Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BEYOND THIS BLOG: Public Speaking 101

Here's a helpful article I ran across offering practical advice for those planning to speak at a public venue such as workshop, conference, or a book signing and presentation.

How to Sell Yourself and Your Product without Stressing Out

The number one thing that adults fear is a not shark. Nor is it drowning. Nor is it even death. The number one fear is public speaking. But are people really afraid of speaking in public, or are they just afraid of being embarrassed in public? Public speaking may have the potential to humiliate but it also has the potential to draw new interest in your product. Public speaking is necessary for promoting a book and here are some tips to keep your presentation interesting for your audience and stress free for you.

Planning the Presentation

Know your audience. When preparing your presentation, keep the age, gender and background of your audience in mind. If your topic is very specialized but you're presenting to a general audience, don't forget to explain unknown vocabulary. No matter who your audience is, you want to engage them, not bore them.

Know your venue. Bringing a PowerPoint presentation to a place without a projector is probably not going to work out very well. Does this place have a microphone? Does it have a podium? How big is the venue?

Know your time limit. No one likes to be told a presenter is going to talk for an hour and two hours later, he's still talking. Yes, your work is important, but people do have other obligations. Going over a time limit could cause you to lose an otherwise interested audience to constant watch checking and frustration.

Practice! This is the best way to work out the kinks. This will also allow you to experiment with the pitch of your voice and when you're going to pause as well as giving you more confidence in your ability to deliver the material well.

Dress comfortably and professionally. What you wear depends on what type of presentation you are giving, but you should be comfortable in your outfit. Testing out whether or not a new blouse will show sweat stains is best left for another time.

Giving the Presentation

Be confident. Apologizing for being unprepared or having poor speaking skills can sabotage the presentation before it even begins. Stand up straight and if you appear self-assured, your audience will be more likely to take your presentation seriously.

Make eye contact. This is very important. If you have note or cue cards, make sure you know your presentation well enough to not lose your place when making eye contact. Making eye contact with as many people in the room as you can makes you more approachable.

Eliminate filler words and poor speaking habits. "Ah", "uh", "um", "like", "really" and "know what I mean" detract from your presentation and make you look less professional. Audience members will focus more on the distraction of your fillers and not on the content of your presentation.

Slow down. Inexperienced public speakers tend to make the mistake of rushing their presentations due to nerves. Pause after a thought to give the audience time to digest what you've said.

Bond with your audience. Body language says a lot. Warm and inclusive body language goes a long way towards allowing your audience to relate to you and to what you have to say.

After the Presentation

Don't forget about questions... If you've been engaging, there's a strong likelihood that people will want to know more. You have two options for this. If you don't mind being interrupted from time to time, you can ask for questions throughout the presentation. This will likely generate more questions, as the topic is fresh in the asker's mind. However, this can also make it easier for your audience to challenge your points. The other option is leaving time at the end of your presentation for questions. How long you want to leave depends on how long your presentation was to begin with.

…but questions aren't the only option. If you would rather facilitate a discussion with your audience at the end of your presentation, leave more time. Audience members will feel robbed if they don't get to share their opinion. A discussion is also a great way to engage with audience members that might not be able to come up with a topic on their own.

Make sure that everyone can hear. If you decide to engage with audience members, be sure to repeat comments so that everyone in the room is on the same page. Often times, presenters make the mistake of getting into what ends up being a one-on-one conversation with an audience member because the people in the back can't hear.

Stick around. Some people might not be confident enough to ask questions in front of a group. Give these people the opportunity to talk to you. Engaging positively one-on-one is what can get you lifelong fans.

While these tips may vary slightly depending on your topic, venue and audience, one thing is certain: if you believe in your ability to give a great presentation, your audience will too. Public speaking is a necessary part of promotion and being good at it can only help you in the long run.


This article written by the editors of, reprinted with permission.


Jan Cline said...

Great timing on this...I have a few speaking engagements coming up. This will help me make sure Im prepared.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Thanks Jan. If you have any events you would like us to include on our Events calendar, let us know and we'll add them.

Jan Cline said... a matter of fact Im speaking at a fundraiser event for Inland Northwest Baby on Nov. 13th. It's for a great cause and you can go to their website to find information on the organization and ticket info. We partner with the community to supply diapers for needy families. It will be a great event if you want to spread the word! Thanks so much.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Okay, thanks Jan.

Norm de Ploom said...

This is spot on. It would be a good check list for anybody each time one is asked to give a speech or lead a workshop. I practice in front of a full length mirror, wearing the clothes I plan to wear, saying my presentation out loud and using a timer. It helps fine tune your words and body language.

Nancy Owens Barnes said...

Good ideas Norm. You just added to the checklist.