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 encompasses podcasts, webinars, and online interviews.
These forms of expression 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. Most towns have several chapters with meetings that meet before or after work. Since the group targets professionals, the schedules are very work-friendly. Toastmasters will help you gain confidence in public speaking but there’s more to expressing yourself in digital marketing than speaking in front of a group.
Once you learn the basics of speaking in public, it’s important to incorporate storytelling. Whether you’re speaking at a chamber Lunch and Learn session 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.
I use the word “speech” when referencing public talking or presentations but today’s business professional cannot afford to give a traditional speech. Speeches are one sided, no discourse or dialogue. This sort of presenting is often adopted by people who don’t want an 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 (based on the format of the “talk”). In fact, one of the hottest trends in public speaking and sessions are “Ask Me Anything.” 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 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. Many offer Lunch and Learns and other speaking opportunities in which you can share your knowledge with their members.
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 and then search for podcasts on those subjects. If you can’t find one, consider starting your own. You can share your own 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 Skype interviews, Blab, Google+ hangouts, 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.
Image via Graphic Stock
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com and the Event Manager Blog.
She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.