Public speaking is one of the hardest things to do for any business and I have seen people freeze on and off stage, I have seen presentations that have been so dull the audience is losing the will to live.
One of my first speaking events was for the local Chamber of Commerce, if you’re new to public speaking this is a great way to get started as nearly all the businesses who attend are there for moral support in one way or another. But I digress, it’s was the usual scenario I had talked myself into something by thinking “I could do that” and before you know where you are the day has come around.
Now there a few things to get straight here and that’s:
The audience automatically think your the expert on your chosen subject
Even if you get it wrong they will forgive you, because everyone would love to do what you do
I can guarantee that once its over one of two things will happen, you will run to the hills never to do it again or you’ll be hooked and want to do as much public speaking as you can
The last one was me.
Was the event a roaring success? No. Did I enjoy myself, hell yes. Was I going to do it again…what do you think?
After the first nervous foray into public speaking I was sold and have done it at every opportunity ever since.
One of the things to remember is if you can overcome any nerves the attention and credibility it will give your business is incredible. Before long you are being asked to speak at events all over the country.
Public speaking really does boost your brand’s visibility and you instantly become an authority on your chosen subject, whether you like it or not.
So once you have the first couple under your belt the time has come to ‘push on’ and learn more skills.
These skills include:
Learning to breathe, its surprising how many speakers just want to say what they have to say as quick as possible then get out of there. You have to remember to ‘pace yourself’ your audience want to know what you have to say but you have to speak at a pace that lets them take in everything you say or they will stop listening.
Speak slowly, if you listen to a newsreader they are bordering on the patronising but they speak with confidence and authority and we believe what they say, don’t we?
Pausing at the right moment, this gives you the chance to gauge how its going and change ‘tack’ a little. It also give you the opportunity to find out how its going as far as your audience is concerned.
Never assume they are loving it, watch for tell tale signs like, dozing off, talking to each other and leaving.
I love watching the likes of Tony Robbins or Gary Vaynerchuk but I am not them, I could be the best speaker in the world but the only way that happens is if you be yourself, warts and all. I have a Cumbrian accent and sometimes this ‘shines’ through, especially if I get passionate about what I’m talking about, which is everytime I speak. But I never apologize for that, I am after all a Cumbrian and proud to be so. If you have an accent use it to your advantage don’t shy away from it, all you really have to do is make sure your audience can understand you.
Here’s a few tips on being yourself:
If you make a mistake don’t stop you’ll lose your thread, if you can make light of it do, if you can’t keep going.
Do not try to cram too much content into your presentation, more is less. Your audience is there to listen to you not an sit through an endless procession of slides. I can almost guarantee you will stop thinking about YOU and concentrate on the presentation, not what you or your audience want.
Make your slides image heavy and not text heavy people get distracted if there is too much text to read. You can always give them a copy of your notes once the talk is over. It’s a great way to collect email addresses too
If your presentation isn’t polished so what. Studies have shown that most audiences don’t trust speakers if they are too polished, rough and ready isn’t that bad, somewhere in between is great.
Watch YouTube videos of your favourite speakers and see how they handle things, like I said earlier don’t imitate just observe and then apply to your talks.
Video yourself talking then you can see where you need to improve. Its a great way to see what works and what doesn’t.
Stories are what make a great presentation. Standing there rhyming off facts and figures is the fastest way not to be asked back and we don’t want that. Stories connect you too your audience faster than giving them money, well maybe not but its a close second. If you can tell stories that they can relate too you have them hooked. Some of the top speakers are the best storytellers and here is a video of a master storyteller at work http://youtu.be/Cpc-t-Uwv1I watch it all but at 19:40 the magic happens.
Even if you are a natural joker be very wary of telling jokes and whatever you do don’t open with one. Why? Because the audience will not get it as fast as you do, this is because you have heard it before. Nothing worse than ‘tumble-weed’ blowing across the stage.
You do need a strong opening though something that will get their attention from the first moment. A shocking statement and fantastic fact anything that gets them engaged. You also want them to know what your presentation is about.
Please don’t make the mistake of reintroducing yourself, the announcer will have done that, hopefully. If not let them know what qualifies you to be giving the talk, keep it short, no more than two minutes should do any longer and its self glorification.
If you want to speak at events but don’t have the network to make it happen pick someone in your network who you think could help and ask for it. I did! Sometimes it can be hard to get that break so ask for help, like I said I started at the Chamber of Commerce and never looked back.
Charging for your time
This can be tricky because we all want paid for out time. If you are just starting out don’t ask for money… just being there and getting your brand exposure is enough. Once you have had a few successful talks then you can negotiate a fee that suits all parties. Then when you are being asked to speak at events you can charge a fee that works for you. I offer three free speaking events a year after that they are all charged for.
I hope this has helped you think about public speaking and I urge you to give it a try you’ll love it.
I would love to hear how you get on? If you are a public speaker already please share your stories with us.