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Public speaking comes natural to a few but for the rest of us it is something we reluctantly do or simply avoid. I am writing this since it is very timely in my life as I recently finished two public speaking engagements.

Over the years I have done many of these in different settings and while I still get nervous prior to starting I feel good every time when I am finished. Further, getting up and putting yourself in front of others and speaking about something you are knowledgeable about will help build your brand and at the same time add value for others.

Here are a few tips to make your next public speaking engagement more successful:

  • Prepare: Few people can just wing it when speaking in front of people. Unless you are very confident this is you or want to experience what the worst-case scenario is like then I strongly advise you to prepare. This does not mean memorizing every line – in fact, memorizing lines comes off poorly and is robotic. Come up with an outline at first and then prepare slides or props or whatever you will use and then practice. For every public speaking engagement I recommend that you go through it at least three times. Further, these three times should be spread out over at least two days.
  • Engage your audience: Really good public speakers engage their audience. This means good eye contact and being conversational with the audience. Speaking in an engaging voice and using emotion in your voice while speaking at a comfortable pace. Further, avoid using big words and acronyms or you will likely lose your audience.
  • Less is more: Often times when doing public speaking you will have slides or some type of props. Stress that less is more. Each content slide should take at least three minutes of time and can be much more. Generally I like to keep presentations to 10 slides or less of content slides and just like a story you need a beginning, a middle and an end. Don’t cram everything into a slide – standard text should be at least 24-point font and use short statements, not full sentences. Most importantly — speak to your slides, don’t read them!
  • Nervous good, petrified bad: Being nervous is healthy and will motivate you to do a good job and to prepare. Being petrified likely will result in you freezing up. Start with smaller audiences or take an improv class to get you more comfortable. Some people find it best to start with an audience of people they know (like a team meeting) while some people find it best to start with an audience of strangers (like an improv class). In short, start small and work towards bigger and more challenging audiences and longer speaking engagements to ensure you stay nervous but not petrified.
  • Practice, practice, practice: There are very few “naturals” in the public speaking game. There are tons of people that look like naturals because they practiced and developed their skills. This practice could be through things like Toastmasters or even taking improv classes. Just find a forum to start practicing public speaking and seek feedback on how to get better.

Now it is time to act – find a way to engage in public speaking. Yeah you might only want to be a database administrator or a market research analyst but if you want to truly be “the” database administrator or market research analyst then you will need to be polished speaking in public – even if just in front of team or department meetings.

Have an awesome week and remember to do something today to supercharge your success.

As always appreciate your feedback, emails, comments, likes, and re-tweets!

photo credit: IDEA SEE Training of Trainers in Belgrade, Serbia. via photopin (license)