Check the Layout and Other Lessons Learned From Giving a Career Talk

In a recent post I was getting ready to give a talk on careers to 200 sophomores. I’ve now done the career talk, it went well. I also learned some lessons from it, which I’ll outline below.

Know the layout.

I arrived half an hour before my talk. I was the only speaker, so I was able to familiarize myself with where I would be speaking and where the audience would be. With this quick pre-talk walkthrough, I was able to work out that the slides would be on a big screen behind me. This meant either having a quick glance behind me or moving to the side so I could see the screen and the audience.

The walkthrough also let me know that I’d be using a handheld microphone, so I was able to prepare myself for using that.

It also found a problem — using the remote control to advance the next slide didn’t work from the center of the stage. However, we were able to work out Plan B. I’d give a nod, and the event organizer would manually click to advance to the next slide. Finding the remote didn’t work in the middle of my talk would have made for a moment of panic, so the pre-talk prep was worthwhile just for this.

Consider your presentation format.

I had my presentation prepared using Keynote. The school, being a school, used Powerpoint. I checked with the organizer a few days beforehand and was able to convert to their format. But, that was something I should have checked at the start of my preparation.

The organizer gave me clear and specific details about the format of the talk when I initially volunteered. That meant I already knew about the expected time duration and how long to give for questions afterward.

Have fun with the questions and answers portion.

The Q&A at the end of the talk was fun. Be prepared for some wacky questions like, “What sort of tea do you drink?” or “How do you say ‘water’?” as well as serious ones. One thing I learned was to repeat the question asked so that all of the audience was aware of what the student had asked and wasn’t wondering why I had just said “water.”

Take a breath when you finish.

I made two mistakes at the end of my talk, and I’ll do better at these next time.

1. Put your contact info on the end slide so that, if you want people to be able to follow up with you, they can.

2. Take a moment to calm down and relax when the talk and Q&A is over. I was so relieved and buzzed when my talk was over that I swiftly gathered all my stuff together and ended up taking the remote control from the school back home with me.

Doing a career talk is great. I think the students got something from it, and I learned a lot about myself — and how to give a better talk.