A few weeks ago, a coworker expressed to me how hard he thought it must be to speak at the Game Developers' Conference. He felt like he would never be up to that challenge -- that public speaking in that setting would be too difficult.
I understand how he feels, and recognize that this is likely a consistent assumption across our industry. Candidly, I felt the same way until after I had spoken. Okay, I felt that way until after I had spoken THREE times. In reality, putting together a successful talk at GDC is quite easy. It relies on only a handful of qualifications.
1. Inform / Inspire
This is the big one. You don't have to carry the greatest revelation or motivate industry-wide change -- but you should be able to get across a simple idea. Even if you can't change minds, you stand a good chance of changing thought processes -- or changing conclusions. If nothing else, the transfer of knowledge alone will do most of the heavy lifting for you.
A day of presentations can be pretty exhausting. People get restless, especially as the week wears on. Also, we make entertainment products for a living. Making an entertaining presentation should be easy -- all you have to do is reflect the passion for what we do in what you say.
By the way, the products we make have a visual component. Leave the all-text PowerPoint deck at home. Please don't give me a book to read while I'm listening to you speak.
3. Connect and Energize
Lastly, try to understand your audience. Try to help your audience understand you, even if it's only talking about what you do and why you do it. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure that it's you who is speaking. Too many people strive to come off as overly formal or unnecessarily polished. Don't practice your presentation too much -- be unpolished. Laugh. Which leads to the last point -- but which I feel is often the most important for me and which directly impacts all of the others.
4. Have FunIf you don't, who will?
Like I said, speaking at GDC is easy. Getting a presentation accepted? Hmmm. Well, that's a different story....
PS - Yes, I see that I created this post without pictures. Shut up. I'll do that later. You know: Fix it in polish.