Speaking, writing, and editing

When it comes to public speaking, I've still got a lot to learn. I've tried two modes, and neither is ideal. In mode one, I write and deliver speeches, like these. It's a useful strategy which guarantees that I'll manage to say everything I want to say, coherently, and that a written transcript will be left behind. It also guarantees that I know exactly how I'll use my allotted time. But I'm never entirely satisifed when I hear speeches read aloud, and I figure that mine must leave the same impression. Maybe it would help if teleprompters were more widely available, but they aren't.

In mode two, I talk through a series of slides. The slides are mostly pictures -- screenshots, and recently also bits of screencasts. I use the pictures to evoke the stories I want to tell, and remind me in what order to tell them. This strategy has sometimes worked well, for example at OSCOM 3, and when it works well I think it's most satisfying both for me and for the audience. It's risky, because I'm much more adept as a writer than as a speaker. But it's a risk I keep taking, on occasion, because I want to get better at doing things this way.

At Emerging Technology I opted for mode two. About ten minutes into my half-hour talk, a five-minute warning flashed on the monitor facing the podium. Five minutes? Oh shit! (I didn't just think that, I said it, which Nat Torkington later told me was the funniest moment of the day.) The rest was a blur. A couple of minutes later the monitor flashed a warning -- something like "Better wrap this puppy up, pronto!" -- and I raced through my slides only to discover, after hastily concluding, that the monitor was in error and I had actually had almost ten minutes to spare.

Live and learn. A more experienced speaker wouldn't have been so easily rattled, and next time I won't be either. Meanwhile, now that I've heard the edited version version put together by Daniel Steinberg, I'm feeling better about the outcome.

I recently heard Daniel's own talk on audio editing techniques. It's an excellent primer that I'll certainly return to now that I'll be doing my own podcast interviews on a more regular basis.

The art and science of editing, in all of its forms, fascinates me. I've been on both sides of the fence. As an editor, I try to make people sound more like the versions of themselves they intend to be. As an editee1, I am grateful when an editor does that for me. So thanks, Daniel!

Update: John Mitchell proposes another way to prepare a talk:

I suggest a Mode Three, which was used by the BBC WW2 radio correspondents, and then by Edward R. Murrow. Written speeches sound too formal, so the BBC people would pace around, composing their reports completely orally. A stenographer would write them down, to be used as notes when the radio version would be spoken. Murrow used the same technique to great effect, and it sounds like a fun technique.
I've been doing something a bit like that when recording narration for screencasts. Since the the audio and video tracks co-evolve, I have to record fragments of audio and then piece them together. It never occurred to me to create an audio draft of a speech that way. The microphone in my MuVo TX is only useful for recording notes to yourself, but the gadget can store hours of that stuff. I've never gotten into the habit of using it that way, but it's a great idea worth trying.

1 Yes, I know, that's not a word, though of course you know exactly what I mean. Then again, maybe it is a word. Imagine if Samuel Johnson had had our ability to discover and promulgate the decrees of custom?

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/04/09.html#a1424