift gears.

And when you do a remote run-through synchronously with other people, you can still ask your feedback-givers to watch for and give you feedback on specific aspects:

Guide your crew through your practice run too—ask for general impressions, but prompt them with specific questions you’d like them to think on as they listen. Depending on the feedback you’re after (which may change depending on where you are in the editing process), pick a few from these lists

In addition to the lists included on that page (all of them apply to a remote talk!), you may also want to ask for the following feedback during your remote practice run:

And of course, you can (and should!) still practice Q&A for a remote talk:

Running a practice Q&A can help you vet answers and phrasing, get comfortable saying “I don’t know,” and develop strategies and coping mechanisms for those key fears. Ask your feedback crew for some follow-up questions about your topic. Once you feel good on that front, you can level up your prep and ask to field tougher questions.

While the entirety of the book applies to remote talks as well as in-person talks, there’s one big thing missing from the book: how to read the audience when you’re presenting remotely. Here’s the section on reading the audience when you’re in-person, and earlier this year I wrote about how to read the audience remotely on my blog! Here’s one tip from that post:

Whenever it’s possible, I ask one person who will be attending the event to be my camera-on buddy. I’m fortunate to know enough people at these events or at these companies that I can ask them if they’d be game to listen in and keep their camera on, so I can have just one cheerleader there in the otherwise-invisible crowd. I glance at them and am always encouraged if I see them nodding or grinning while listening to me present.

I generally write with the perspective of minoritized groups in mind, so you’ll find a bunch of advice in Demystifying Public Speaking that you won’t find in other public speaking books, like: responding to people during Q&A who are trying to make themselves sound smart, dealing with harassment, figuring out which feedback is valuable (vs which you should discard), how to navigate “being authentic,” and more.

So if you’re preparing to give a talk—or you know someone who is!—please share Demystifying Public Speaking with them. I’m so eager to help more folks step into their spotlight.

Woman speaking to camera with video player buttons underneathWant to communicate more effectively?

Check out my new Setting Expectations as a Manager video course to balance being empowering and being directive as a leader, and know when to switch up your approach.

Lara Hogan

Author, public speaker, and coach for managers and leaders across the tech industry.