If you are a business professional, like it or not there may be a time for you to speak publicly. And this is true for all professions–from teachers to salespeople to CEOs.
“Business people, whether or not they know it, are in the business of public speaking…communicating ideas, brands and products to the public. If a business person expects to be successful, then she must master this skill. Business is about relationships and relationships stem from communication,” explains Educational Consultant Megan Faux, creator of the Multiply In Minutes with Multiplication Nation. “Business people must give presentations for accounts, opportunity and recognition. They must communicate their desires, passion, enthusiasm for something they say they believe in. They must use their words, their image, and their delivery of words to get people to feel the way they do. People make decisions based on how they feel. It is the goal of the speaker to get them to feel what he/she wants them to feel. The speaker has the platform to inspire to lead or to enlist action. Public speaking is so important in the realm of business,” she says.
Still, many people are afraid to speak in public. This is, however, something most can overcome.
“Overcome your fear of public speaking through exposure therapy,” says Christine Clapp, author of Presenting at Work: A Guide to Public Speaking in Professional Contexts and president of Spoken with Authority, a presentation skills consultancy. “You have to expose yourself to public speaking on a regular basis. You might have such opportunities in your workplace. If not, you might consider joining a chapter of Toastmasters International, a global non-profit that develops the speaking and leadership skills of its members.”
Speak Up! Public Speaking Tips
• No tele-prompters, please! While you should draft a speech, don’t bring your script and read from it. “Reading makes your story feel wooden and the lack of eye contact makes it hard to build rapport with listeners,” says Clapp.
• Get off to a great start. “It is important to have a strong opening, one that captivates the audience. If you can’t get the attention of the audience, then you won’t be able to communicate your message. This could be an inspirational quote, a story, a gesture, a song or a poem. I’ve used them all to get the attention of my audience,” says Faux.
• “Don’t be afraid to share about yourself — audience members respond to vulnerable speakers who have the courage to talk about their failures and challenges,” says Clapp.
• Adds motivational speaker and team building coach Milo Shapiro, The Improv Guy, “Use more stories and less data. People can only absorb so much data. They can listen to stories for hours.”
• Have some fun. Your audience will respond if you add a little levity to your speech. “Even a serious or technical speech or presentation can lend itself to humor. Humor wakes up an otherwise sleeping soul. You want people to pay attention to you. You want the audience to stand at attention when your brand has the spotlight. People want to be entertained; if they know you will entertain them, then they will listen,” explains Faux.
• Keep it human. “Allow yourself to show emotion. It’s okay to look happy, sad, angry or scared so long as you don’t look out of control,” suggests Shapiro.
• Practice makes perfect–it really does. “Practice your skills—use everyday conversations to practice storytelling, like when a co-worker asks you about your weekend,” says Clapp. “Rehearse your presentation—say aloud your story/presentation at least six times before you deliver it so that you have firm command of your material and mental bandwidth to focus on how you’re delivering it.”
• End strong. “Closings are the cherry on the top. After a good speech has been delivered, a strong closing seals the deal. A strong closing can allow your message to linger long after you are gone,” offers Faux.