Public Speaking holds the key to many opportunities professionally and personally. Public speaking skills may seem to come naturally for some people, but for most, these skills can be learned. The fear of public speaking may keep some from making the effort to develop speeches and opportunities to present views and information effectively. Why is it beneficial to overcome public speaking phobias, to be able to deliver quality presentations, seminars and speeches? First, every speech is an opportunity to present information, product offerings, and viewpoints to an audience. Second, Audience members are customers or potential customers. Thirdly, Public speaking is a great method for building a reputation and expanding reach. Lastly, Speaking engagements can be used as continuing promotional material with little additional effort or costs.
Every presentation should be focused on a key purpose. As a speaker, are you looking to present information, offer product information and samples or to shape viewpoints and persuade listeners to take a particular action or point of view? When taking an opportunity for speaking, it is important to consider your purpose, but also the purposes of those in attendance. If there is little or no match, it may not be worth the time, but there is an old adage, no exposure is bad exposure. This boils down to what is your time worth to you, and what is the long-term value of a public speaking engagement? If the speaker’s purpose is informational, make sure that there is accompanying written copy for the audience members. Brochures, presentation slides, speaker notes, and business cards can all assist the speaker to ensure that the speech transfers sustained information to the audience. These items, when properly designed also increase exposure for the speaker and their business, by providing additional sources of contact information and business offerings. Do not think only on the large scale for public speaking/presentation opportunities, the same tools work well in board room presentations, one on one or small group sales presentations and on large, diverse venues and audiences. A well laid out presentation should be persuasive to the audience without being pushy or demanding of them.
The vast majority of participants at an event are looking for something. Some are just looking for information, but others are looking for guidance or for information which will allow them to meet their needs effectively, be that purchasing a product or service or learning how to move forward with a task on their own. Knowing what the audience is looking for can help a speaker to tailor his/her speech and supporting documents. The most productive speaking engagements are likely to be ones where the speaker’s goals and those of the audience have synergy. In example, a sales seminar is best suited to an audience that is looking to invest in the broad type of product or service discussed in the seminar. Speaking to a PETA convention about investing in genetically altered animal food products would not be lucrative or likely good for your physical or mental well being either. On the other hand, the same presentation may be extremely lucrative if given to an Agribusiness Conference. This is not to say that appearing at opposition functions cannot serve a purpose too. Relationship building and information sharing, especially on new research promoting your side of an issue can be helpful in limiting dissent or opposition or even in turning the tide to create a friendlier environment for your business. Personal contacts and relationships carry much greater weight in peoples minds and hearts than a faceless, often nameless “other” as opposition groups are often labeled. This is why it is important to know your audience’s goals, but also to focus on yours in developing a presentation.
Being asked to speak in front of an organization or event tacitly implies endorsement of the speaker as a person with insight and quality information, if not of the speaker’s views or product offerings themselves. While this is not universally true, in the subconscious minds of many, a speaker being granted a podium by an organization means that the organization values the input of that individual. The truth of this lies in the fact that time is a valuable commodity at any conference or gathering, as well as in business or our personal lives. A speaker’s information should be of great enough value to warrant the time given. Be sure to include information in the presentation which will justify your value in the mind of the audience. It is better to over saturate with information than to leave the audience feeling like their time was wasted. Do not take the reputation boost of a conference or organizational “endorsement” lightly; it can have great value in relationship building, brand building and business metrics. On the flip side, failing to deliver can cause harm in those areas which will be difficult to repair. Be well prepared and well rehearsed well ahead of the presentation to be sure that things go smoothly.
Speaking engagements can easily be converted in to promotional material with the use of simple recording and presentation software. This is one area which has become increasingly true in the age of new media. PowerPoint presentations are easily converted to use on websites and email marketing. They can also be readily converted to YouTube videos. With the growing impact of social networking sites on business, the use of i-commerce media such as these is even more useful. Pushing links to videos and presentations through MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, or promoting them on StumbleUpon can offer great low labor sources of business. These sites are also free sources, meaning there is not the high cost of advertising often associate with traditional media. Couple the presentations with videos of a speaker and audience participation, an infomercial can be a short edit away. Brochures, which can serve as informational aids in a presentation can also be used as sales copy for direct sales forces or mailings. A speaking engagement can also provide the opportunity to get information from potential customers and existing customers to build a better Customer Relations Database for marketing campaigns. Never fail to take advantage of opportunities to further your marketing efforts.
The opportunity to speak is one that must be actively sought out, not passively awaited. While well known speakers may be sought out and able to rely on unsolicited requests, most speakers cannot. Speak with trade show promoters, industry leaders, community organizations and Chambers of Commerce; let them know of your interest in speaking, your credentials and the areas which you are considered an expert speaker. Submit papers for conferences and proposals for presentations. A speaker will likely need to submit many times to many sources to get one prime speaking opportunity. Work on the presentations with smaller groups and hone speaking skills before looking for large venues. Good sources for these public speaking engagements are Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary Clubs, Lodges and other civic groups, as well as church and school groups. They are often less critical and open to many different types of presentations, although they are also likely to look for more social interactions than strictly business speech. Every opportunity to speak is also an opportunity to learn, grow and refine presentations. Seek honest feedback from those who attend and use that feedback to improve. If a formal survey is possible, use one, if not, garner information through social interactions after the presentation. The suggestions offered in this article on effective public speaking skills will allow a speaker to increase business reach and reputation, as well as personal reputation and value when coupled with refining speaking skills overall.