Public Speaking: How to Make an Impact
(Part Two of a Two-Part Series)
Last week we talked about how you can use public speaking as a powerful marketing tool. Unfortunately many people are terrified of public speaking. In fact, a large number are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death. Jerry Seinfeld once joked that when attending a funeral most would choose to be in the coffin rather than giving the eulogy. While it can definitely be a little intimidating to speak in front of a large group of people, it’s worth the free publicity. And sometimes just knowing how to prepare for a public event can put your mind at ease and make the task more approachable. Here are seven things to consider when preparing for your speech:
1. Know your audienceRegardless of the topic you choose, you should know a bit about your audience in order to cater the message to their interests and needs. When you discuss something that applies to their current situation and is useful, they’ll see that as a representation of your expertise and professional value; they will remember that when looking for an accountant.2. Practice your deliveryPractice makes perfect, right? It can also calm your nerves to know you’ve practiced the speech before going public. And going through your speech will help you recognize problem spots that either don’t make sense or are difficult to say aloud. If possible, practice in front of a safe audience of family and/or friends who can give you feedback on your delivery.3. Manage your nervesFirst you must determine what you’re really afraid of. When it comes to public speaking most people are more afraid of the public than they are of the speaking. There are some who equate public speaking with performing while it’s really just a form of communication; if you find yourself experiencing performance-anxiety, changing your perspective may be all it takes. Again, practicing can help calm your nerves, as can visiting the event locale, getting enough rest before the event, and doing some deep breathing exercises before you deliver your speech.4. Win ’em overStudies show that you generally have three minutes to win over your audience. It takes that much time for them to size you up and determine whether or not you’re worth listening to. That’s why you must pay special attention to those first few minutes of your speech. Are they engaging? Applicable? Humorous? Or perhaps, poignant?5. Involve the audienceSome are afraid to ask the audience questions because they expect no response. The truth is, people like to talk. They appreciate the opportunity to contribute and share their two-cents. And the more you involve them, the more invested they’ll be in your presentation.6. Make eye-contactWhatever you do, don’t read from a stack of note cards without looking up to connect with your audience. If possible, it’s also good to move around a little bit, although avoid pacing back and forth; that will make everyone nervous.7. Be YourselfThe most important thing is for you to be yourself. Relax, be personable and don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable or unnatural. You’ll find that this one tip, in and of itself, will help the audience warm up to you more than any other.
Once you give a speech or two you’ll find that it’s not as frightening as it once was. In fact, you may surprise yourself and discover that you actually like it. Either way, you’ll promote your business by leaving a powerful impression. And all this for free!