Last Night I headed to DockerLondon which is an event in the Skills matter building called CodeNode. It’s such a beautiful place, perfectly designed for technology meetups and full every night with meetups from across London. It’s like a little mecca for the London technology scene.

I headed along since my college Nisha Lad was presenting and had done a tiny bit of coaching with her around public speaking since she was a relative newbie and I’ve been embarrassing myself on stage for longer than I can remember.

The central piece of advice I’d given was to plan the first 180 words of the talk. Personally, this has been the best speaking tip I have ever received and so I pass it along at every opportunity. 180 words are around a minute and knowing precisely what you are going to say in the first minute helps you start

You can speak about three words a second. Which means if you are asked to present for 5 minutes then you need to deliver 900 words.

One of the best ways to improve as a speaker is to script what you are going to say (even if you end up not delivering the script when you talk). The process of writing out your thoughts will help you formulate a better flow through your presentation.

Once I have my slide deck ready, I’ll rehearse slide by slide. I record myself on my phone. I then transcribe what I said in the notes section of PowerPoint. I am always surprised by how repetitive I am on the first time around.

I then re-edit the notes: I try to reduce the number of words while maintaining the point I am trying to make.

Once the individual notes are ready, I then read through all the text as a single body. I check the word count and ask myself: can these words be delivered in the time allocated to me.

Wordcount / 180 = Number of the minutes these words will take to deliver.

If you are over your word count, you will need to edit, and this can be hard; often you will have to throw away your favourite sections, or your best jokes.

Editing is important. Being a great speaker isn’t just about what you say, it what you choose not to say.

Anyways, Nisha smashed her talk. I get a massive kick from helping other people face their public speaking fears. Perhaps one day I might even make a career out of it, at least write a book from the tips I have.