It takes some courage, but public speaking can really boost your personal brand. Live speaking engagements connect you with an audience in a way that is not possible with other mediums. Blogging, writing, video and even podcasting are for the most part non-interactive, but as a speaker, you have the chance to directly engage an audience.
It is difficult to get a speaking gig without any experience, and let’s be honest, you wouldn’t want it anyway as you’d most likely freeze up on stage. Like anything, you have to work your way up in order to become a good speaker.
The best way to start is to speak at local user groups or even your own company. Volunteering to do presentations at your office is a great place to start. You already know the audience and it will help you get used to speaking in front of people.
User groups offer another excellent opportunity. Choose a local user group in your area that focuses on your industry. Attend a few meetings to get a feel for what kind of topics are presented, then volunteer to present a topic. Organizers of these events are always looking for new speakers and don’t mind taking a risk on someone who is inexperienced with public speaking.
Once you have your event booked, ask someone to record your presentation while speaking. Being able to see how you present yourself on stage will give you valuable feedback and you will have a demo reel to submit if you decide to speak at bigger events.
Speakers at conferences have to either submit an application or are hand-selected by the organizers. The chances are greater that you will be selected to speak at a conference if you have built up a reputation, however, you can still break into the conference circuit if you have a unique topic to discuss and create a very good abstract that demonstrates your knowledge of the topic and why you are qualified to present it.
Providing a video of previous speeches that you gave will alleviate the fears many conference chairs have of bringing in new speakers. If you can show that you can deliver a compelling presentation, they are more likely to take a risk on you.
But at the end of the day, speaking isn’t easy. Nerves might kick in or something might go wrong with a demo. Here are some tips to help you:
Don’t just wing it. Before you give a talk, practice giving that talk several times. Talk to yourself in the mirror or to family or friends.
Don’t forget to smile and be personable. You can deliver the best content, but if you deliver it in a way that makes the audience feel like they don’t deserve to be there, you will fall flat.
Don’t talk over your audience’s head
When you are on stage you are trying to convey a message, be it an opinion or explaining something. Use language that the audience will understand and break difficult concepts down into layman’s terms.
Don’t read bullet points
Talk around bullet points if you have a presentation, but don’t read them verbatim.
Don’t memorize a speech
There are very few occasions where memorizing a talk will be better than giving it ad-lib. Practice talking naturally about each point that you want to make and when the time comes to give the presentation, the words will flow by themselves.
Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot
It will happen. At one point or another, you are going to get on stage, and something is going to go wrong. Push through and do it anyway—you’ll only feel uncomfortable for a little while and then the feeling will pass. Everyone has to look like an idiot before they can get better.
Public speaking isn’t for everyone, but being willing to do it can have great benefits. Not only are you building your personal brand, but it is also a great networking opportunity to meet people you might not normally meet.