3 Tips for Public Speaking Like a Pro (Even if You’re Shaking in Your Boots)
Public speaking. No matter how you feel about it, you can’t deny the power of a well-executed presentation or speech.
As a professional, improving your speaking skills is an amazingly effective strategy to put yourself in front of a captive audience as the expert. While building your personal brand is a great idea in theory, it can be challenging to figure out how to go from wanting to take the stage to actually scoring a speaking gig.
Getting started with speaking is easier that most people realize. These three proven tactics will help get you closer to the stage so you can start honing your brand. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Start with your story
Over the course of your life and professional career, you’ve amassed anecdotes and experiences that are ideal fodder for storytelling. Take time to get clear on your area of expertise, then think about the compelling and engaging stories you can tell. Inject some passion on top of that, and you’ll be good to go.
You may want to chat with your organization’s marketing or PR team. If you work for a larger company, they’re probably on the lookout for speakers who can promote the company. Offer to speak on behalf of your company — the more stage time you get, the more you’ll continue to hone your “expert status” in your field.
Beyond speaking on behalf of your work, you can seek out opportunities on your own as well.
Keep in mind that speaking organizers don’t look to bring advertisements to the presentation stage. They look for true experts who have knowledge, skills and experience. The goal of your presentation and the stories you share should be to inform, educate and entertain the audience.
2. Create a speaking “hit list”
The good news about speaking opportunities is that you can find them everywhere. Get to work and start your research. When going through this exercise, no opportunity is too big or too small. Simply create a list of opportunities for now and someday.
Start by researching local speaking opportunities on Google. Business groups, local professional chapters, chambers of commerce and economic development organizations are other options to explore. Also be on the look out for a local TEDx Chapter as well.
Then move on to associations. Nearly every association has an annual conference, and many have regional or local chapter events. Finally, look for any large national or international events within your industry.
3. Prepare your submission
With your hit list in place, you’ll want to start tracking opportunities. Look out for when speaking spots open. Some events will issue requests for proposals or calls for speakers about six to nine months ahead of time. Often application deadlines are tight, so get organized in advance.
Most events will require an abstract for your session, which is a summary of your presentation and a catchy title. This may be as short as 75 words or could be several paragraphs long. Many conferences or events will ask for “learning outcomes” that detail what attendees will takeaway from your session. To increase the chances of your proposal being accepted, follow the submission guidelines as closely as possible.
To round out your proposal, you’ll need a bio that highlights your relevant experience and past any speaking engagements. If you’ve had media appearances or your work has been published, consider adding those to your bio.
Finally, with larger speaking opportunities, don’t be surprised if you’re asked for references from past speaking engagements or “proof of performance” in the form of a video of a previous gig.
Once you submit your session proposal, it’s time to wait. Events usually will share the date for their final decisions regarding speakers, so if you don’t hear back by then, it’s time to move on.
While you may not secure every opportunity, have patience. Keep fine-tuning your pitch. Over time, you’ll start to land engagements. As you prepare, be ready to confront the excitement and fear that come along with speaking on stage.
Though intimidating, speaking can yield big payoffs. By positioning yourself as a go-to expert in your field, you help bolster your status in your position and your career down the road. Having a strong personal brand in place can set you apart for future employers as you’ll be a credible, known expert.
Maggie Patterson is a content and communications strategist who works with entrepreneurs and small business owners. She has managed speaking programs for the better part of her 15 year career and can write a killer speaker’s submission. You can connect with Maggie and learn more at: www.maggiepatterson.com
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