Tips on Presenting to a Meetup
Between January and February, I presented to four meetups and spoke to about 125 people.
At one of the events, another young professional asked for tips on how to become a speaker, too. I was happy to give him coaching, and for anyone else who’s interested in the same thing, here are my tips for getting started:
Put Yourself Out There
Meetup leaders are always looking for speakers*, so even if you don’t feel like your delivery’s perfect or if you struggle with impostor syndrome, volunteer to present anyway.
The best-case scenario is that your presentation will be well-received. At worst, you’ll come away with feedback about what you could’ve done better. Either way, you’ll get experience in public speaking, which is a big win.
*I co-founded the MN Quantum Computing Meetup, message me if you’re interested in speaking at our meetup!
Retool Your Key Message for Multiple Meetups
I love networking and go to a lot of meetups, and over time I realized that most meetups have unique audiences. That means that you can take a core deck, adjust it to the audience you’re speaking to and get multiple presentations out of the same topic. (This is similar to how you can retool your resume for each job you apply to.)
For instance, I gave four talks about NLP and each one was tailored to the audience I was presenting to. While a handful of people heard similar presentations more than once, the content was new to the majority of the attendees.
Kick Your Nerves to the Curb (With an Even Bigger Bundle of Nerves)
The night before my first technical presentation on NLP, I was sick with worry about what the audience would think about my code. So, to distract myself, I started flipping through a trigonometry book that I had on hand.
As I read, my impostor syndrome got replaced by the humbling feeling of re-learning what the initial and terminal sides of an angle are.
Then it hit me: I’m more afraid of re-learning math than I am of giving a technical talk (more on that here).
And because one fear displaced the other, I was more confident heading into my presentation – and I’m certain that confidence was one of the key reasons why the talk went well.
One More Thought
If you aren’t ready to present at a meetup yet, but want to get practice in public speaking, join Toastmasters.
I was in Toastmasters on and off for a few years and it’s a great way to quickly gain speaking experience in a low-risk environment.