Whether we’re talking in front of our team or presenting in front of an audience, we all have to speak in public from time to time. Public speaking might be extremely scary to many of us. Even for those experienced speakers who look very comfortable on the stage – they all feel nervous before speaking to a large group.
There are so many things you think about when you get on the stage in front of a group of people. Everybody is looking at you, and many thoughts are coming to your mind – are you ready enough for the speech, can people hear you well enough, will everything go smoothly, and many other things.
To become a speaker that everybody loves to hear takes time, a lot of hard work, and patience. After my last speaking opportunity at the ECF Live 2019
conference in New Orleans in January, I have summed up my public speaking experiences and here are a few things I learned:1. It Takes Time
Believing in yourself is important for anyone standing on the stage ready for the speech. But, just being confident and thinking you are a great speaker – doesn’t make everybody think the same.
When you start speaking, you think that you are pretty good. In reality, you are not nearly as good as you think you are. Always ask for feedback – you will be thankful for all the constructive feedback you will receive.
The topic you speak about can be changed, the delivery can be improved. There is always room to become a better public speaker.2. Build a Relationship with Your Audience Before and After Your Speech
To show up some time before your speech and stay a while after it, speaks a lot about you. Showing up early can strengthen your speech, whilst staying after can be your true asset. In 30 to 45 minutes of speaking you can offer only a small amount of your knowledge, so make the most before and after that. Your audience will appreciate that you care and are willing to help.
People usually respond well when they know that you have made an effort to connect with them.3. It’s Okay to Screw Up
One of the mental things that make us tongue-tied on stage is the fear of screwing up and saying something incorrectly. Even the best of speakers make mistakes, so give yourself the space to screw up. When you are mentally less hard on yourself, you’ll naturally open up and feel less stressed, which in turn will result in a better performance.4. Keep Your Audience Engaged
As a speaker, your job is to deliver your message to your audience in an engaging fashion
. If you see a large part of your audience falling asleep or zoning out, you need to re-engage them. Crack a joke. Call someone out for falling asleep. Ask for a show of hands on a particular question. Ask them to stand up and do some action.5. Speak Early
If you are afforded the luxury of choosing your preferred speaking time by the event organizer, I recommend you choose a morning slot on the first day of the event, if possible.
The reason is that people are more alert in the mornings and aren’t in that post-lunch/mid-afternoon daze yet. Also, by speaking earlier in the event, you can be less stressed and enjoy the rest of the event (if you are joining as an attendee as well) and also have more time to interact with your audience informally afterwards, during the networking parts of the event.6. Seek to Give Actionable Value
Remember, no matter how good your speech is in the moment, if your audience doesn’t utilize what they learned to make an actionable change in their lives, then you haven’t really accomplished your goal. I recommend having very specific action points (keep them short) for your audience to do, so they can reap the benefits of what they learned from you.7. Generate Leads on the Spot
A fun way to keep your audience engaged and to generate leads during your speech is to come up with a short, interactive activity, such as a quiz. At the end of my ECF Live 2019 presentation, I shared a link to an online quiz with a few email marketing questions. The participant with the fastest response won a sweet prize by our agency. Note that I announced the quiz at the start of my presentation, to keep everyone on their toes till the end.8. Put Your Ego Aside
As a speaker, you might be a headliner at an event, but realistically, you are there to offer help and engage with attendees in a meaningful way. Speakers who focus on their pride more than on the value they offer are probably going to have a hard time getting booked in the future.
There are more and more speakers and each one of them is getting better, so don’t waste your chance by being too demanding. Be kind and grateful for the opportunity to help others.9. Rely on the Audience’s Reactions
Listen to your audience. Take notes of their questions, objections, pain points etc. that might inspire an idea of a speaking subject that you can speak about in the future. Figure out what’s engaging to them. What stories did they laugh at? What business issues do they have? What is it that they don’t understand?
Their feedback should be a cause for your new material in future speeches.10. Pay Attention to Your Body Language
Stand up straight, take deep breaths, look people in the eye, and smile. Don’t lean on one leg or use gestures that feel unnatural.
Many people prefer speaking behind a podium when giving presentations. While podiums can be useful for holding notes, they create a barrier between you and the audience. People might get the impression that you are hiding from them.
Observe your favorite speakers, see what you like the most about their public speaking – and then show that on the stage. If you are comfortable with sharing your personal stories, go on with that. It might be an additional way to connect with your audience.
The small details that you are comfortable with will make you memorable in the minds of the people who are listening to you.11. Don’t Limit Yourself to Your Primary Target Audience Only
Even though you are an expert on a certain subject, don’t limit yourself to speaking about that only.
First, I focused only on helping eCommerce brands get repeat sales with email marketing, but then I started seeing many businesses without online presence receiving benefits of email marketing too. So, I broadened my horizons. I’m still speaking about what I know the best, but I’m also sharing my knowledge widely to help as many people as possible.
As you plan your speech, think about how you can engage your audience and what devices you can use to involve them in the presentation. This way you prove that you are talking with them, not just to them.