Seven years ago, when my first Who Pooped in the Park? book was hot off the presses, I cut one up, scanned it, and turned it into a PowerPoint presentation. I have used that slide show many times, and I learn something new every time I give a talk. That, actually, is one of the things I like most about public speaking: if I do it right, I learn as much as my audience does.
Among the things I have learned are:
- Carry props. It keeps the talk more interesting if you can show people something tangible, not just pictures.
- Move. Don’t just park yourself safely behind a lectern. This may be controversial advice, because a lot of speaking coaches will tell you not to wander all over the stage when giving a talk, but my primary audience is children and they bore easily. I move around, point at the slides, hold up props, walk over to audience members and hand them things to pass around. I’ve even been known to demonstrate different gaits.
- Engage the audience. Ask them questions. I like to ask where people are from at the beginning and make references to their home states or countries later during the talk. Address people directly.
- If you expect to sell books after the talk, mention the book. Say something about how and why you wrote it. Put a picture of the cover on one (or more) of your slides. And mention that you’ll be selling and signing books after the talk.
- Make sure you have contact information on one of your slides in addition to having bookmarks or business cards available. That makes it easier for people to send you pictures they took, or invitations to other events. Instead of an email address, consider using your website, Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other social media contact methods. You’ll get less spam that way, and you may pick up followers on those sites.
And, to bring this back to the main subject for the day, customize your slide show. I just gave a talk at the National Bighorn Sheep Center in Dubois, Wyoming a few days ago, and we did a book signing afterward. Here’s what I did to customize the PowerPoint presentation:
First, the opening slide. The top half of the slide has the book banner on it. I went to the Sheep Center’s website and grabbed a picture with their logo, added that to the bottom of the slide, and overlaid the date. I set up the projector in advance and left that slide up on the screen as an introduction until the talk started. That way, attendees wouldn’t just think, “oh, this is some generic presentation,” they’d know it was in some way connected to here.
Next, since the Center is all about bighorns, I figured I should insert a picture of a bighorn sheep. When I am doing slide shows, my first preference is always to use a picture I took myself. If I don’t have an appropriate shot, my next stop is either a stock photo house or Wikipedia, so I know I am using the picture legally.
I have an account with a stock photo company from when I published a newspaper. Generally, I am not going to pay $10 or $20 for a picture I am using one time in a slide show, unless it’s absolutely perfect. This stock photo shop, however (Dreamstime) has a free photo section which sometimes has what I need.
Wikipedia (or, more accurately, Wikimedia Commons) has a wealth of photographs that you can use in slide shows without royalties — just check the license.
Since I didn’t have a good bighorn sheep picture of my own, and there weren’t any cheap (or free) at the stock photo house, I picked one up from Wikipedia, overlaid some scat and track photos, and it made a perfect slide.
The local bookstore in Dubois set up and promoted the talk, so I added a “thank you” slide at the end. It’s typically easy to get logos from a store’s website or Facebook page. After they put a bunch of time and effort promoting the talk, it means a lot when you go to the effort of making a slide to thank them.
I am not a “read from my notes” kind of guy. I think it sounds awkward and stilted, and when you are reading from notes you aren’t looking at your audience. If I know my subject matter — and I had better! — then all I need is an outline, to make sure I don’t forget anything important.
That makes it easy to tailor the talk to the audience, since I am speaking extemporaneously anyway. Spending an hour or so customizing the slides makes it look like you have really put forth an effort, and that’s the kind of little thing that gets you invited back.
I will be doing a book signing and “poop talk” at the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center in Dubois, Wyoming on Wednesday, July 18.
I’m tentatively scheduled for Grand Teton National Park the following day (I’ll post more details when I have them), and I’ll be in Yellowstone Park the three days after that.
I posted my current summer schedule a couple of days ago, and I will do a new update when this part of the trip is finalized.
A bit about the center (from their website):
“The citizens of Dubois have always felt great pride in the proximity, accessibility and successful endurance of “our” herd, the Whiskey Mountain herd of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. In the late 1980’s, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was considering building some type of small-scale sheep observatory with interpretive signage at Whiskey Mountain. At about the same time, the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill, which had been the primary engine driving the Dubois economy for decades, was faltering. The mill was forced to close in 1988, leaving the town to wonder if their economy was facing imminent failure. Dubois needed something to encourage tourists to stop and stay a little longer. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department wanted an avenue for public education. A suggestion was made to put a bighorn sheep-themed visitor center “in town”. In a rather remarkable effort of co-operation, a partnership developed that included a broad spectrum of private- and public-sector groups. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the town of Dubois, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Wild Sheep Foundation (formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep), the Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation and many other entities and individuals contributed dollars, resources, talents and guidance to construct the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center. The Center was opened to the public on July 3, 1993.”
National Bighorn Sheep Center
907 W. Ramshorn
Dubois, WY 82513