Among the pressing fears for human beings, public speaking ranks at the very top along with heights and snakes. As someone who really enjoys public speaking, I realize that I may be part of a small population but I also know how speaking has enhanced my communication and leveraged my career brand.
I offer wisdom to the non-speaker about how to get started and consider how speaking – from the intimate board room or staff meeting to a larger audience venue can boost your credibility and raise awareness about your area of expertise.
Speak – get out there and speak as much as possible. At work, for volunteer organizations or any opportunity that allows you to communicate an idea verbally. Practice is essential and beginning with safe space environments will help you hone your skills and build your confidence.
Showcase Expertise in Your Field – speaking is about having a point of view and sharing advice and wisdom about a topic in which you are knowledgeable. You can develop your subject matter expertise by reading books and articles, sharing solid work experience and also by researching and writing about what you do well.
Seek Feedback – getting authentic and constructive input from advisors, mentors and trusted friends is essential in your skill development. Consider a speaker coach who can help you polish content as well as delivery with technique and style suggestions. It’s not only what you say but what the audience hears that matters when speaking in public. Feedback is essential so you understand what the audience gains (or doesn’t) from your presentation.
Leverage Video and Be Interactive – new studies show that an adult has attention span of 5 seconds. The park and bark delivery style of professorial speaking is not going to engage a modern audience. Consider how you can involve your audience with interactive questions or exercises. Utilize technology and share a compelling short video or audio excerpt to bring your message home. Getting out from behind the podium and engaging with the audience can transform how you convey a message and relate to those you want to engage.
Sprinkle in Humor – use levity and variety in your speaking to captivate an audience. You need not be a stand-up comic to use humor strategically to captivate an audience. Practice using humor as you rehearse with a trusted audience to learn what works and what doesn’t. Using humor can lighten the tone, warm up an audience, and give people a mental break from a serious topic.
Make an Impact – great speakers are remembered long after the presentation is over because they leave their audience with action steps and nuggets of wisdom they can implement. Consider how you will make an impact, persuade, inspire or compel an audience to act. Be memorable and useful with the content you deliver.
Whenever possible, seek feedback from the audience about your content and delivery so you can use that input to improve moving forward. A brief post program survey will capture real time impressions. How an audience receives you can be objective but there are always helpful comments that allow you to understand if what you shared was valuable or not. That is transformative information for a speaker.