While you may think you have good public speaking skills, that doesn’t always mean that you will dazzle an audience. Professional speakers spend years developing and refining their craft. At the very least, you should put some effort into cultivating your skills so that you leave your audience with a great impression. Here’s how:
- Develop a Powerful Speech – Captivating an audience involves giving a great presentation. It should never be directly about your book or your business, but instead about a topic of interest to your audience. Teach them something, entertain them, and tell plenty of stories. Great speaking is all about telling interesting stories and giving examples the audience can relate to.
- Practice Your Presentation – Years ago I worked as a trainer for a software company and we were taught to practice our presentations in an empty room, over and over again. This is how you refine your skills, learn your material, and show up polished and prepared. If you’re really brave, video tape yourself and watch it back. You’ll discover that you sway side to side, talk too fast, jingle change in your pocket, and have other habits that distract from your message.
- Use Props Carefully – Sometimes props can add visual interest, but avoid anything too gimmicky. I once watched a business speaker juggle scarves. It didn’t fit the theme of the presentation, was distracting, and left the entire room looking a little uncomfortable. On the other hand, visual props that illustrate a point can enhance your presentation. If the audience is small enough, when I speak about information products I sometimes bring along examples and pass them around the room. When in doubt, leave props out.
- Create Compelling Slides – Your Powerpoint slides are meant to enhance your presentation, not be your presentation. Avoid the urge to load your slides with text. Generally speaking, you should keep text to a minimum and no more than five bullet items per slide. When possible, use an image to illustrate a point instead of text. For timing purposes, a good rule to follow is to estimate two to three minutes per slide. So if you have a 60 minute presentation, you should only need 20 to 30 slides.
- Give Attendees Something to Keep – I always bring along a hand-out with tips for the audience. My goal is to give them something they will want to keep long after the event is over, so that they can remember me later. At the bottom of the page, you can include a brief bio and contact information.
- Respect the Time Allotted – It’s better to finish early than late. When you run over your time, you risk losing the audience’s attention, especially if they are anticipating a break or if they are ready to move along to the next session. If you finish early, you can open the floor for questions. It’s also a good idea to bring along some bonus material or discussion points in case you’re unsure of timing and need some filler at the end.
- Consider a Give Away – One easy way to collect contact information from attendees is to raffle off a copy of your book at the end of your presentation. I like to bring along a small gift bag with handles and pass it around the room about halfway through my presentation so that attendees have learned a bit about me and my style. At the end, I will make a big deal of drawing a winner for the book. Then, I’ll remind attendees that I’ll be available to sign books at my table after the event.
- Give Thanks – Remember to send the event coordinator a thank you note! Hopefully you will be invited back again at a later date and also referred to speak at other events.
You might be surprised by how quickly you can sell more books and grow your business as a result of your speaking engagements. Soon you may find that you don’t have to go looking for speaking opportunities. As you build a reputation, the invitations to speak will come to you. And after you do enough free speaking, you will inevitably find opportunities for paid speaking engagements. These can range from a stipend of $50 up to thousands of dollars once you establish your authority in your field!
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with checklists, templates and worksheets on professional speaking. Check it out!