Orators Unplugged: Interview with Managing Director at the Foundry Group & Techstars Co-founder, Brad Feld

An inside look at Brad Feld’s experience on the speaking circuit…

At what point in your career did you begin public speaking and how did it transpire?

I don’t remember. It’s been a long time now - I’ve always enjoyed extemporaneous speaking and just started doing it in the context of my work. There wasn’t a deliberate moment where I decided “I’m going to start doing public speaking now.”

When considering whether to speak at an event, what factors do you take into consideration?

I’m mostly focused on whether I think I’ll be a good content contributor. I like to talk about a range of topics, but never prepare in advance. So the format, structure, and expectation of the audience and event organizer are the key drivers. On topics I talk about regularly (like Startup Communities) geography matters - I have cut way back on my travel so I do a lot of remote talks via video conference. I also hate panels so I try my hardest to avoid them, but if I end up on one then expect me to be super provocative and not observe “polite wait for the next boring thing to be said” protocol.

What, if any, frustrating experiences have you had being booked as a speaker?

I get very tired with all the endless “pre-work” setup, especially when it ends up being multiple conference calls to work everything out. I know some people like, or need, this, but I like to just show up and go.

What is it that makes a presentation, speech, or pitch most compelling to you?

Deep, emotional connection with the audience on a topic that is highly relevant.

What advice would you give to someone who is about to start speaking more professionally about one’s area of expertise?

Don’t do canned speeches. Mix it up every time. Always try new things. Know that you’ll blow it sometimes. And be yourself - don’t rely on cheesy tricks to be funny or clever, almost all of which make you sound artificial.

What do you do to prepare/set yourself up for success before a speaking engagement?

I take a shower.

How do you measure the success of a speaking engagement?
Anonymous feedback from the audience, which some event organizers are diligent about collecting.  

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