I’m funny. Not Redd Foxx funny or even Chris Rock funny, but ironic funny. My-life-is-a-never-ending-sitcom funny. I try to take that humor with me to the stage when I am asked to speak at a business conference or community advocacy event. [cue jazz hands] I also have a flair for the dramatics.
I do not have stage fright. I am personable and easy going on the stage.
But even I have fumbled the proverbial ball during speaking engagements.
Here are the top 5 ways to not “eff” it up when doing a speaking engagement:
- Write a Recipe for Your Talk: This piece is not for those who have a fear of speaking. It is a very real fear and some people have such a debilitating fear of public speaking they’d rather croke than get in front of an audience. It is estimated that 7% of the American public does not like speaking publicly. These tips are for those that feel a low to moderate level of anxiety before speaking, but have a willingness to do it. You must write a recipe for speaking. It needs to have the appropriate ingredients and be cooked at a certain temperature before it is inedible. Speaking in front of a group is no different. You must think about (1) your audience and what they are asking for (2) think about your experience and how that ties into your audience (3) think about what the audience will need to do what you are offering. For example, if you are an educator, talking to an audience of educators, discussing classroom management, your goal is to be in their shoes and think about what are the real issues they deal with day in and day out. Once you ascertain that information, your talk whether 10 minutes or 30 minutes is about those fears, problems, dreams and road blocks. Your recipe should include as much flavor as possible. “Flavor” is either humor (if you can pull it off), a heartstring story, and/or data. Data can be just the right pinch of salt and pepper to bring home your point.
- Have a point: You must have a central, easy to grasp call to action. What do you want your audience to do next? You may want them to read your book, sign up for your newsletter, journal more, take a leap of faith. Whatever it is, you want to begin talking about it towards the middle of your talk and then again at the end. If you are that educator I mentioned earlier and you have a workshop in your city you want them to sign up for, your next step is to mention the workshop.
- Use props or videos: …but only if they are easy to distribute or show. They should be quick and inspiring. I have spoken at colleges and think tanks to nonprofit leaders and policy shapers. Regardless of the audience, you have to capture their attention within the first 30 seconds with a prop, story or video, followed by your reason for being in front of them, the problem(s) you are attempting to solve by speaking, a call to action, another opportunity to capture their attention through props, story or video, followed by a call to action.
- Breathe: That’s it.
- Imagine for just a moment the audience is your best friend: Let’s say you have tea to spill (gossip to tell for those that are not hip to the game) and you give your best friend the details including setting the scene, the people involved and what the problem or “win” is at the end. It is exactly what I do when I am preparing for a talk. I imagine I am talking to my mom, Noelani or Diane. YOU WILL FEEL NERVOUS, but it works like a charm.
Also, you’re rockstar. I mean it. I know you don’t feel like it. I know that sounds like crap, but think about your favorite band or singer on stage belting it out. They are nervous every time and yet they still connect with you.