Public speaking is a golden ticket to creating awareness and generating leads. It’s where you can truly let your personality and expertise shine. It’s also great for gaining an insight into your audience’s problems, which is crucial for refining your services. Yet surveys about people’s fears commonly show that public speaking is at the top of the list!
American comedian Jerry Seinfeld sees the funny side to this perplexing situation: “People’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” So true, isn’t it?
Fear doesn’t discriminate. You may be someone who has achieved phenomenal success in your professional career, yet quake at the thought of speaking in front of an audience. I know, I’ve been there.
I was terrified the first time I spoke in front of a group of people. It was 2002 and I had to teach an audience of 20 people one of the most basic things you can think of – how to tie a shoelace! Now, tying a shoelace is something I’ve been doing automatically since childhood, but I was scared to death about explaining it to a group strangers!
Here are five ways to build your confidence as a public speaker and ensure your presentations are a hit:
1. Know your key message. What message do you want your audience to walk away with? Keep the goal of your presentation at the front of your mind when writing and delivering your speech. It will keep your message focused so you don’t go off track.
2. Tell stories. Personal stories help create a bond between you and your audience. Look for emotional anchors that will resonate with others to nurture their faith in you. For example, a client in one of my workshops needed to explain to his team that they should be mindful of their spending and keep a close watch of their resources. He related his own story of when he was a university student, working three jobs to make ends meet. Every dollar he made counted. It was an effective story that his team members could relate to.
3. Speak clearly. Don’t talk too fast or too quietly. The audience will find it hard to follow and quickly lose interest. Clear enunciation is key. If you’re not easily understood, your message will fail to make an impact and you will quickly lose confidence in your own abilities.
4. Invest in good-quality graphics. Photos, infographics, and illustrations command attention and help your messages stick. They guide people through what you’re saying and give them something to focus on so they don’t “zone out”. Choose one image per slide, ensuring that it’s clearly visible. Stick to high-resolution images (300dpi). A low-resolution image (72dpi) can appear blurry when blown up on a large screen, and it’s embarrassing when you have to say to your audience, “I’m not sure if you can see this in the graph, but… ”
5. Emphasise points one at a time. Overcrowding your slides with too much information will confuse your audience. You’re also more likely to go off track if you try to juggle too many points at once. Focus on just one point per slide.
And, of course, you must practice, practice, practice!
How to position yourself as a speaker
To get speaking engagements, you need to position yourself as a speaker. Sounds obvious right? Well, perhaps not if you’ve been marketing yourself as a coach. An event professional will generally book a speaker to speak, not a coach. So you need to ensure you position yourself effectively for this type of activity.
To build awareness of your speaking expertise, you must:
- Create a SAM website. Matt Church, the founder of Thought Leaders Global, says that a SAM (speaker, author, mentor) website is essential to positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. Simply adding a speaker page to an existing business website won’t have the same kind of impact. You need a separate website to make a lasting impression, and it needs to be under your name.com. List companies you’ve worked for (include their logos for validity) and events you’ve spoken at. Include testimonials, as well as photos and videos of you speaking. If you haven’t spoken at many – or any – events yet, film yourself. You need to provide evidence that you can speak effectively. And make sure you constantly update and refine your website. You’re less likely to get speaking gigs if the information on your website is outdated.