Because “imagine everyone's naked” is terrible advice

Scoping out the Room

For those of you about to get onto the stage in front of a million strangers for the first time, congrats! You’re about to pee your pants.

Most of the hard work should be done by now, so you should be able to coast from here on out lol who am I kidding things get tense at this point. There are a couple last-minute things you should pay attention to if you have the spare brain cells to worry about more things, though. They might make everything go a little smoother for you.

Day before: check the room

If you don’t talk until the second or third day of the conference or event, you might be able to check out the room before hand. First, sweep it for bombs and stuff. Make sure no one’s tryna take you out. Second, just get a lay of the land. Is your voice gonna get all echo-y? Is there a monitor on stage facing you so you can hear yourself? How about a screen, so you can follow along with your slides? A countdown clock, or somone in the back holding up a sign, or do you have to monitor your time yourself?

Do you have access to power? What kind of microphone is it- the one you have to hold (in which case please note it’s hard to drink a beer, hold a mic, and use a remote all at the same time), is it a lavalier mic, or is a douchebag mic (you know, the one that attaches to your face)?

It’s a lot of questions- some of them may be more interesting to you than others. The more information you have to prep yourself, the better.

Day of: feel out the vibe

Unless you’re going right away, do take a minute to listen to the other speaker and see if there’s any curveballs.

Sometimes it’s worth asking other speakers. I spoke at a conference in Norway, and before I went up, another speaker told me that Norwegians don’t tend to exhibit any outward emotion during a talk. I told him, “c’mon dude, don’t deal with generalizations. Plus I’m fucking hilarious so I’m sure the room will love me.” Sure enough, it was the most excruciating fifty minute talk I’ve had to give. Then everyone came up afterwards and said how much they enjoyed my talk. I love that country.

Anyway broad cultural generalizations based on a single experience aside, sometimes different rooms and different conferences react differently. A lot of it has to do with the room, too: big, huge rooms are almost always going to be quiet and awkward. Cram everyone into a shoebox, though, and you’re much likely to have a more informal, fun crowd.

Seconds before: PANIC

Wait no, don’t ever panic. The crowd can smell it.

Common gotchyas that you’ll sometimes forget in the walk up to the podium: is your microphone turned on? Do you need to plug your laptop in? Is your cell phone turned off? (Trust me on that one.)