Generally, a public speaking gig is gift. Typically, your audience wants you to be there and they want you to do well.
Exception: when you are presenting dissenting opinions in a public/civic meeting.
In which case, practice deep breathing and take a friend along for moral support!
Plan Out Your Talking PointsYour audience wants you to do well, but they also want you to be prepared. There are oodles of different methods. I prefer to write a rough draft of what I want to present. That usually takes the form of a narrative - in the "letter to a friend" style. Then I read it out loud.
Yes, out loud. Practice makes prettier presentations.
Practice Doesn't Make PerfectBut it sure helps! Take that rough draft, or outline, or list of things you want to say and just say them. To a friend, your cat, the mirror. Just say it. Out loud. You can't deliver a speech without speaking practice.
This isn't brain surgery, folks. Practice OUT LOUD. Edit your message, revise, and practice your talking points again.
I say "talking points" rather than "speech" because most people think a speech is something you memorize, and memorizing your talking points will almost always backfire. You'll go on autopilot, then forget what you said and repeat something...or leave something important out.
So practice your message, refer to your talking points, but don't memorize a speech.
DO outline your talking points. (Outlined in a slide presentation is ideal, if you're using slides, of course.)
What Should I Talk About? And How is Speaking a "Content Gold Mine?"Time to deliver on the headline! Public speaking opportunities really are a content gold mine.
Here's how you can come up with great material and make the most of your public speaking opportunities:
As you prepare for the speaking event, dig into your own mine of content about your business or organization. Reading a blog post verbatim isn't a great idea, but gathering your primary talking points from some of your most popular blog posts, web pages, even FAQs is smart. In fact, it's kind of silly not to do that. (Why reinvent the wheel?)
The person, organization or event that has engaged you to speak is also a rich source of information. Ask your contact what he or she would like you to speak about. Ferret out as much information as you can about the people in the audience. Where will they come from? Why do they want to hear from you? What matters are most pressing to them? As you review your existing content pull what is most likely to be helpful and interesting to your audience.
Once you're prepared to deliver a dynamite presentation, get ready to learn more while you're there! The people you're speaking with are not only a "captive audience" but something of a focus group. As a speaker, it's completely fine to ask questions of your audience and gather information from them. (So record the presentation or take notes.)
Maybe they love your company. Hate your latest product release. Have a wish list of things they'd like to see next season... whatever feedback they offer is truly gold, and should be helpful as you market (and work to improve) your business or organization.
Maybe Public Speaking Isn't So Bad...Try these practical tips the next time you have an opportunity to speak to a group, staff a booth at a trade show, or even as you just work the room at your local Chamber of Commerce meeting. You might find that you're soon looking for more public speaking opportunities, and even enjoying them!
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PS: When you're speaking, make sure that what you're saying makes sense. Go easy on the industry jargon and Corporatese. Want help preparing for your next presentation? I can work with you to make sure you get your message across, and make the most of the information you collect at your next speaking engagement!