One of the most powerful PR tactics that an entrepreneur/business founder can use when undertaking a public relations campaign is public speaking. Aside from boosting your personal brand visibility, by allowing you to share your expertise becoming a confident public speaker enables you to build your own influence and solidifies your relationship with an audience, who in turn can become “micro brand ambassadors” by sharing their experience after listening to your talk. The impact that regular public speaking has on strengthening credibility and enhancing public image is something that is all too often underestimated. There are a number of reasons why this might be the case; fear of public speaking, uncertainty in brand values, inexperience or lack of awareness of where to start. Fear is a serious progress blocker and it stops us from doing some of the very things that are best for us. It is natural to feel nervous about speaking in front of groups of people, large or small but we must not let those fears stop us from moving forward. As the saying goes “feel the fear and do it anyway” – use the energy of fear to push you towards your goals.
Here are some tips on how you can become a confident public speaker and start using your voice to make an impact:
Start from wherever you are – either at team meetings, during board meetings or even at home. Challenge yourself to speak up in spaces in which you would normally not feel comfortable doing so. That is not to say that you should just speak for the sake of it, anything you say should add value to the conversation/meeting but through developing a habit of speaking in front of people, even small groups your confidence will grow.
Work on your story
Before you can step onto any stage you need to know your story, not just your own personal story (of which you should have already created a bio for) but your business story. Know the “why?”, “how?”, “where?”, “who?” behind your business. Create a compelling narrative that highlights your expertise but also enamors the audience. This is not about being fake or copying anyone else’s style, this is about being bold in the way you speak about your brand story. Try to be original too – when you tell your story, give your speech or presentation try to make it memorable – that could mean sharing an anecdote, using humour (tactfully) or encouraging audience participation. Learn the art of being yourself and you will become a truly confident public speaker.
Know your subject matter
If you will be speaking on industry themes, make sure that you research and stay on track of what is happening in your sector. So if you’re a food entrepreneur make sure you know about what is hot in the food sector, if you’re in fashion understand market trends, if you’re in tech keep up to date with the drivers in tech and so on. Don’t stop learning, the more you read fact based resources the more confident you will be as a public speaker and subject matter expert. Remember that this does not mean that you have to be perfect, just know your stuff!
The worse thing you can do is get on stage and try to copy anyone else’s style. You can watch other people’s speeches for inspiration and to learn the art of stage presence, timing and body language but when it comes to delivery you have to be yourself. Being authentic means that you will relax and give off the best energy on stage. Be yourself, that is the best way to build your confidence as a public speaker.
Look for opportunities to speak
Sometimes the very thing you are waiting for is actually waiting for you. A good example of this of this is the Tedx initiative, local TedTalks that you can apply to take part in. You don’t have to wait for TedTalks to come to you! If that stage is too big for you or you don’t feel ready then consider approaching other events, introduce yourself to event facilitators in your industry. There are so many to choose from and there is absolutely nothing wrong with sending an introductory note letting an event co-ordinator know that you would be willing to speak for them. If all else fails why not consider hosting your own event? It might take more planning and time but it’s worth it!
Don’t allow the fear to stop you.
It is inevitable that you will be nervous, especially if you’re new to public speaking but you are worthy and capable of speaking publicly. Don’t let the fear that you feel deny you of your right to shine brightly! Watch this video to help you get over the fear of public speaking:
Once you can conquer the fear you will find that you start to enjoy the opportunities that are offered to you and you are more likely to say yes when invited to speak. If you want to work on those nerves undertake some confidence boosting activities which can include giving a speech as a social gathering like a party or wedding. Be daring and ask for feedback from colleagues and friends, positive reinforcement is a real confidence booster (but don’t become too reliant on this otherwise you may miss opportunities to learn and grow).
Be of value
One of the most powerful things that you can do as a public speaker is to be of value to the audience. This means leaving them with something that they did not have before hearing you speak, teaching them something and leaving them with a message that lingers. Do not simply regurgitate your life story without turning it into a life lesson. As a public speaker you can add value to the lives of the audience. This also works even if you are chairing a panel for example, you can direct questions that brings the best out of panelists. So remember to always think about the value you will be adding to the audience through your speech or presentation.
Hopefully this piece has helped you, when you start undertaking speaking engagements make sure you promote the events at which you will speak, share images and testimonials from any events that you speak at and keep momentum going by seeking new opportunities or maintaining your visibility enough to attract them.