Remember the absolute terror you would feel in middle school knowing you had to read out loud to the class? At that point, most of us hadn’t been given any public speaking tips. We’re just sort of fed to the wolves as if every middle schooler is embedded with spontaneity and self-confidence. And for most of us, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
It took me a long time to feel (at least relatively) comfortable speaking to a large audience. I had public speaking anxiety like you wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would because 25% of people experience it).
Unfortunately, if you’re a solopreneur then this is something you’re going to have to get over— or at least live with. I understand the struggle and courage it takes to get up and talk to a room full of people, so I decided to share my own public speaking tips that I recommend for entrepreneurs.
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If you have ever taken music lessons, dance, or even if you played sports, your teachers and coaches all told you the same thing: practice makes perfect.
Okay, maybe “perfect” puts a little too much on the situation, but you get the idea.
If you want to develop your public speaking abilities, the best thing you can do is rehearse. Rehearse, rehearse, then rehearse some more. Do it backwards and forwards so if there are any glitches, you can quickly get back on track. Reading your speech out loud will also help you recognize errors. And then you can smooth it out to almost perfection.
You don’t want to read the speech in full too often or you’ll find that you’re mostly skimming through the content and not actually paying attention to what you’re saying. Read your speech through after the first draft and again the night and morning before your public speaking event.
Another public speaking tip that a lot of people forgo is practicing in front of other people. Once you’re up in front of a live audience, no amount of rehearsing will prep you unless you’ve done it in front of people already. Get your family or a group of friends together that you can rehearse your speech to. It won’t completely alleviate your public speaking anxiety, but I promise you that it will turn it down a few notches.
Know Your Key Points
The use of visual aid in your presentation is proven to add focus and helps to entice your audience. I mean, who wants to watch someone talk for an hour straight? That’s what Fortune 500 businesses like Apple do, and that’s why every TED Talk you see incorporates some form of background visual.
But speaking in front of an audience is stressful enough, and adding slides into the mix is just another way you might mess up, right? That’s why it’s vital that you memorize your key points. If you’re speaking over a demo or slides, make sure to know what point you want to get across for each slide. This goes hand-in-hand with rehearsing. If you know your presentation backwards and forwards, it won’t matter if your slides get out of order. You should mentally know what comes next so that you never miss a beat.
Many inexperienced public speakers make the mistake of using their visuals as points of reference. It should be the other way around. People will be more impressed with your presentation if you can expertly speak on your subject without having to look back at your slides for consultation.
Know Your Audience
This is a public speaking tip you won’t hear too often. However, knowing your audience is key in maintaining all aspects of your business, from social media to live encounters. Having an idea of the type of person you’re presenting to can help in shaping and toning your speech.
The best trick for this is to come up with an “ideal” customer/client/etc. You will want to come up with a complete diagnosis of this person, including their likes and even their income. Here is a list of traits and personal information you will want to assign to your ideal audience member:
- Annual Income
- Marital Status
Once you have this “avatar” in mind, write and perform your speech as if you are talking directly to them. Imagining you are talking to this one person could even help with your public speaking anxiety. Knowing your audience will also guide you into pinpointing the main aspects you are trying to get across, and it can help you come up with ways to maintain their interest.
If you have no idea how to start designing this ideal viewer, then it’s time to do some research. If the event your speaking at has a Facebook event, look through the profiles of those who are attending. Or if you’re speaking to a particular niche, do your homework to see if you can fill in the blanks for the details I provided above.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Imagine that you are in the middle of your speech when suddenly your feed gets cut. What do you do?
Veteran public speakers will tell you (after the fact, of course) that you should have had a back-up plan. If you didn’t, hopefully you’ve rehearsed enough to get by without the visuals. However, repeating your speech verbatim should be your last resort. Instead, you should be prepared with backups of your graphics and your entire presentation.
If you plan on having a live demo, you need to have a backup plan in case the internet doesn’t work or gets disrupted. The best way to do this is to have screenshots of your graphics. That way, you can incorporate them into your substitute presentation (you did make a second one, didn’t you?) and simply switch routes. So your first demo will be what you planned on presenting. Your second one will be the same presentation, but with screenshots of anything that needs Wi-Fi in order for you to continue your delivery.
Essentially, you just want to have backups like you’re prepared for any and all malfunctions. Have screenshots of your internet examples, have a physical printout of your speech, keep two versions of the demo, and keep everything on a flash drive.
Out of all my public speaking tips, remember this one. It will really save your butt.
And my last public speaking tip is to record yourself doing the presentation. I learned this back in my acting days. It’s so important to know what you look like so you can make tweaks before you have to present. It will also bring your attention to how often you use pause words like “um”, “like” or “yeah”. And trust me, you’ll be surprised by how often you say them. Be more cognizant of these personal glitches when you record yourself again. That way, you can work on pushing them out of your speech before the big day comes. You’ll sound a lot more professional and knowledgable once you remove these habits from your dialect.
You can also use your recorded public speech as a way to test the content. Send the video to friends and family and ask them their opinion. Or better yet, send it to your colleagues— they’ll be a lot more realistic (and harsh) in their feedback.
Trust me, I get it— public speaking can seem terrifying. Especially when you want to come off as blasé and comfortable when you feel the complete opposite. I honestly still use all of these public speaking tips, even though I’ve spoken to quite a few large live audiences. The phrase “fake it till you make it” works in the case of public speaking. If you just appear to have confidence while giving your public speech, everyone else is likely to believe it– and they’ll eat up anything you have to say.