5 Public Speaking Tips for Business Pros

by Sharlyn Lauby on August 16, 2012

We’ve all heard the old line about more people fearing public speaking than death. I feel very fortunate that I learned about public speaking early in life. One of my first jobs was being a tour guide at an aquatic marine life theme park that has an Orcinus orca as their mascot (I’ll let you guess which one!).

While I didn’t realize it at the time, the experience was priceless.

speaking, public speaking, presentations, business, professional, introductions, podium

After attending some events lately, I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way about public speaking. As business professionals, we must learn how to speak in front of groups. It’s part of our job. Even if we don’t do it every day. Let me share a couple of examples that might illustrate my point:

I once worked with a software company that held an annual users conference. During the event, their programmers (i.e. the subject matter experts) would conduct the sessions. The programmers had to not only work on their sessions but presentation skills.

At conferences, major sponsors might get invited to speak about their company at the podium. Or a volunteer leader is asked to introduce a speaker.

So don’t say “I’m not a professional speaker.” Or “I don’t need to learn public speaking.” Because someday you might need to do an introduction, a short talk about your company, or a presentation. The next time you’re invited to do any kind of public speaking, here are 5 tips to help you:

  1. Arrive early and stand in front of the room. And I don’t mean stand there for 30 seconds. Stand there long enough to get comfortable with the surroundings. If the room has a podium, stand behind it for a couple minutes to see how it feels. If the podium is on a riser, stand on it so you know what it feels like to walk up the steps and be on a raised platform. The more comfortable you are, the more you can focus on the content you are sharing.
  2. Test the microphone. Don’t use “Test one, two, three…” When I test a microphone, I try to use a couple of sentences that allows me to get used to the sound of my amplified voice. For instance, “I have a Dalmatian. She likes to eat Pop-Tarts.” I like the sentence because it has a “P” word in it – and I can hear how it sounds. The room has a microphone for a reason. People may think their voice will project – it doesn’t. When you are supposed to use a microphone and you don’t, you give the audience a reason to stop paying attention to you.
  3. Don’t say your content is boring. This might seem like a no-brainer. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone refer to their material as boring. And it’s only because it might be technical. If you say it, then people will believe it. You’re the expert and what you have to say is important. ‘Nuf said.
  4. Get a photo. This is a biggie! If there’s an event photographer, find out if you will be photographed and if you can get a copy of the photo. As a business person, a photograph of you standing behind a podium is gold. If there’s no event photographer, ask someone in the front row if they will take a couple photos of you while you’re speaking. Give them your smart phone. Buy a $5 gift card to Starbucks or Amazon before the event and thank them with it.
  5. Take your name badge off. Why? See reason number 4.

This is just a starter list of public speaking tips. Being comfortable with the room can play such a big role in the outcome. Got any public speaking tips or tricks? Let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy of Mugsy Clicks

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