Public speaking is a great way to market your business and become known as an expert in your industry. But it rarely comes naturally and takes some practice.
To help you on your way to public speaking success, here are ten tips and tools to help you learn to embrace your nerves, deliver great content and motivate your audience.
1. Plan Your Public Speaking Opportunity
If you’re planning a public speaking event, it’s a good idea to start small. Look for opportunities to be a guest speaker on a webcast or join a panel discussion at an industry event. This will help take the pressure off you a little and give you an opportunity to practice.
Have goals for your talk – consider the market you want to reach and how you’ll find your audience (is it at an industry conference or at a local HOA?). Then you’ll need to determine what topic will be relevant to your target customers and also serve your business. You’ll also benefit from understanding who will be attending (this will ensure your content and delivery relates to your audience, more on this below).
Not sure where to start? Small business expert, Rieva Lesonsky, offers some useful tips for following through on each of these activities in her blog How to Market Your Business with Public Speaking.
2. Focus on Your Audience Needs, Not What You Think They Need
Try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes so that you can cater your talk to them. Who is in your audience? What are they hoping to learn? Each audience is unique, do your research and try to relate to them. What challenges do they have? What demographic are they? Where do you fit in their day?
Now here comes one of the most important traits of a successful public speaker – focus on the content your audience needs, not what you think they need. Be ruthless with your slides and throw away 90% of what you planned to say. Why? Because your audience is not as deeply immersed in your content as you are. They are there because the subject is new to them, and they want to learn more. So you need to make your content easier to digest.
Limit content overload by anchoring your talk around the feeling and emotion that you want your audience to take away with them. For example, if you run a real estate business and are delivering a talk on how prospective home sellers can get their property ready for sale, you want your audience to walk away empowered and excited to implement your tips. That’s the key takeaway of your presentation.
It doesn’t matter if your audience can’t remember every data point that follows – you’ve achieved your objective. And remember to keep those data points and any supporting data to a minimum, one or two case study examples is enough. Limit the details to your handouts and data sheets.
3. Know and Love Your Content
Public speaking is so much easier if you know your material. When you give your presentations choose topics that you know masterfully – this will make it so much easier to speak fluidly, communicate its intricacies, answer questions and connect with the audience.
4. Keep it Short and Simple
Following on from the point above, aim to keep your talk or presentation short and simple. Stick to 5-10 slides at most and use anecdotes and examples to elaborate your points. The information you deliver should be easy for your audience to take notes on and remember.
If you have an hour to present, follow this rule of thumb – use the first 5-10 minutes for housekeeping, introductions, and icebreakers. Then use the next 20 minutes for your talk and the remaining 30 minutes for audience Q&A. You can also use the 30 to 40 minute mark to bring in a guest speaker, this might be a happy customer with a great case study to share, or maybe an expert’s expert who can elaborate on what you’ve talked about.
5. Spice Up or Go Beyond PowerPoint
The slides you present matter. Use images, talk around your image, limit your bullets, add color and so on. Tools like Prezi (part PowerPoint and part whiteboard), Keynote (for Apple users), and Projeqt (lets you pull material from multiple sources including the web) can help make your presentations more polished, engaging and memorable. If you want to wow your audience, read Mashable’s 5 Must-Have Tools for a Killer Presentation to learn more.
6. Be Energetic
People attend events, conferences, and webinars because they want to learn, but they also want to be inspired and energized about a topic. This comes down to you, not your topic. Practice your presentation or talk in front of a camera in private, do it at least three times (in full) and study your playbacks each time observing and adjusting your body language, tone, and overall delivery.
For tips on energizing your audience, check out Business Insider’s 10 Ways Great Speakers Capture People’s Attention.
7. Moderate Your Speech
Conversational speech is fast, add in a dose of public speaking nerves, and it gets even faster. Try and slow down to half your normal talking speed and add plenty of pauses (have a sip of water). Keep reminding yourself throughout the presentation to slow down.
Of course, you want to balance moderation with energy. Practice and find a flow that works for you. Perhaps you start pumped up and then moderate, and then come back with energy as you dive into anecdotes or trivia. Look to your audience too, how are they responding to different elements of your talk?
8. Be Interactive
Use surveys, take Q&As in the middle of your speech, whatever it takes to add interactivity to your talk. People want to be engaged. Use trivia about your topic, the industry or even your audience to break the ice and get people warmed up before you go into your talk and give out token rewards for interaction.
9. Tell Stories
Telling stories is a great way to engage and make your talk memorable. This could be your personal story (if it’s inspiring and matters) or an anecdote about your business or customers.
10.Have Fun and Be Yourself
Don’t stick to or hide behind your script or PowerPoint. The best public speakers don’t try to be someone else; they let their individual personality shine through. Practicing and starting small will help you find ways to insert your personality into your presentation. Whether you’re the fun, lively person in the room or the data guru in command of the facts, don’t be afraid to inject who you are into the presentation.