3 Public Speaking Tips For Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you know that you are going to need to entertain many business trips where you will need to participate in conferences and seminars within your industry. While you may be attending these events as a guest, at some, you will be speaking on stage. Whether you will be sharing the most recent trends on how to bring in new customers, or the latest technology that helps businesses run more smoothly, you are going to need to hone your skill as a public speaker.

Fear Of Speaking

It has been said that the number one fear for people is public speaking. Death, apparently, ranks lower on the list. Therefore, as the old Seinfeld joke goes, if you find yourself at a funeral you would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.

It doesn’t have to be that bad; for many, getting up at the front of the room is an enjoyable experience. It can be an adrenaline rush, an opportunity to shine and show those who are fortunate enough to be in the room with you that you know your material.

Public speaking is a skill that can serve you well in many facets of life, from delivering board room presentations in your job to toasting your friends at a wedding; and here’s the good news – public speaking is a skill that can be learned. With this in mind, here are three public speaking tips we learned from the website KeynoteSpeakers.info:

1. Know your material

Regardless of the topic, it is critical that you know what you are talking about before you hit the stage. Getting up there and “winging it” is a recipe for disaster. You need to be the expert and know your material so that if everything goes wrong around you – and things will go wrong – you can continue on.

Audio-visual glitches, strange noises, weird questions, people answering cell phones, fire alarms, and everything else under the sun can happen during a speech, so be prepared. Knowing your material so that you can speak confidently on the topic is your best weapon against unforeseen circumstances.

2. Know your audience

Telling the “two rabbis, a priest and a donkey walk into a bar…” joke might get a laugh at the local pub, but it might not play as well in a ballroom with a conservative audience. Part of knowing your material is also knowing your audience and understanding how you can connect with them. If you have been hired to give a speech, make sure to speak with the buyer at length about their audience, their expectations for the speech, and their expected outcomes.

If you have not been hired to give a speech, but are doing so for a special event, research others who have given similar speeches and listen to them. Find people who have given speeches in the genre, and find out what works and what doesn’t for your type of audience.

3. Presence is everything

People have short attention spans these days, and distractions are everywhere; from BlackBerrys (or as many professional speakers refer to them, “CrackBerrys”) to iPhones, iPads, and iPods, you will be fighting to keep your audience’s attention from the first word.

“Your strongest ally in maintaining their attention is to have a compelling presence from the platform” says Steve Adams of the Coaching Institute. This doesn’t mean you have to yell, but a strong, commanding voice and a confident, easy manner make a huge difference when presenting to a room full of people. 

If you are nervous, conservative, and quiet from the front of the room, you will lose people quickly. You are better to actively engage your audience and make a few mistakes than you are to be perfect but meek and boring.

There is a common phrase that many professional speakers live by: “audiences won’t always remember what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel”. So make your audiences feel something, be it happiness, inspiration, sorrow, or joy. If you find a way to emotionally involve your audience they won’t spend half the presentation playing Farmville on their iPhones; instead, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand.

If the occasion calls for it, one other way to guarantee participation is through audience interaction. If it makes sense, add in an activity that gets people involved. Interaction is an easy way to make people laugh, and it gives them an energizing break from sitting still.