Jane Van de Ban spoke at the IWMW 2018 event. In this guest post, the second of a two-part series, she provide her top tips on making a public presentation, based on her experiences from her journey on learning to make public presentations.

My Journey to IWMW: How I Learned to Make Public Presentations (part 2)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post IWMW 2018 was a special conference for me, because – for the first time – I was a speaker. Alongside Chris Scott, from Headscape, the agency who did our customer journey mapping, I did a presentation on the customer journey mapping experience Headscape undertook for us and how we used it to inform our work on the Birkbeck College website.

In the post I shared some of the experiences in my own journey to becoming an IWMW speaker. In this post I summarise my top tips – because I think making a presentation is something everyone should do.

My top tips

I have heard from a lot of people about how their managers don’t organise their training or don’t suggest appropriate professional development. But here’s the thing – you’re very lucky if you get a manager who does this for you. Most managers are too busy to organise their own training, and unlikely to prioritise yours! So you need to find your own opportunities and grab them.

Three years ago, I started Birkbeck Astrea at work – a network for women who work in professional support roles – after attending a fantastic conference at UCL, organised by their women’s network, UCL Astrea. The aim of the network is to give our members learning opportunities and networking practice, in a safe environment, as well as the opportunity to present, if that’s what they want to do. I also actively encourage people to become shop stewards for Birkbeck Unison, because I know from experience how much you learn by taking on this role. Some of my best learning experiences came out of my union rep work and has helped me do my job as web content manager.

So if you want to present, take charge! Here are just a few of my top tips that might help you on your way.

Tip 1. Learn how to do it

Presenting is a skill that can be learned. And there is no shortage of courses.

So get some training and then practise. Find a public speaking course at work and get your manager to send you on it. Or join Toastmasters (I heard a brilliant talk by someone who did her first public presentation to a conference, after attending a Toastmasters’ course) or do a stand-up comedy course or go to Speakers’ Corner and exhort the passersby.

If you want to do it, you need to learn how. So grab opportunities with both hands and go for it.

Tip 2. Find your voice

I’ve listened to a lot of presentations. But I usually only remember the ones where I felt like I knew the speaker after listening to them. It felt like a great conversation.

To be good at presentations, you’ll need to decide how you want to come across. Are you going to be funny? Are you going to be serious? Are you going to be brainy? People need to get a sense of who you are, so find your voice (asking questions in meetings is just one way to do this) and then practise.

Tip 3. Know your stuff

When I did casework, I read the institution’s policies, the ACAS guidance and I asked other reps for advice. As a governor, I read every paper submitted to me (yes, even the financial statements, calculator in hand), so I knew exactly what people were talking about throughout the meeting. And now, as web content manager, I regularly read blogs, listen to podcasts and read articles about digital content.

If you’re going to stand up in front of other people and share something, you need to know what you’re talking about, so they can trust you and feel that you are giving them something to justify the time they are spending listening to you.

Know your stuff. Winging it is only an option if you’ve done it loads of times.

Tip 4. Think of your audience

If you’re a web editor, you already do this. You make sure that the people who read your web information are getting their questions answered, because you thought about them when you were writing.

So don’t waste your audience’s time – structure your presentation clearly, give them points they can write down (people love lists) and – if you have time – engage them with questions, either during or after the presentation.

You’re there because your audience has been generous enough to share their time with you – so make sure you don’t waste it.

Tip 5. Fake it to make it

I’m sure you’ve heard this expression. If you haven’t, then go and watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on this right now (yes, before you read any more!).

You don’t have to be an expert presenter to present. You can present now – and just pretend you’re confident and brilliant and a great presenter. Because, unless you present to your family, nobody out there will know that you are none of those things. And, over time, if you do it often enough, you might even turn into that presenter.

Now sign up for IWMW

So that’s my story – and my top tips. If you’ve got this far, thank you for sticking with me. I really do appreciate your time.

I want to finish this by saying thanks to Brian and Claire, for letting me speak at IWMW, and my co-presenter, Chris, for agreeing to present with me.

I’m hoping to do it again next year. Won’t you join me?

Acknowledgements: Images used in this post taken from Unsplash (photos for everyone) including the featured image of a pile of books (taken by Sharon McCutcheon) and the photograph taken in a lecture theatre (taken by John-Mark Smith).

Biographical details

Jane Van de Ban is Web Content Manager for Birkbeck, University of London, where she leads a digital content team responsible for redeveloping the website, alongside Birkbeck’s expert technical web team.

With more than 20 years’ experience working for the University of London, first in print publications and then in web, Jane has particular expertise in how to deliver content that meets student needs. An active networker, Jane has also introduced successful collaborative methods of working both to improve efficiency and transparency for Birkbeck. Plus she has provided numerous presentations and training sessions to both staff and students.

Jane  together with Chris Scott, Headscape, gave a plenary talk on “Telling the Birkbeck Story: How Customer Journey Mapping Helped Us Develop Our New Approach to Web” at the IWMW 2018 event.