I have a major love/hate relationship with public speaking. On one hand, I am given the opportunity to share my experience and advice with people who exhibit a similar interest but on another, well… like most of you, I get nervous!
From early on in my career, Chris, Co-Founder of LOGiQ3, encouraged me to break out of my shell, and try things outside of my comfort zone. I despised speaking in front of a crowd. Even in University, I couldn’t bear the thought of making a presentation in front of a small group. My ‘hate’ for public speaking soon transformed into a ‘love’ (with the occasional hate) relationship after my first formal public speaking encounter at a RAPA Meeting a few years back (thanks to Chris for volunteering me of course).
There is something extremely gratifying about public speaking. Perhaps it’s a combination of showcasing your own expertise, adding value to a specific industry, and elevating your own personal brand. In addition, it adds instant credibility and increases exposure for both yourself and/or the company you’re representing. Excuse me while I undergo a déjà vu experience as I can still hear Chris trying to convince me with these very same words.
So how do you exactly develop public speaking skills?
Though I can argue that some of us may have been born with public speaking super powers, I can guarantee that most public speakers became great at it because they observed, learned from others and practiced, a lot.
Today, I’d like to share 10 tips I’ve acquired from the few speaking engagements I was honored to be invited to.
1. DO speak about a topic you are passionate for
I was recently invited by Dx3 to speak on a panel about Influencer Marketing. Both on a professional and personal level, I’ve developed deep interest and expertise for inbound marketing, digital marketing and most recently influencer marketing. If you have passion for the topic you’re being invited to speak on, you are guaranteed to be authentic and comfortable when making your address.
2. DON’T be a cheesy salesperson
Many of us leverage public speaking to gain more exposure for our brand and/or company. Unless it is clearly stated that the speaking engagement is in the form of a product/service introduction or demonstration, it is never ok to ‘bait and switch’ by selling your product offering. Instead, expand on an area of expertise that is directly relevant to the products/services you want to promote.
3. DO learn from other speakers
You can learn a lot by watching other speakers on video. I personally like to peruse through TEDtalks. From time to time, I also use sources such as Speaker Spotlight as they have a wide variety of speakers within their directory. In addition to topic knowledge, observe the types of visual aids being used, pauses taken, and stage presence.
4. DON’T copyright
Though I recommend taking cues from other speakers, be careful not to copyright! Try taking concepts from other speakers, but know that it is never ok to copy word for word. If you wish to provide stats, use images, quotes from others as part of your speech, and ALWAYS give proper credit and citation to the original source. On a similar note, avoid making generalizations, rather, provide your personal (or company’s) opinion or experience.
5. DO use visual aids (where applicable)
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Visual aids help illustrate a point or better paint a picture for the audience. If you’re speaking on a topic that is complex in nature or if you’re hoping to better convey your message to the crowd, I highly recommend preparing visual aids such as images, graphs/charts or even embedded videos.
6. DON’T panic
Panicking will not help your case. The best advice I have is to take deep breaths if you’re feeling anxious about your speech. I also recommend taking your time when it comes to giving your speech. If you don’t remember what you want to say, or don’t know the answer to a question from the audience, “Think. Slow Down. Think.” – A very important LOGiQ3 Maxim that has taught me valuable lessons.
7. DO prepare and rehearse
Even if you believe you know your topic inside out, it is always good practice to prepare and rehearse for your speech. Whether you’re participating in a panel discussion or flying solo, you want to ensure that you’re familiar with the order of points being addressed or in case of a panel discussion, the types of questions that the moderator will be asking.
Rather than scripting out your entire talk, what I have found to be highly effective is jotting down several key points or words that will jog your memory. This method tends to result in less mistakes made and allows for you to expand on your points naturally and fluently.
8. DON’T forget to make eye contact
Nothing speaks disengagement more than lack of eye contact. This applies regardless of one-on-one or group discussions. Making occasional eye contact during your speech is very beneficial in drawing the audience’s attention and also calming your own nerves.
I typically like to find a few specific people from a large audience and make direct eye contact with them. This creates the illusion that I’m having one-on-one conversations! If you’re not keen on locking eyes, another method I would recommend is focusing your eyesight near the crowd’s hairline. Sounds ridiculous I know, but try it, it works!
9. DO ask for feedback
A way to determine if you’ve done a great job is through feedback. Therefore, it’s always good practice to ask for it, whether that’s through the organizer or sending out feedback surveys. If you happen to receive some negative feedback, take it as lessons learned for next time, I guarantee there is always room for improvement. There are, however, some immediate signs from the audience that will give you an idea if it went well – such as plenty of questions from the crowd during Q&A, being approached by the crowd post-talk, and of course, real-time live tweets or social shares!
10. DON’T reach out to audience without permission
Similar to my comments in #2, don’t bombard your audience post-speech with product pushes through emails and phone calls, especially without permission. I recommend an inbound approach to networking with the audience – at the end of your presentation, verbally state that you’d like to connect and make your business card and/or contact information available. I always like to stick around for extra time to connect and network with the crowd.
I hope I’ve provided some valuable insight to get you prepped up on your next public speaking engagement! As the marketing lead, I am always encouraging our staff to participate in speaking opportunities, be sure to find some of us at our next speaking gigs!
What do you do to calm your nerves before presentation or speech?!