It’s Go Time

Public speaking for bitcoin nerds

It’s Go Time

Public speaking for bitcoin nerds

Public speaking can be a daunting task for anyone. As someone that was not necessarily a natural, I can understand how people continue to struggle in this area in the bitcoin space. With the popularity of the iOS application “Clubhouse,” bitcoiners now have the ability to converse with their friends from twitter easily, and help spread the message in a new medium rather than just tweets or the bitcoin podcast circuit. This can trigger one’s inherent fear of public speaking, and some people may miss out on opportunities to connect with others because of it. Luckily, public speaking is a skill, and like anything, it can be learned and improved with practice and perseverance.

The first step to improve public speaking is to assess an initial baseline. Everyone comes into public speaking at their own initial baseline; everyone starts somewhere. Naturally charismatic confident Chad types can have an easier time with public speaking than introverted shy virgin types. The second step is to start practicing. Developing your own practice techniques are a good way to enhance your abilities through trial and error in different scenarios, without the risk of getting humiliated in front of your peers and colleagues, and having trauma to deal with. The most difficult step is overcoming the initial fear, and accepting that this is an area that can be improved.

If I am developing a presentation for work, I will create a layout first with all the slides needed. Then I will add high level points to the slides, and sometimes write out further notes for the slides for further elaboration. I will then do a dry run to see what the flow looks like, how long it takes (time myself), and then either practice more or not based on how comfortable I feel. I will also try to put myself in my audiences shoes and think of answers to their potential questions. Answering questions on the fly can be the difference between a winning and losing presentation. It is a true test of whit.

Public speaking skills apply to every speaking opportunity. Improving public speaking requires both having the opportunity as well as taking advantage of it. For example, if no one ever promotes you to a speaker in clubhouse, you obviously won’t get practice. Opportunities are generally tied to reputation. They take a long time to build, and can be broken in a moment. Clubhouse is starting to further separate the field, and it is easier to see who is larping behind their keyboard.

My journey into public speaking essentially started in high school. I had a business class with an MBA teacher that assigned a project to us to create our own Toastmasters environment. Everyone would have a topic to present in front of the class and force ourselves out of our comfort zones. Someone would have access to the “red button” that would make a loud noise when pushed. The idea is that when the presenter said a “filler” word such as “um, uh, you know” they had a verbal feedback provided by their peers to signal that they made an error.

It is always better to just pause instead and gather your thoughts, rather than say these intellectually lazy filler words. However; too long of a pause and people (elitists) will think you are not that smart, and lacking confidence. In a way, this red button toastmasters experience is similar to Pavlov training his dogs to salivate. It is conditioning. To avoid having to hear this annoying sound, you will have to improve your public speaking skills. Everyone in the class started off with many buzzes, but eventually several people improved. This project can be recreated anywhere and was very helpful in my growth.

By the time I got to college, I was a giant step ahead of most my peers that had no exposure to this toastmasters experiment, and it became obvious immediately. I had public speaking presentations in many classes and while my smart peers struggled in this area, I thrived. The questions from the audience started to get a lot better, so I had to increase my understanding of the subject matter to deal with any potential curve balls. The process was still generally the same as the toastmasters format in high school, without the buzzers. They would just stop paying attention and look at their iPhone if you were poor at this. That was the tell.

Once I got into the professional workforce, I noticed that people continued to struggle in this area. It was almost the rule to be bad at this, and the exception was to be good. Something that no one really discussed. There were basically a lot of NPC’s. I would have to present unfavorable news to decision makers, and had to always be on top of any potential concerns they may have. All the public speaking skills from high school and college applied and my foundation that I built only helped in the real world.

Public speaking ability is a key differentiator between someone that is senior management material or not. All of the best performing executives moving up at work were excellent at public speaking, including obviously the CEO. Anyone can push paper around and run some excel formulas, but very few can publicly speak like a boss. It was near impossible to get over the middle management hump without these skills. I wouldn’t even really call them skills, more so just having the ability to actually know what you are talking about, and not make me want to tear my hair out. There are a lot of people fronting on the fiat standard that get away with it because no one calls them out for it.

There are certain phrases and words that people use in public speaking that would be better left unsaid. One particular phrase is when people say “I think.” The shear act of actually speaking publicly implies that this is what you think, since it is coming from you directly. You would be the one being quoted. Another one is “To be honest” as this implies that you are dishonest normally, regardless whether this is actually the case or not. Another one is “In my opinion.” That is also implied. If the vocabulary is not adding content to the material, just leave it out. Less is more; time is money.

Another issue with public speaking that screams amateur hour is not pronouncing words correctly. A word that bitcoin twitter butchers all the time is Keynesian. It is pronounced: keynes–ian, not ka-nez-iun. Another one is Mises: it is Meeces, not Mices. This is not a debate, there is a correct way and an incorrect way. When a supposed expert, as in someone speaking about bitcoin publicly on a podcast, is pronouncing words wrong left and right, this does not signal to an educated audience that the presenter has a very strong grasp on the subject matter. Some may argue that people pronounce words incorrectly since they learned the word from reading them rather than hearing them, but that seems like a reach to me. It’s never too late to change the way you pronounce something. People grow. Even the people that pronounce gif incorrectly have hope to change their sinful ways (hint: it’s actually jif, and most people are wrong).

Other tips when it comes to public speaking are to be concise with your story telling. You never want to take your audience down a path of misery if it is not relevant to the plot and conclusion. Focus on the material facts, and get to the point quickly. It is always better to explain something simply, than to over-complicate it. Frauds and charlatans will over-complicate the message to try to confuse the audience. The goal should be to explain it so that a six year old can understand it, not an expert that has been working with you the whole time. Present for the specific audience. If the audience is a room of bitcoiners, then you do not have to shill them on the importance of bitcoin, that is already assumed. Also, timing is important. For example, if you are taking the Michael Scott route and telling a joke, if the timing of the joke is off, whether it’s the delivery or the punch line, the joke won’t be funny.

The power of belief is important. You should always believe in yourself, and that you will be prepared and do a good job. This comes with experience and trial and error. Most people would be surprised to learn how their realities actually function in the realm of quantum physics, versus how they think they do. Thoughts are things. If you think you are going to bomb the presentation, then you just may. If you think you will nail it, then you probably will. At this point, I go into each public speaking arrangement thinking that I will kill it. There is a difference between arrogance and confidence. My confidence comes from a long track record of doing well in this area throughout time. It did not happen overnight.

If someone asks a question, and you do not know the answer, never give a wrong answer just to try to flatter them or because you think you have to. Say something like “That’s a good question. Let me look into it and get back to you.” You don’t want to present incorrect information, and someone may call you out as well if you have a smart ass in the audience like me. Thinking on the fly is a necessity here, as they can ask anything, and if you do not know how to get to that answer with your own logic and critical thinking, people will pick up on that. Understanding something is much different than memorizing words on a screen. My mentors and myself all follow the Socratic method where your audience can ask questions about anything related to the topic, and really find out what they actually know. Another tip is to record the presentation so you can watch it afterwards and critique yourself.

I just wanted to write this article as I have been noticing this over and over again in the bitcoin space. It is not surprising as it is still the wild west, and we have people from all walks of life contributing that may not have that exposure to these nuances. I am not calling anyone out specifically and I think everyone does great work overall. There are certainly some really good public speakers in the space as well, but certainly room for many to polish these areas. Let me know on twitter dm’s if you have any questions.