When it comes to top phobias, there’s death, spiders, and public speaking—but not in that order. Did you know that more people fear public speaking than dying?
It makes sense, though. In my own experience, there’s nothing worse than getting up in front of a large group of people. As a hush fills the room, all of those eyes are directed at you, and your audience anticipates the presentation with baited breath. Your mouth is dry, but you start speaking anyway. Then, in a moment of out of body clarity, you hear your voice—it’s trembling.
Can other people hear this tremble in my voice? Are my hands shaking? It sure feels hot up here. Who should I look at? No, I better not look at that guy— he’s looking at me way too hard. Am I making sense? I feel like a failure, why did I agree to do this? Oh, I’m almost finished. Actually, that wasn’t too bad. What was I nervous about anyway?
And that pretty much sums up the whole public speaking experience.
So why am I suggesting that you participate in your own torture?
Simple: The gains are much more than the pains.
Let’s talk about why public speaking is a crucial part of your marketing strategy and how to prepare yourself to take center stage.
Why You Should Speak Publicly
Speaking In Front of an Audience Humanizes Your Brand
You shouldn’t rely on powerful paid ad campaigns or compelling content marketing alone. While both of those things are crucial for extending your organic reach, you’ll also need to get out and in front of your audience.
Public speaking helps you do just that.
It’s an Opportunity to Aid Fundraising Efforts
When you need funding for your startup, you’ll have to schmooze a lot of investors, sometimes all at once. Get behind the podium and start sharing your vision to get others onboard.
You’ll Appeal to the Masses
By speaking to a group, you won’t have to repeat your elevator pitch to each and every person in the room one by one. You’ll have a room full of 50, 500, or even more people who can all hear your spiel all at once.
You’ll Have More Time to Flesh Out Your Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch, by necessity, must be short and to the point. Anything over 30 seconds, and your audience will try to get away faster than a Pepé Le Pew cartoon.
Your speech doesn’t have those same restraints. In fact, people (especially the event promoters) will be pretty disappointed if you ended your speech after 30 seconds.
You Can Get a Nice Payday
Make some extra money for your business on the side. Depending on the event, you can command thousands of dollars for 30 minutes of your time.
5 Tips to Ace Your Next Public Speaking Event
Outline your speech. Write down your opening, or write out the entire speech if it makes you feel better.
Keep in mind, though, that most people perform better when they give themselves a detailed outline and then speak extemporaneously. Here’s why:
- You won’t sound like a soulless robot.
- You won’t stumble over your own words as you’re reading them.
- You’re able to let loose and talk passionately about something you obviously care about.
- You’re able to inspire others with your passion.
- You’ll appear more open and accessible.
You can’t do this by reading directly from a written speech, without even looking up and making eye contact.
However you prepare yourself, be sure to start early so that you feel completely confident in your message.
Speak the language of the room.
Some audiences are more “sciency” and technical. They’ll get all of the industry terms and expect you to frame your speech that way.
Others need you to dumb it down and make whatever you’re speaking about more relatable to them.
But keep in mind that your speech should be easy to understand. You should know your topic inside and out and be able to adjust up or down to fit the understanding of the audience.
Slow down your speech, but obviously don’t slow it down so much that you appear condescending.
The reason you should slow down when you speak has to do with oxygen intake. The faster you speak, the less oxygen you take in, and the more panicked you feel as a result.
Inject thoughtful pauses into your speech to emphasize key points and add to the listening experience.
Know that the audience is rooting for you to do well.
People aren’t judging you, and they don’t carry tomatoes with them either. In fact, they really want you to do well because it benefits them.
Let’s get candid for a moment. Most of us are hopelessly self-absorbed. Here’s what I mean:
When you’re speaking, you’re worried that people are judging you. That’s self-absorbed. And each person in the audience is wondering how to use your information to improve their lives, or they’re just thinking about what’s for dinner. Either way, that’s self-absorbed, too.
That said, no one comes to an event hoping that the speaker will choke or do poorly. They come to the event with optimism that the speaker will inspire them in some way, not to sit in judgment. The audience is really on your side.
Stop focusing on you, and focus on your message.
Believe me when I say this—most people can’t detect the shakiness in your voice. If you’re speaking to complete strangers, they probably have no idea that you’re nervous.
That is, unless you say you’re nervous or you give off a frenetic vibe.
So much of why we hate public speaking is because we tend to make it all about the self. We think people are judging us when they’re not thinking about us at all.
Instead of making the speech about you (how nervous you are and how much you hate public speaking), make the speech about the content.
Do this not just in your presentation, but also in your own head.
Start thinking about this speech as an opportunity to get the message out—whatever that message is. You become more of a vessel or a tool, but the message itself is the star.
With the emphasis on the message, you’ll stop focusing on your own shortcomings. Instead, you’ll focus on how you can introduce the audience to something that will benefit their lives. It’s an important shift that can dramatically improve your presentation skills.
Channel your nervous energy.
No matter what, you’ll probably still be a little nervous. So, instead of wishing the nervousness away (it doesn’t work), embrace it. Turn that nervous energy into enthusiasm. Be a heightened version of yourself.
Start Practicing Now
Even if you don’t have any speaking engagements lined up, you should start preparing now. I recommend joining your local chapter of Toastmasters. Toastmasters allows you to get used to the idea of speaking in front of a crowd. Plus, you’ll get constructive criticism to make you a better speaker. Good luck!