How to Start Public Speaking

When it comes to establishing yourself as an expert, public speaking is one of the best ways to build trust with your audience. By speaking at an industry event, conference, or workshop, you show off your expertise and develop relationships with potential customers.

No clue how to get started? Here’s how.

1. Identify Potential Speaking Channels.

There are so many options at this level: online webinars, local industry events, private company training sessions…the list goes on. Start with something local and smallish to get your footing in the speaking world.

2. Decide on Topics You’re an Expert on.

There’s probably plenty you could speak on, but narrow it down to a handful of ideas. Think about what your customers constantly ask you, as these areas can provide ample fodder for speaking topics.

3. Review Speaker Requirements.

Once you identify several events you’d like to speak at, see what the websites for each event say about the application process. More than likely, you’ll need to provide a bio (if you don’t have one, draft one) and an overview of what your session would cover.

When writing out your description, write a high-level overview of the material, then provide bullet points that your audience will take away from your presentation.

4. Invest in the Visuals.

Once you’ve been accepted as a speaker, focus on your presentation. PowerPoint is great, but there are also newer, more innovative tools like Prezi and others. If you’re not great at developing visually-stimulating presentations, hire a freelancer to make yours dazzle.

Remember to keep a minimum number of words on each slide, rather that everything you’ll cover. Use clear, engaging images throughout your presentation to appeal to your audience.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice.

For me, the hardest thing is getting my timing right. Most presentations are an hour, but if you’re required to speak for longer, you’ll need plenty to keep your audience interested. Mix it up with audience interaction, questions, and exercises.

Practice until you’re completely confident with your presentation. Ask your co-worker or spouse to be your audience and provide feedback.

6. Be a Rock Star Presenter

Once you’ve completed your presentation, let your audience know you’ll be available for questions afterward. This provides a fabulous opportunity for you to connect with potential clients, swap business cards, and talk shop — the whole reason you decided to speak in the first place!

Make sure to follow up with anyone you meet after the event.

7. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Once you’ve gotten your first speaking gig under your belt, you’ll be more confident to seek out others. The great thing is: you can reuse or slightly modify your presentation for other events and audiences.

As you build up your speaking credentials locally, bigger events will be more interested in you joining their speakers’ list, so keep aiming bigger and bigger.

Learn how to speak with confidence and grow your small business in our free business webinar, “Presentation Skills” on September 19, 2013, at 1 pm Eastern.

Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfight cc

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