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Public Speaking Tips for Researchers and Evaluators from Isaac Castillo

Sep 8th, 2020 / Data Visualization / , ,

Remember that Excel Test? Where I walked into a job interview, was asked about my prior experience with data, and then—surprise!!—the Director gave me a timed test to assess my true skill level??? And I panicked. Heart pounding. Face flushed. Hands shaking as I rushed to finish the test as quickly as possible??

That was Isaac Castillo…

…a.k.a. an Outstanding Boss, Evaluator, and Public Speaking Extraordinaire.

I’m so happy he hired me a decade ago, and I’m even happier that we’ve stayed in touch over the years.

Haven’t met Isaac yet? Isaac Castillo is the Director of Outcomes, Assessment and Learning at Venture Philanthropy Partners.  He has 20+ years of experience with research, evaluation and measurement. 

Today, the tables have turned. I got to interview Isaac!

Watch Our Conversation

During this 5-minute interview, we talked about Isaac’s career trajectory and his best public speaking advice for researchers, evaluators, and data analysts.

Prepare Half as Much Content as You Think You Need

Although Isaac has spent two decades working in research and evaluation, he started his career as a competitive debater and public speaking coach.

I asked Isaac for his #1 piece of public speaking advice.

Isaac advised us to prepare half as much content as we think we need.

For example, if you’ve been asked to speak for a half hour, prepare for 15 minutes worth of speaking.

We Always Need More Time Than We Think

Why does this work?

First, we often don’t have a good sense of how long it takes to deliver our content, or how long our speaking styles result in the content being delivered. We always take more time to present our information than we think we do.

When Isaac was speaking in high school and college, he struggled giving timed speeches. It’s taken more than a thousand presentations for Isaac to get a good sense of pacing and how fast he can go. Most of us haven’t given a thousand presentations, so we haven’t had enough practice fine-tuning our timing yet. Isaac says we’re always going to take more time than we think.

We Don’t Want to Seem Rushed

Often times, we accidentally put our most important content at the very end.

Then, when we get to the meaty content, we’ll look at the clock, realize we have 3 minutes left, and then try and wrap it up and rush through it.

If we prepare half as much content as you need, we can take your time. We can go off on some tangents as they feel appropriate. We can answer questions throughout our presentation. We won’t feel rushed.

We Can Focus Better on the Most Important Content

Preparing half as much content as we think we need forces us to really focus on the most important content. Which points do we want to drive home?

It also forces you to get rid of content that isn’t central to the points we’re trying to deliver.

It used to be hard for me to cut content from my presentation. Deleting slides forever felt too permanent. What if I wanted to share those topics in a future presentation? Mentally, I remind myself that those points aren’t gone forever. I’m just saving them for a future presentation.

Leave Our Audience Wanting More

Isaac’s friend is a Beatles fan, and she gave him great advice.

The Beatles intentionally wrote short songs to leave us wanting more, so Isaac has internalized that as well.

Give Enough to Pique Interest

Finally, Isaac said that if we give enough information to pique interest, then our audience will ask questions and want to follow-up with us.

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