9 Public Speaking Tips by Chris Brogan
I began speaking outside of companies in 2006 (before that, I spoke since the 90s as part of educating within my corporation). I started speaking professionally (for money) in 2007. At this point in my career, I’m pretty confident standing in front of a crowd, although I always have more to learn, and I definitely make my share of mistakes. I thought I’d share some tips on how I speak in public, what I do to prepare, and some ideas for how to work with the crowd.
Before I do, I want to point out Scott Berkun’s great new book, Confessions of a Public Speaker (affiliate link) . Scott’s a great speaker, and this book is equal parts funny and helpful. I recommend it highly.
* You know enough. If you’ve been asked to speak, you know enough to be on the stage. Be confident in that fact. I’ve seen speakers get really wormy right before presenting, realizing that the audience will be stacked with people who know more than they do. Believe me, if you’re on the stage, you’re either best friends with the organizer, or you know enough to help.
* Preparation is important. Knowing the audience is KEY. No matter how often I speak, the most important work I do involves knowing who’s going to be there to listen. Without a good connection to the needs and wants of your audience, you might as well not bother showing up, because the likelihood that you’ll resonate with their interests is pretty slim.
* Identify yourself, but don’t autobiography. Say your name very clearly and slowly. If it’s a social media event, say your Twitter name, too. Tell the audience whatever is MOST RELEVANT TO THEM, not what you’re most proud of in yourself. Then, begin. Be as brief as possible with explaining who you are.
* Slides are not Microsoft Word. Don’t stuff slides with words. Use them for a gentle framework for your ideas, but not note cards. If you need notes, practice using something other than your slide real estate to keep them.
* Remove “um” and other pause words. Try your hardest to learn how to use silence instead. It’s more poignant, and makes editing easier (if you’re being recorded).
* People need a narrative. No matter what you’re presenting, audiences need you to present like a storyteller. Give them a sense of where you’re going on the journey at the beginning of your presentation. Leave a little mystery, but not lots. When you go to the movies, you know whether you’re going to a comedy or a horror movie. Do the same for your audience.
* Brevity and simplicity matter. The most complex presentations in the world can be done with simplicity. I’ve seen it countless times. Go to http://www.ted.com and watch the smartest people in the world present.
* Be aware of your time. I watched a speaker rush through her presentation the other day as if she were part of a speed reading course. Know how to cut. Know how to skip. Know how to pick your narrative up and change it around to shave off time. This takes LOTS of practice, but it means the world.
* Finish strong. I say my name one last time at the end of every presentation and I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart.
When people give you their time, treat it like gold. The stage isn’t your opportunity to toot your horn; it’s your obligation to improve everyone’s life who traded time for attention. Your experiences will go so much better from then on.
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