I get asked about speaking and presentations a lot. How do you get started? What’s the key? Are you scared? These are all very common and good questions. I’m now well over 100 presentations under my belt. I even do it enough that some people think that it IS my only job.
This month’s 3 Digital Things will dive into the 3 most important aspects about public speaking that I can share with someone looking to take up this challenge. These tips can apply to anyone looking to speak on anything, not just tech and digital marketing topics like I do.
1- Start Small, An Audience of 3 Is Still An Audience
Cut your teeth on any type of event, group or audience that will have you. If you learn early on that the size of the crowd doesn’t matter, you will not be intimidated at 1 person or presenting to 1,000. My first true public speaking gig was to my local chamber of commerce. An audience of maybe 30 or 40.
My first “real” speaking event in 2009 to the local chamber.
I have people that reach out to me on LinkedIn or after an event and ask how to start speaking at bigger events and they haven’t even done one. Bad idea. Hone your craft, get feedback from smaller groups and make great presentations a repeatable process.
How to get your first opportunity? Reach out to your local groups that might be slightly interested in the subject matter you are an expert on. This could be a group of high school students, an association, a business group, you name it.
2- It’s All About Them, Not You
I speak to share, to teach and to help people. I DO NOT SPEAK TO SELL. You need to show up to give, not to take. People get this wrong and want to speak to sell. Those presenters are never the type of speakers that really impact or help people. My goal is to teach, share, spark ideas and enlighten. If I do that well, then you will want to do business with me.
Early on I established this format when building my presentations and delivering them.
The goal is COMPREHENSION
Understand the audience and speak to their level, not yours – no need to sound smart
Find the true “gold” in your presentation and make sure that it’s a top takeaway for them
Stories and humor connect, find the places to best use one or both
Speak slow, clear, loud (I still struggle at times with speed, I’m very LOUD)
Make eye contact around the room, be engaging
The one I want to elaborate on: Speak to their level. There is no higher compliment then an attendee telling me they understand my topic so much more. Sometimes they will share they have attended that topic before but I made it far more understandable than the other. They way I started and built the story it allowed them to grow with it. If you have a mixed audience, don’t abandon the beginners, and yet still place a few expert level nuggets for those people.
Attendees that walk in confused and leave confused, that is the worst thing that can happen in my opinion.
3 – Get Feedback Or You Will Never Get Better
Ask for the truth. Ask people to give you one thing they loved and one thing they didn’t understand or thought could be better. You have to ask for criticism to get it as most people choose to be nice over critical. I have often put my cell number up on the screen and asked people to text me what they thought right in the presentation.
If you can, record yourself (audio or video) and watch it back and pick apart your performance. It’s like a pro athlete watching film to notice the smallest thing you missed in the moment and figuring out how to improve it. Even if you hate the sound of your own voice, you owe it to yourself and your next audience to do this.
I have something to improve on every time. If you don’t get anyone offering feedback … that’s a problem too.
I hope these help, feel free to comment or contact me with more questions on speaking and please share with me if you take the step to get in front of people and share. I’d love to hear about it.
Lastly, I’m VERY lucky to get the chance to share with so many great people. A big thank you to so many people that have been a huge help along the way. You all know who you are.