Neil Thompson is a speaker, writer, and entrepreneur. He started out his career as a product development engineer, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees. He started his journey in public speaking out of necessity. After one too many failed presentations in front of management, he knew that he had to work on his public speaking skills. His job depended on it! Currently Neil has his own ideas on what makes an effective speaker, specifically for STEM professionals like himself. Neil is the host of the “Teach the Geek Podcast” and the creator of a course on public speaking for STEM professionals.
From Engineer to STEM Speaker
Neil’s journey started after finishing engineering and having a master’s degree, when he was working as a product developer for a company in California.
One day he was asked to start giving project progress updates to senior management on a monthly basis. At first, it didn’t go so well but with practice and repetition, he went better over time.
With time, he took everything he learned about public speaking and converted it into the course “Teach the Geek to Speak”. Early this year he also launched a membership called: “Teach the Geek to Speak Society” when people besides the course, also get access to monthly calls, private Facebook Group, and other perks.
When STEM people speak to non-technical audiences
Neil’s first rule for public speaking is knowing your audience. This way you have to adapt your language according to the public is listening to you.
It’s no the same to speak for a bunch of engineers as to do it for a senior management group. If you use techie jargon this last won’t understand so the engagement could be low or nothing at all.
And you probably will get a lot of questions at the end of your presentation, questions you may not be prepared to answer.
Prepare your audience from the beginning if you have to use specific technical concepts. And the best way to do this is to know to who you are talking.
Top Advice for Talking to Non-Technical Audiences
1. Know your audience. And speak according to it.
2. Control your timing. Don’t exceed your quota.
3. Don’t fill your slides with text. Use images.
4. Join Toastmasters International
“If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority” — Neil Thompson
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Routine to Shine
A routine Neil recommends is not only to practice well but also to video-record yourself when you practice. This is because when you play the video you might notice filler words that you use as well as gestures and nonverbal things that you may work to improve.
So, go ahead, put yourself in a video and watch it later.
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