10 Tips for Public Speaking

Friday, January 03, 2014

If one of your goals for this year is to do more public speaking, either nationally or in your local association chapters, here are ten tips culled from my experiences in public speaking over the past fourteen years:

1. If you start with small-talk pleasantries, or a thank you to the event hosts, you've already lost the audience's attention. Get right into your presentation and send a thank you gift later.

2. Don't mention the clock.

3. If you include imagery from your portfolio, it should be in support of your point. No one cares about your portfolio otherwise.

3.5 Seriously, though. No one cares.

4. Do your homework and know your audience. Ask for the attendee list ahead of time and then review the attendees' websites and social media profiles. People at conferences are often surprised that I know who they are before meeting them. It's not an accident, it comes from hours of extra work on my part.

5. If you're citing examples of great companies, use the work of the people in the room, where possible. This focuses attention and increases ownership in your talk on the part of the audience members. It's also a way to honor the people who made the decision to invest in this particular event and in hearing you speak.

6. No more than ten words on a slide. Ever. If you can get away with fewer, even better.

7. For the ladies, if your skirt is shorter than just above your knee, people can see up it when you're on stage -- especially if you're seated for a panel. Attendees may be too polite to tell you, but they WILL talk about it later. Also, when possible, get your hair professionally blown out. Yes, people should focus on the content over your appearance, but we're human and we don't. If you look sloppy, people are going to assume (even subconsciously) that you're a sloppy thinker and tune you out.

8. Ruthlessly edit. The point is not to condense everything you know into one presentation. Pick a thesis and then throw out everything else that doesn't fit, regardless of how funny, poignant or inspirational it is.

9. Wear appropriate shoes. Flip-flops are not appropriate.

10. There are a lot of books on public speaking out there, but the best one is Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun.

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