Chances are when you ask someone if they’re comfortable speaking in front of a group or facilitating a meeting or workshop, you’ll get a hard “NO!” However, every time you speak in public is a tremendous public relations opportunity, especially when you’re target customer is in the audience. So, how do you balance the fear you likely feel when you have to speak in public with the positive exposure doing so affords you and your business?
As a former public speaking teacher, I can tell you speaking in front of an audience is a LOT of people’s worst fears and an activity that is avoided at all costs. However, I’m also here to tell you, as a former “no way I’m speaking in front of a room full of people”- person, it’s something that’s VERY difficult to avoid in your professional life. BUT, here’s the good news, it truly does get easier the more you do it. Until you get to the easier part, here are a few tips to help that next speaking opportunity - one you say “YES” to rather than one you avoid.
Have a plan. No one likes to have their time wasted. Whether speaking at a community gathering, presenting at a professional conference or trade show, and certainly when facilitating a meeting, it’s imperative you have a plan. During a speaking engagement, let the audience know why they are there and what they will get out of your time together. Use previews/reviews and transitions to keep the audience informed and organized. From a meeting standpoint, an agenda is a simple tool that will keep everyone on the same page.
Practice. From my years as a public speaking instructor, one of the biggest reasons speakers were nervous is because they feared the unknown or worried about how the presentation would be received. While you may not always be able to anticipate the audience’s reaction, you can practice, which helps you feel confident to go where the conversation goes. Knowing your material (especially the introduction and conclusion) will help you feel more in control, demonstrate your credibility, and take much of the unknown out of your presentation. While you’ve heard that “practice makes perfect,” in this case, practice certainly makes speaking in public less nerve-racking. If you need a bit more than practice, check out a couple of our quick tips to help you calm your nerves and use that energy to your benefit.
Ask questions. Getting the audience involved will help them stay engaged during your presentation and also make the information more personal. Added bonus: it can take a bit of the heat off of you, at least for a few minutes 😉. However, it’s important to ask the right questions. Here are a few considerations: ask for a show of hands to visually prove a point, be sure you’re prepared for or can anticipate the answer, so your audience doesn’t derail your premise. Asking questions also helps your presentation or meeting feel more like a conversation. Rather than spending the entire time talking at people, by involving them, your presentation or meeting can feel more natural (for you and the audience).
If you own a business, you’re likely to find yourself in situations where you’re speaking to a group (large or small) and certainly must facilitate a meeting or two. Hopefully, by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll build that confidence and even build speaking opportunities into your public relations strategy. Trust us, your business will thank you!