Market your speaking skills

Public speaking skills are highly sought after by organizations. If you are a talented presenter, it is a great skill to list on a resume—even if you aren’t a professional speaker. If you are a professional speaker, you should be getting the word out about your skill. Here are some great tips to market yourself:

  • Publicize your availability. People may not know that you are interested in speaking. Mention to your boss that you’d be open to offering customer demonstrations or to training a new group of employees. If you are a professional speaker, create a website advertising your services, and provide a schedule of your availability.
  • Use social media. Use sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to announce that you are available to speak on specific subjects. Also post updates about sessions you recently led.
  • Add the skill to your resume and social media profiles. Being an outstanding public speaker is considered a rare skill. It can make you stand out from the pack and lead to jobs that offer you the potential to address a crowd regularly.
  • Ask for reviews and recommendations. After you give a presentation, ask your audience members to write a testimony or to recommend you on LinkedIn. Those firsthand accounts can seal the deal when people are looking for keynote speakers for their own events.
  • Write articles. Submit articles or blog posts in your area of expertise to appropriate media outlets. Many content producers accept article submission or guest blog posts. You may even want to consider creating your own blog or weekly e-newsletter if you plan to speak professionally. It’s a great way to share your knowledge with people—and keep your name and services in front of them.
  • Work pro bono. Consider presenting for free an audio conference or webinar. It gives you practice, but more important, it offers you exposure and the opportunity to showcase your speaking talents, which can lead to paid gigs.

Add images for impact

Don’t rely on words alone when you want people to pay attention to your message. Pictures increase the likelihood that they will read, understand and act on your instructions.

A study that compared different forms of instructions given to emergency room patients shows the powerful impact pictures have. One set of patients received written instructions only, and another set received the same instructions accompanied by cartoon drawings.

The people who received instructions with images:

  • Were more likely to read the instructions, 98% compared to 79% who received only text.
  • Understood better. When they were asked questions about the instructions, more than 45% received perfect scores. Just 6% of patients who received text only answered every question correctly.
  • Complied with directions. Only half of the text-only group followed the directions for daily wound care, compared to three-quarters of the group that had images too.

— Adapted from “See What I Mean,” Ann Wylie, Wylie Communications Inc., http://www.wyliecomm.com.

3 tips for using on-stage technology

The performance of on-stage technology is notoriously finicky. Even low-tech presentations can be undone by poor- or nonperforming technology. Use these 3 tips to help ensure your next presentation is tech-stress free:

  1. Use your own power cables and adapters. Everyone has a story about scrambling to find the right display adapter 10 minutes before going on stage. Don’t assume the venue has the cables you need. Bring your own, and for good measure, bring a backup set as well.
  2. Plan for an offline presentation. If you are relying on wireless connectivity to demo a product or show a video, don’t. While you might be pleasantly surprised by a strong wireless signal, having a locally hosted software demo or video preloaded on your laptop is a best practice.
  3. Use a handheld microphone if possible. Lapel and behind-the-ear mics are snazzy, but a handheld microphone gets you out from behind the podium and gives you a focal point for your hands.

—Adapted from “A Few Tricks About Public Speaking and Stage Technology,” , Mozilla Developer Network evangelist, christianheilmann.com.

Quick tip: Practice in 60-second increments

To improve your speech, take a video of yourself practicing. As you watch, choose a 60-second portion that you would like to improve. Concentrate heavily on just that section until you’ve achieved the results you want. Move on to another portion, improving your delivery one minute at a time.

— Adapted from “Improve Your Presentations and Public Speaking 60 Seconds at a Time,” Melanie Pinola, http://www.lifehacker.com.

Ask your audience for feedback

Improve the quality of your presentations by specifically asking your audience for feedback on what you did and didn’t do well.

Example: Create a slide that asks for opinions on which parts of your presentation could be shortened or lengthened, and insert it at the very end of your deck, right before you give out your contact information.

Tailor the slide to the audience, and avoid requesting generic feedback. Ask participants to email you directly or to speak with you after the presentation to share their thoughts. Then incorporate what you learn into the next version of your presentation.

Never apologize for nerves

Giving a presentation or speaking in public can be a nerve-wracking experience. It’s OK to be nervous. However, you can take steps to build your public speaking confidence.

If you find yourself panicking before you present, remember one important rule: Never apologize for being nervous! Apologizing in advance for your nerves undermines your credibility and sends a subconscious message to your audience that you are lacking confidence in yourself and the message you’re trying to share.

Even worse is apologizing for being underprepared. No one in the audience needs to know that you had to step in and present on another person’s behalf or that you were so busy you prepared at the last minute.

Furthermore, if you confess that your presentation isn’t good because of a lack of preparation, your audience members could resent that you are wasting their time with a bad presentation.

Be direct about any miscues or stumbles, and move right on. Attempting to endear yourself to the audience by revealing and apologizing for your last-minute preparations almost always backfires. Don’t do it.

Middle-of-the-road memorization

Some speakers script every speech, memorizing each word and gesture. Others speak in the moment, relying on the setting to influence their choices. Which approach is best?

Strategy: Choose from both approaches. The best speakers know a natural style of speaking helps them connect with audiences, —but they also know most “natural” deliveries result from careful planning and practice.

Commit these areas of your speech to memory:

  • The opening. Set the stage with a carefully planned and rehearsed opening.
  • Humor. When you tell a joke, the setup is important— and the punch line is critical. Mess up the words, and you kill the laughs.
  • Transitions. Build dynamic bridges between different areas of your speech, and you control the flow and organization and also tie the entire talk together.
  • The outline. Memorize an outline of your key points until you can recite it word for word. That helps you avoid losing your place, especially if unexpected events interfere with your speech.
  • • The close. Your call to action should be precisely crafted for maximum impact.

So what is left? About 75% of your speech should consist of stories, backup details and gestures that are not scripted. That leaves you room to connect with your audience and deliver a personalized speech every time.
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-Adapted from “”Should You Memorize Your Speech?”” by John Kinde.