July is Freedom from Fear of Speaking Month and to celebrate, I’ve invited a team of speaking experts to share their best tips and tricks for improving your speaking skills and overcoming speaking anxiety.
14 Tips to Grow Your Business While Finding Joy with the RIGHT Public Speaking
By Guest Expert Shel Horowitz
You’ve probably heard that line about people who’d rather die than give a talk. Personally, I love giving presentations. I get juiced by the audience’s energy, make valuable connections where people come up to me, and actually get paid (or attend expensive conferences at no cost) to get in front of prospective clients. I love delivering an important message in an accessible format, even to people who might not read my books.
I was 12 or 13 when I gave my first speeches to 3 consecutive assemblies of several hundred junior high school students each (I ran for school office), and I’ve been speaking ever since. These 12 tips on giving the talk and two bonus tips on getting gigs will help you love the experience, too:
- Get there early enough to not only scope out the room but to meet a few people. Name one or two during your talk as you are reinforcing one of your points with something they told you: a challenge, a success, an observation. “Mary told me earlier that she struggles with ________ because __________. She’s not alone in that…”
- Keep slide text in simple, sparse words—and use compelling visual images.
- NEVER stand there like an idiot reading slides verbatim. Make eye contact, expand on the text, keep connecting with people.
- Practice enough so you’d still be comfortable if you lost your slides (I’ve seen power/technical failures bring down PowerPoint several times, including one of my own presentations).
- At least some of your practice should be with a live audience, even if it’s five friends gathered over pizza. You need to know how people react to your material, and more importantly, how you react when people are in the room. Tweak or abandon what isn’t working and keep doing what is.
- Control the introduction. Give the emcee something you’ve scripted out. Make the print really big, like 32 points. Keep it brief (1 to 2 minutes, maximum) and salient.
- If there’s a podium and the tech people allow it, stand to the side of it and not behind it. You can see your notes/computer screen but you don’t build a wall between yourself and the audience.
- Consider having your question period BEFORE your finale, so you can create a big finish that strongly reinforces your key message (and your offer).
- Unless there are legal compliance issues, don’t script out every word. Know the points you want to cover but use the natural language of the moment to cover them. But don’t ramble. In the talks where I use PowerPoint my slides function as my outline.
- Be your authentic self. Use approachable language. Smile. Make eye contact. Be someone who not only has great information but would be fun to go out to coffee with.
- Enjoy the perks but keep your ego in check. As a speaker, you can start a conversation with anyone in the room, so network away. You’re in demand as a meal partner, you get to go to the VIP events, you’re seen as important and having a message to share. As long as you are authentic and not arrogant, and not a prima donna, you have far more opportunities than most attenders to meet the key people (including other speakers), expand your network, offer informal advice, and build your client roster. You get more of these opportunities if you participate actively in the whole or most of the event. Fly-in/fly-out “helicopter” speakers get a lot less benefit.
- Remember: They’re in the room because they want to hear what you have to say—and they want you to succeed. Be relaxed and have fun.
Two bonus tips on how to get speaking gigs:
- More than anything else, you need a “sizzle reel”: a quick 3- to 5-minute video showing highlights of your talks—and maybe examples of your slides. This will evolve over time as you speak more often. My current (third) version is at youtu.be/tooSVbHQ5Ik (and presented in context on my speaking page, goingbeyondsustainability.com/social-change-business-profitability-speaking-and-presentation ) The decision to stay authentic and somewhat homespun, rather than glitzy was deliberate. Authenticity is a key component of my brand, as is the message that ordinary people can change the world.
- Also, consider paying commissions to people who bring me paid speaking gigs. It helps to have other people bragging about how great you are.
Want more speaking advice from Shel?
Check out his freebie page here.
On this page you’ll also find an opportunity to schedule a half-hour speaking coaching session for just $50–that’s 50% off the $100 value!
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About Shel Horowitz
Profitability and marketing specialist Shel Horowitz’s mission is to fix crises like hunger, poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change—by showing the business world how fixing them can make a profit. An author, international speaker, and TEDx Talker, his award-winning 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World, lays out a blueprint for creating and MARKETING those profitable change-making products and services. He is happy to help you craft your messaging and develop profit strategies. Learn more (and download excerpts from the book) at goingbeyondsustainability.com.