Public speaking is not as hard or as life threatening as it may seem. There are definitely some tips and tricks to make it less scarier and more effective.
This post is not going to give you silly ways to make yourself feel better about speaking in public (like picturing everyone in their undies). These are just some ideas to make it a little less scary.
Tips and Tricks for Public Speaking
Make sure it is all about THEM – My A NUMBER ONE TIP – If you do not do anything else, make sure you are rock solid clear that the only reason anyone wants to hear from you is to get help doing something they do not already know how to do! If you have the chance to give a one minute speech at networking, give them a tip from your industry. If you have an hour to talk, DO NOT take up the first 15 minutes telling about you and your background. Get to meat as quickly as possible.
Be enthusiastic about your topic – Have you ever been to a speech where the speaker seemed like they were unhappy to be there or pitifully shy? None of that matters if you are rabidly enthusiastic about your topic. I heard a guy talk about musical instruments once who was SO pumped up that I listened for almost an hour.
Handouts – I like to give and to get handouts. There is nothing worse than sitting in an audience with a great speaker and nowhere to take notes. Handouts keep people from freaking out that they are going to miss something AND provide a way for you to provide your contact information discretely. Also, if the computer dies, powerpoint fails or the electric goes out, you are not standing there talking about how good your speech would have been.
Powerpoint – I rarely do powerpoints, but that is just me. I have to tell you, I can tell if a speaker is going to be a dud based on how much they were obsessing about slides at 10pm the night before a speech. Seth Godin says it best in Really Bad Powerpoint.
Dress comfortably – Notice I did not say professionally or nicely. If you are going to be enthusiastic about your topic and wow audiences, you cannot be feeling weird about your outfit. If you are a jeans kind of person, be a jeans kind of person when you speak (if it is good enough for Gary Vaynerchuk and Jeffery Gitomer it is good enough for me). HOWEVER, if you are speaking to a bunch of suits, wear a suit. Basically, you want to be genuine at all times.
Speak In Public A LOT – OHHH, this a bad one for you shy people. Really, if you speak in public A LOT, you get less shy. Offer to speak at Rotary, your church, in your child's classroom, at your place of work. The more you speak, the easier it gets because (honest), you never die and hardly anyone will throw things at you. In the words of my mom, act confident, no one can tell the difference.
Give Away Your Best Stuff – This is another powerhouse one! Giving away your best information can seem a little counter-intuitive. If you tell them how to do what you are selling, why should they buy? To me there are three types of people at your event: people who are going to do it themselves no matter how good you are and who will benefit from the knowledge, people who feel better for hearing about and who will do nothing either way AND people who are looking for someone to hire. The people who are looking for someone to hire want to know that you know your stuff. Nuff said.
Tell Stories – Whatever you are talking about will be more understandable if you can give a framework with a good example from someone else's success. Use anecdotes from people you know, articles you have read or “borrow” other great stories that you have heard, citing the source of course.
Last one, more an opinion than a tip. Talk about what you know. It is fine to have to do some research to flesh out your topic, but in general you should have a wide range of knowledge about your subject BEFORE you agree to speak about it. Nothing is worse than getting to the questions and answers part and being unable to talk about anything outside of what you had prepared.