Despite your fear, you need to figure out how to fit public speaking into your schedule. Let me tell you why.
Many entrepreneurs credit public speaking appearances as a critical piece to their business success. In fact, they treat public speaking as a machine that generates leads for their business.
A lot of them will get immediate connections from their speaking engagements, but most of those leads will take a long time to mature.
This is why many of them use some type of marketing automation tools to keep in touch with those who don’t need their business right away.
Even though public speaking is a great way to increase your exposure, many entrepreneurs hate doing it and use all kinds of excuses to avoid it.
Do you hate speaking in public? Would you like to learn how to get over your fear of public speaking and actually start taking on speaking engagements to expand your brand and message?
Then this guide will help.
How to ease into public speaking painlessly
Let’s first look at how you might enter the world of public speaking and go from speaking confidently one-on-one to commanding center stage at a huge conference.
Are you ready to launch your speaking career? Let’s go!
- Volunteer for an interview – There is no question about it: it takes a lot of confidence to stand in front of an audience and speak clearly and convincingly. You can ease your fear of public speaking by trying something non-threatening first. For example, you can volunteer to do an interview. Find a blogger in your industry who does video interviews (Writer Views and Mixergy are two examples) and offer to speak as an expert on a topic. No guarantees that he or she will accept your offer, but give the blogger enough compelling information that will make it hard for him or her to say “no” to you. In other words, become the person everyone wants to interview. Once you get an invitation, make sure you and the blogger talk about the interview. If possible, get a list of questions before the interview so you can rehearse. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel.
- Create a virtual conference - You also won’t have to face an audience if you create a virtual experience like a webinar. In fact, a webinar is a good place to start organizing the possible slides you might use at a conference speech. A teleseminar, on the other hand, is more like a question-and-answer session, but it will work equally well in getting you to feel comfortable talking in front of other people. In addition, Google+ Hangout is a low-key way to speak in front of people.
- Sit on a panel – A bit further up the chain of speaking in public is speaking at a roundtable or panel. Since you are an expert in your industry, you’ll be able to offer valuable information and answer questions. This is also a great opportunity to see what your audience is interested in. Pay attention to the questions they ask and their reactions to certain answers. Find out what they are passionate about. You can use this information down the road when you prepare your own lecture. See, public speaking is not all about getting exposure for you and your brand. It’s equally about connecting with your audience. The better you can make an emotional connection with your audience, the better your message will resonate with your listeners.
- Go local – After you’ve created a webinar, done an interview and sat on a panel or two, you’re probably ready to go big and speak at a conference or event. You don’t have to go super big. Do something small in your local area. Pick up a copy of your local Business Journal and turn to the calendar section. You’ll find a list of groups just waiting for you to speak. Choose one in your area of expertise and send off your application. Remember to tailor your speech to that particular audience. People will see right through a cookie cutter speech. Furthermore, don’t make your speech an advertisement for your business. You must share something valuable with your audience.
- Find a conference – Once you put a few local conferences under your belt, you’re now ready to go big time. If you don’t already know big conferences in your area, search Google for “conferences [your industry]”. What’s nice about these big events and conferences is that they’ll have their own PR and marketing machines promoting the event, and you, as a speaker, will be part of that PR and marketing. It’s free advertising. The competition to speak at these events is tough, so submit a speaker application with a compelling presentation outline. Follow up by phone a week later.
Now that you have an idea of how to ease into the public speaking world, let me share with you eight tips for creating and giving your best presentation ever.
8 tips for surviving your first public speaking gig
- Know your audience - Rule number one when speaking in public is to understand your audience inside out. Nothing is more embarrassing…and could ruin your reputation faster…than giving an irrelevant speech. Make sure you research the audience’s background, needs, level of sophistication and expectations. Most annual conferences will have videos of previous speakers. View the most popular ones and try to incorporate their choice of language, humor and visuals aids.
- Test equipment – This is especially true if you are the first person to speak for the day. If you have a person or two who went before you, all you might have to do is a simple mic check. But anything can happen with electrical equipment in the blink of an eye, so test to make sure that all equipment is working properly. Plus, if something goes wrong, e.g., your PowerPoint is not working, people will be disappointed.
- Excite your audience immediately– A great speech will open and close with a bang. This is important to remember since most people will only remember what you said at the start and finish of your speech. You can grab your audience’s attention with a great quote, question or statistic. And then, like in a good blog post, you want to close with a compelling call to action. Encouraging people to do something will imprint your message on people’s memory.
- Avoid speaking in monotone – Practice varying your pitch, rate and volume when speaking. This will keep people from falling asleep during your presentation. In addition, avoid speaking too fast or too slow. I know a lot of people who speak super fast when they are nervous. Try to gain control and calm yourself down.
- Avoid jargon – One reason you don’t want to use jargon is that not everyone in your audience may know what you are talking about. This can create an unnecessary barrier between you and your audience. Another reason to avoid using jargon is that it is just boring and overused. It might also make you look like you are trying hard to be smart.
- Focus on your audience – Make sure you never lose eye contact with your audience for long. Your staring up at your slides or down at your notes on the lectern will turn people off. Besides, if you are not looking at the audience, you can’t tell if they are getting restless or bored. If you see signs of boredom, adjust your speech and delivery until you get people’s attention back.
- Look confident – Good posture will communicate to your audience that you are a competent authority. Keep your feet six inches apart from each other and your hips squared with your shoulders. Your chin should be parallel to the ground. Feel free to move around as it will help you connect with the audience.
- Relax and be yourself - Easier said than done, right? One technique you can use to calm yourself and relax is to take deep breaths occasionally. You can also focus on one or two people who look friendly. And don’t forget to just have fun and be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. The audience can tell if you are faking it.
Don’t be afraid to jump into public speaking. In fact, I encourage you to call or email someone right now and ask about an opportunity to speak. Unless you reach out, you’ll never know what opportunities are out there.
Keep in mind that the financial benefits of public speaking may not become a reality overnight. It takes time for the lead-generation ball to get rolling.
Besides, you’ll reap huge personal benefits from speaking in public. It’s a great way to learn and grow…why miss out on those lessons?
Can you share any of your public speaking tips that might help an entrepreneur get over his or her fear?