The thought of public speaking for most people may seem a little awe-inspiring at first. But it is a skill which can be learned even by the most introverted wallflower. Every individual has an expertise or a story to tell and if you can quell the stress demons, gain the audiences’ trust, genuinely engage and explain succinctly how you can uniquely enable that sea of prospective clients to move forward, you really have cracked it.
Quelling the stress demons
Fear and anxiety are completely natural. They are intrinsic to helping you focus on the coming challenge, react fast to unexpected issues and generally come over as knowing your stuff. It’s when that anxiety stops you from functioning and engaging your audience, that you have a problem. It is amazing how thorough preparation and the right mind-set can soar confidence and powerhouse your delivery. So:
- Know your stuff: You are the expert, go over your topic again and again until you know it back to front. Only then will you feel like an expert. Only then will they accept you as an expert.
- Expect questions and criticisms: You will be judged by how you back up your claims. Role play your talk to an informed colleague who will ask you pertinent questions.
- It’s OK to make mistakes: You’re human – don’t beat yourself up and inwardly collapse if things go wrong.
- Check equipment: Make sure you have all pens, papers, handouts, enough tables, the room is acceptable and who you will turn to if the overhead projector decides to give up the ghost half way through.
- Presentation: How you present yourself will be a huge factor in whether your audience trusts you or not. Reflect your profession at all times.
- Enhance credibility: Don’t just state facts – back them up by statistics, research or personal experience anecdotes, or training etc.
- Body behaviour: Connect with your audience with good eye contact and by speaking loud and clear.
- Common ground: Establish a common ground with your audience and they are more likely to accept your point of view.
- The initial hook: Get your audience on the edge of their seats straight away. A question is great because they have to think, the onus of who is being assessed has been switched to them, and there is instant interaction. Even better, if the answer to the question smashes a well-known belief it encourages deeper interest, acceptance and focus.
- Telling a story is also a great way to start. Everyone loves a story and if you make it personal to you and to their situation, you will have quickly found a common ground with the audience.
- Relevance to your audience: Facts can be pretty dry on their own. Take the facts, concepts and ideas you are putting forward and relate them to how you understand the relevant problems your audience is likely to experience. Research the background of your audience beforehand in order to show how your product or service is the only solution.
- What, why, how: Structure your talk so you take your audience through a process which ends with the solution to their problem. In other words, explain what you will be talking about, why this is important to them, and how your unique solution is the answer to their problems.
Call to action: Finally, just as if you were signing off on a web page do not forget the all-important call to action. It can be something simple like “If you would like to know more email me at or phone me” etc. Alternatively, why not offer a free resource, report, article check list to encourage further contact without going too heavy-sell.