Every time you have to speak, you are auditioning for leadership.- James HumesPublic speaking is a golden ticket to creating awareness and generating leads. It’s where you can truly let your personality and expertise shine. It’s also great for gaining an insight into your audience’s problems, which is crucial for refining your services. Yet surveys about people’s fears commonly show that public speaking is at the top of the list!American comedian Jerry Seinfeld sees the funny side to this perplexing situation: “People’s number-one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” So true, isn’t it?Fear doesn’t discriminate. You may be someone who has achieved phenomenal success in your professional career, yet quake at the thought of speaking in front of an audience. I know, I’ve been there.I was terrified the first time I spoke in front of a group of people. It was 2002 and I had to teach an audience of 20 people one of the most basic things you can think of – how to tie a shoelace! Now, tying a shoelace is something I’ve been doing automatically since childhood, but I was scared to death about explaining it to a group strangers!Here are five ways to build your confidence as a public speaker and ensure your presentations are a hit:1. Know your key message. What message do you want your audience to walk away with? Keep the goal of your presentation at the front of your mind when writing and delivering your speech. It will keep your message focused so you don’t go off track.2. Tell stories. Personal stories help create a bond between you and your audience. Look for emotional anchors that will resonate with others to nurture their faith in you. For example, a client in one of my workshops needed to explain to his team that they should be mindful of their spending and keep a close watch of their resources. He related his own story of when he was a university student, working three jobs to make ends meet. Every dollar he made counted. It was an effective story that his team members could relate to.3. Speak clearly. Don’t talk too fast or too quietly. The audience will find it hard to follow and quickly lose interest. Clear enunciation is key. If you’re not easily understood, your message will fail to make an impact and you will quickly lose confidence in your own abilities.4. Invest in good-quality graphics. Photos, infographics, and illustrations command attention and help your messages stick. They guide people through what you’re saying and give them something to focus on so they don’t “zone out”. Choose one image per slide, ensuring that it’s clearly visible. Stick to high-resolution images (300dpi). A low-resolution image (72dpi) can appear blurry when blown up on a large screen, and it’s embarrassing when you have to say to your audience, “I’m not sure if you can see this in the graph, but… “5. Emphasise points one at a time. Overcrowding your slides with too much information will confuse your audience. You’re also more likely to go off track if you try to juggle too many points at once. Focus on just one point per slide.And, of course, you must practice, practice, practice!How to position yourself as a speakerTo get speaking engagements, you need to position yourself as a speaker. Sounds obvious right? Well, perhaps not if you’ve been marketing yourself as a coach. An event professional will generally book a speaker to speak, not a coach. So you need to ensure you position yourself effectively for this type of activity.To build awareness of your speaking expertise, you must:
Create a SAM website. Matt Church, the founder of Thought Leaders Global, says that a SAM (speaker, author, mentor) website is essential to positioning yourself as an expert in your industry. Simply adding a speaker page to an existing business website won’t have the same kind of impact. You need a separate website to make a lasting impression, and it needs to be under your name.com. List companies you’ve worked for (include their logos for validity) and events you’ve spoken at. Include testimonials, as well as photos and videos of you speaking. If you haven’t spoken at many – or any – events yet, film yourself. You need to provide evidence that you can speak effectively. And make sure you constantly update and refine your website. You’re less likely to get speaking gigs if the information on your website is outdated.
Write a book. Books build trust. They are a powerful way of emphasising your extensive knowledge and helps people get to know you and your message. If you’re in the middle of writing your book or about to start, you don’t need to wait until you have finished to organise the cover design. Get a cover created early and use it everywhere you can – on your home page, website banners, social media and promotional material. You want to generate interest in your book as early as possible.
Say yes. If someone asks you to speak, start speaking! It doesn’t matter how small the event is, you need to get as many speaking engagements under your belt as possible. And be prepared to do a lot of unpaid speaking to get the ball rolling. Neil McCallum, one of my early speaking coaches, once said to me, “Come back and talk to me when you’ve done 250 gigs. Then you’re really ready to start talking about some more paid speaking.” So, that’s what I did! I aimed for volume, did my 250 speaking events, and my career as a keynote skyrocketed.
Create a flyer. Create a keynote speaker flyer that people can download from your website. This shows that you’re serious and speaking is not just a side gig for you. Include your speaking topics, a brief bio, and list any inclusions with your presentations – for example, information sheets, workbooks and access to your webinars and podcasts.
Share images of you speaking. Whenever you speak at an event, organise someone to take photos of you on stage and share them on your social media accounts to build awareness. Include images of you speaking in your profile banners. Get a designer to create a custom LinkedIn background image for your profile that includes a high-quality image of you speaking.
Create calls to action. Make it as easy as possible for others to engage you as a speaker. Use your email signature to make it clear that you’re available to speak. Include a hyperlinked tagline. For example, “To get John to speak at your next event, click here.” Put this tagline in your e-newsletters and letterheads. You need to seize every opportunity you can to build awareness.
Ask for referrals. Put a call out on social media. I always get enquiries whenever I create a post asking people if they’d like me to speak at their next event. If you’ve delivered a keynote, remember to ask the event manager, “Do you know of anyone else who runs events I might be able to help by delivering a session for them?”
Love to know how you’ve built your positioning as a speaker…