One of the very best things you can do for your business and for your professional prospects is to get up on a stage in front of tens, hundreds or even thousands of people and give a talk. Yes, public speaking is easily one of the most common fears and it can be even more profound than the fear of death. Many people are more scared of giving a eulogy than being the guy in the casket.
But if you want to be the go-to expert in your niche or industry vertical and you want to unlock some amazing business opportunities, public speaking can be incredibly powerful. So, how do you do it well?
Forget About Memorizing a Speech
A lot of first-time public speakers are afraid that they’ll get up in front of the audience, freeze, and totally forget what they want to say. As a result, they end up writing down their speech and attempt to memorize it, word for word. That’s not the way to do it.
When you try to memorize a speech, your delivery can come off sounding robotic and rehearsed (because it is). Instead, a far more effective means of delivery is when you outline your presentation ahead of time in terms of key bullet points, coming up with the exact words “on the spot” in a far more natural way. This is more engaging, more relatable and ultimately more effective.
Tell a Story, Not a Lecture
Back in 2010, John and I were the featured speakers at Freelance Camp following the publication of our co-authored book, Make Money Online: Roadmap of a Dot Com Mogul. I had done some public speaking before that, but very little in a more professional development kind of context.
At the time, my half of the presentation suffered for a couple of reasons. First, I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation that I was going to use as my guide (and crutch), but there was no projector available. Second, even if there was a projector, my presentation was more a list of points and less of a narrative.
From that experience and from more that followed, I gleaned a few key insights into how to be a better public speaker. First, avoid relying on technology as a crutch. You should already know your key points in your head beforehand. Second, structure your talk as if you were telling a story. People relate and engage with stories far better than they relate to boring statistics and “best practices” bullet points. You can always provide those afterwards.
Time Your Practice Runs
Whenever you are asked to give a presentation, whether it’s in front of a group of students at the local college or at something like the Home Business Summit, you will usually be told that your talk should last for a certain amount of time. It could be 10 minutes, it could be 30 minutes, it could be over an hour.
The more practice you get, the better able you’ll be to estimate and adjust your presentation to fit these kinds of time slots. Until you get there, do “real” practice runs in front of the mirror or on a webcam so you get a real sense of how much information you can include and the kind of pacing you want to maintain. And remember to vary your pace too! Mono-time is almost as bad as monotone.
Start with a Question
You don’t want to lose your audience before you get to the “meat” of your presentation. To pull them in right from the beginning, start with a provocative question that will get them thinking.
In doing so, they’ll keep that question in their back of their minds as you go through your story (see the second point above) and they’ll be more interested in what you have to say as you reveal the answer through your presentation. This gives your talk more of a purpose and direction and it further helps to establish you as an expert in your field.
Seize Every Opportunity
Practice makes perfect. And even if it doesn’t quite achieve perfection (it never will), it will help you improve. With more practice, you’ll gain more confidence, regardless of the size and makeup of the audience in front of you.
And realistically, one of the best things you can have as a public speaker is to exude a sense of confidence in your manner of speaking and in your body language. And confidence makes your words more impactful, more meaningful and more authoritative.