Question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Answer: Practice, Practice Practice.
I don't know about you, but I hate to practice. This is why I dropped piano lessons in first grade and have pretty much dropped every instrument since (violin, guitar, to name a few). I just wanted to PLAY the darned instrument!
Next Question: Do you see yourself having an impact as a public speaker?
If your answer is "yes" and you want to get up in front of 300 (or 10 or 3) people and not look like a donkey's rear end, you better be prepared.
Here are nine tips to better public speaking— get out of your own way and connect with your audience.
- Own it.
Bring your personal touch to your speaking. Incorporate meaningful, relevant stories into your presentation. Being professional does not mean sacrificing vulnerability. By thoughtfully sharing examples you'll wield a superpower and create a connection with your audience. The speaker who presents with authority and authenticity is memorable and invited to speak again.
- Say it out loud.
Before you take the stage, practice your talk several times out loud, in front of others. It's normal to feel awkward at first. Years ago when I still had my speaking training wheels on I felt embarrassed, like an idiot bumbling over my words as I tried to string my thoughts together in a cohesive manner. Don't worry; you'll make mistakes. But in practicing and "saying it out loud" you'll also be able to work through the discomfort, see the gaps in your talk, and perfect it before taking the stage.
- Put your energy in the room.
This tip is a ritual I've developed over the years, and I swear by it. Whenever I arrive at a conference center or speaking location, I go to the exact room where I'll be speaking. I walk around the room and put my energy into it. I envision myself in the audience looking at the stage from each perspective. Then I step on the stage and run through the speech, without slides or notes, to make sure I own it! This ritual allows you to get a sense of what it's like to stand on the stage, to project your voice to the far corners of the room without a microphone, to look at the sea of tables and chairs and not be afraid.
- Work the floor.
After the rehearsing ritual, I recommend redirecting your energy and focus towards connecting with those that invited you to speak. In specific, ask questions that illuminate their current challenges as well as industry concerns and struggles. Include vendors and fellow conference attendee's in conversation as well. Create connections, take note of people's names and invite them to attend your talk.
- Make it personal to the audience.
When you name names, call people out and tell funny stories, the audience feels included and valued. In doing so, you'll transport your audience from mere spectators to being part of your talk. And if you've made connections as recommended in tip #4 then you've secured allies in the audience. You can use those friendly familiar faces to bolster your confidence and continue to deliver an impactful speech.
- Take time to connect at the end.
I've never regretted spending an hour or two after a presentation walking around, connecting with people, shaking hands, and schmoozing. I mean my business runs off of relationships, professional networking, and invitations. I promise that if you take time to forge connections with others after your talk, you'll not only fortify future opportunities but maybe even make a friend, or two!
- Be grateful.
Gratitude serves you well. Be sure to thank those who invited you to speak. Remember you received an invitation and that a different speaker could have been selected. When you thank them, express the joy you had presenting, your desire to return for an encore performance, and mirror back the excellence you see in their organization and people. Position yourself to be of service to their future conferences.
- Give away free stuff.
Who doesn't love a free pen? Am I right? Consider gifting audience members with high-quality informational handouts and fun, useful freebies with a thoughtful marketing purpose.
- Don't assume because you nailed it this time you are done.
I love the expression "Pride cometh before the fall." It's sobering. I've learned from experience that it is unwise to think that because you were successful at something once, that the next performance is a shoo-in. Each speaking engagement requires you to be fully present and engaged as if it were the first. Don't shortchange any of the preparatory steps, remain a valuable asset by delivering an impactful speech that moves the audience.
Let your voice be heard.
I hope these tips have inspired you to get on stage, to tell your story, and move the hearts and minds of others. We all have something to contribute, and now, more than ever, the planet needs you to step up!