It’s estimated 74% of people fear speaking in public, while only 68% are afraid of death. What does that tell you?
Speaking in public, for most of us, is a fate worse than death.
Facing your fears and moving past your comfort zone is a popular topic for keynote speakers and life coaches right now, but never has facing your fears been more important to your career and business than in the area of public speaking. If you want your business to be remembered and you want to establish yourself as a thought leader, you need to learn to speak in public.
This is Not Your Parents’ Speech
In today’s digital marketing world, public speaking has a much broader application. It’s not all auditoriums and people looking at their watches. Public speaking also encompasses podcasts, webinars, and online interviews. Many business owners have put these avenues to work during COVID as it gave them a way to build an audience virtually when they couldn’t host an audience in person.
These forms of speaking and putting your business “out there” are essential to the success and growth of your business. If you want to take your operations to the next level, you have to begin to share of yourself and your thoughts. Without this expression you’ll just be part of the crowd.
Methods for Becoming a Better Business Speaker
The easiest way to become more comfortable speaking before a group is by joining Toastmasters. We have several chapters in and around Alameda and many of them are meeting virtually. Meetings time vary but you may be able to find some that meet before or after work to accommodate your schedule. Since the group targets professionals, the schedules are very work-friendly. Toastmasters will help you gain confidence in public speaking as well as hone the skill of listening, another important trait in leaders. Here are a few ways to improve your speaking abilities.
Once you learn the basics of speaking in public, it’s important to incorporate storytelling. Whether you’re speaking in a Chamber webinar or as a guest on a podcast, telling your story and peppering your presentation with anecdotes will help people remember you long after the “speech” is over. It will also help people feel connected to you. Remember people do business with people they know, like, and trust. Storytelling accomplishes this nicely. Buying is largely an emotional decision, appealing to emotions will translate to more sales.
Today’s business professional cannot afford to give a traditional speech. Speeches are one sided, with no discourse or dialogue. This sort of presenting is often adopted by people who don’t want interaction, like school officials after an incident or public information officers.
Business speakers cannot present in this fashion.
The best presentations and public speaking sessions will be largely interactive, responding to questions from the audience as well as questions taken via social media, or in chat boxes. In fact, one of the hottest trends in presentations is the “Ask Me Anything” style. Just as the title describes, it’s a session without format and because of that (and the anything can happen possibilities), it’s wildly exciting.
If you are planning on doing more “speaking” engagements in the future you need to engage your audience if you’d like to be asked back. Five minutes at the end of the session is not engagement.
Words can be captivating. Dramatic pauses can leave the audience anticipating what you will say next. But since most of us aren’t born dramatists we “cheat” with visual media. When you have a fascinating image, you can evoke emotion without saying a word. You can impart a feeling, illustrate a point, and rally support with carefully selected images.
Whenever possible, use slides in your presentation. Employ evocative images and don’t downplay their power by adding a lot of text. You will be narrating them. You don’t need your audience members’ brains trying to read and take the visual cues at the same time. Let them feel the emotion without needing to process text. Whatever needs to be said can be done in snippets of text or through your words.
Put Your Speaking Talents to Work
Once you know how to give meaningful presentations, you can begin looking for opportunities to share your knowledge and expertise. Here are a few suggestions:
Your chamber. We offer speaking opportunities in which you can share your knowledge with the members. We do this through webinars mainly but may be able to work with you in another format. Contact us for details.
Niche groups. If you’re speaking about niche topics like “how to start a business” and “entrepreneurship” there are many business groups and schools that would be happy to have you present for them.
Associations. These groups are always looking for people to lead sessions at their meetings and annual conferences. Depending on your area of expertise, non-industry associations are also a good source of opportunity including PTAs and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations.
Podcasts. This form of digital media has become very popular. There are a lot of podcasters out there looking for content. Decide what you’d like to talk about (or what you’re an expert in or have insight about) and then search for podcasts on those subjects. If you can’t find one, consider starting your own. You can share your knowledge or arrange for other professionals to join you in an interview or discussion format.
Social Media. In addition to podcasts, there are other speaking opportunities on social media including Zoom interviews, live broadcasts, and a number of others. You can find these opportunities the same way you would podcasts.
Mastering presentation skills is essential to the growth of your business. Being an adept speaker encompasses more than just talking on a topic for an allotted time. By engaging your audience you can get them interested in you and your business via a non-sales approach that will be of value to them. When you give someone something of value, and connect with them in an emotional way, they’ll remember you and want to learn more about you and your business.