March 9, 2014

Public-speaking notes: Talked about BROKEN at the Institute of Design, IIT

Presentation icon designed by Daniel Flp from The Noun Project collection

I had my first opportunity to discuss BROKEN: Navigating the Ups and Downs of the Circus called Work with a small group at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago. This was my first time publicly presenting my new book.

I’ve been reflecting here and there on my public-speaking experiences, because public speaking is a good skill to have. It’s one that I try to excel at, if only on a basic level. Here are some things that stuck with me concerning presentation skills, and that you may corroborate with, in making your presentations.


Most attendees at my talk were busy graduate students, with packed schedules. So it was great when one of them told me prior to my talk not to be offended when she and her work group slipped out early during my presentation. Proactive courtesy feels good.

Presenter tip: Be courteous throughout your appearance.


My nervousness gradually faded around the time I started speaking. When my nervousness abated, my comfort level rose. What particularly helped to manage the nervousness was physically not keeping still. I wandered away from the podium and treated the floor like a mini-stage.

Presenter tip: Acknowledge the fact that once you dive into your presentation, you’ll float and swim (in my case, a steady doggy paddle). Stay afloat by finding a technique to calm your nerves.


I had a script, written per slide, but rarely used it. This isn’t to say that the script wasn’t handy, it’s a great safeguard, especially for a scatterbrain like me.

Presenter tip: Write out everything you want to say, but give yourself permission to go off script. Off script is risky, but you’ll act less robotic.


Specific and constructive feedback is useful. One such piece of feedback, I received, addressed a gap in my presentation, while another praised my plainspoken tone as “refreshing.” Still another comment highlighted how an aspect of my presentation gave a necessary nudge that proved, as the attendee put it, “inspiring.”

With its hardwired reflexes, my brain quickly attached to the criticism about the gap—what my presentation primarily lacked. It was one of those darn-I-wished-I-had-fully-satisfied-this-need reactions I kept echoing, to myself. What helped minimize this echo was acting on this feedback. It motivated me to adjust the content of my presentation. On the following morning, I took the collective feedback and responded to it with a revised version of my presentation (for presentations are highly subject to iteration as they should be).

Presenter tip: When it comes to feedback, you can either dwell on it or put it to productive use.


After I left the talk, I realized a number of things—certain phrases, different expressions—that I wished I said to add emphasis and color to what I was telling. Ultimately, something always gets left out.

Presenter tip: It’s ideal if you can say everything you wanted to say in the way you set yourself to say it. If not, accept how you presented and try to learn from it. It’s annoying to not connect what you originally had in mind to elegantly say. This feels sharply unforgiving, but it paves the way for turning that could-have-done-better-then to doing-it-better-now.

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Big thanks to Rachel Dean and Raina Russ at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Chicago, for giving my first opportunity to talk about my latest book BROKEN!

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This is the sixth post, after the launch of BROKEN, that reflects on how this book was made. More to come in this series about aspects related to writing and self-publishing. Read the previous write-up: Choosing the right fonts for BROKEN.

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Learn more about the eBook → BROKEN: Navigating the ups and downs of the circus called work.

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