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10 Ways to Become the Type of Speaker Who You Enjoy Hearing

By Ali Brown

Speaking publicly about what you offer is a powerful tool for expanding your list size and making more sales. If the thought of speaking on stage makes you nervous, you may want to start out with small groups and work your way up.

It’s said that people fear public speaking more than death, prompting Jerry Seinfeld to joke that someone would rather be in a casket at a funeral than delivering the eulogy. Funny, yes, but I’ve seen people overcome this fear every day and go from never having held a microphone to speaking confidently before an audience of hundreds.

By starting small, one-on-one, to speaking to a table of people at a local monthly networking meeting, and then moving to speaking before a small crowd, you, too, can tackle the “fear of speaking in public.” Before long, you’ll be seeking out places to share your favorite talk (and sell products or services in the back of the room afterwards).

You’ll want to make sure that you are the type of speaker that people will enjoy listening to, so I have some tips gathered from watching expert speakers present.

1. Know your material. If you speak about something that you really know, such as yourself or your area of expertise, your confidence will take over, and your butterflies will dissipate. (Focus on giving people real value.)

2. Know your audience. Do your homework and know who you are speaking to and what interests them. I’ve seen some speakers poll the audience in the beginning to gauge their expertise so that you don’t talk down to them or above their knowledge level.

3. Outline your talk. You don’t want to sound too rehearsed, so I don’t suggest memorizing your speech. Nor do you want to extemporize the entire talk, or you may end up far afield of your topic. Instead, create an outline of points that you want to make, and talk from the heart about them. (I do memorize my introduction and close for a smooth takeoff and landing.)

4. Cover a few things well. It’s better to expose the audience to a few topics in-depth than to give them too many topics that you just touch on. For each point include a story or case study to add interest. Build optional topics at the end of your outline if the talk goes faster than you expect.

5. Rehearse. Start rehearsing a week or so beforehand (or earlier depending on your level of nervousness). You’ll know when you are ready when you start getting tired of rehearsing, and you find that you don’t have to look at your cue cards much. Remember that if it all starts to be memorized, it won’t sound as good.

6. Move around. Especially if your talk is long, you’ll want to move around on the stage or in the front of the room. Feel free to walk down with the audience, and don’t be afraid to look people in the eye briefly. (Note: Make sure that your audio equipment allows for this mobility.)

7. Engage the audience. There’s no better way to keep the audience engaged with you and your talk then by involving them. Ask for a show of hands by asking them questions or polling them on something related to your talk. This can be risky if you get an oddball question that derails you, but you can defuse the situation by offering to talk to them "offline" and moving on.

8. Get personal. Audiences brighten up when you start telling them about yourself in a personal way. Don’t be afraid to reveal a part of yourself this way. Often stories are the best ways to illustrate your points. Use ones about yourself, your clients, or people you know.

9. Use tools carefully. Ever been to a talk when the speaker makes available a handout, and then suddenly no one is listening to them and they are leafing through the handouts? I recommend you make the handouts available after you speak. Use PowerPoint with caution, keeping in mind that people may spend more time looking at it than you.

10. Use humor. Even if you are no comedienne, you have many tools at your disposal: your manner, your voice, you tone, your facial expressions, you body positioning, and more. If you make a mistake during your talk, own up to it and diffuse it with self-deprecating humor. Watch the late-night talk show hosts when a joke falls flat for advice on how to do this.

I recommend attending events with masterful speakers and studying their skills. Before long, you’ll be up there on the stage yourself.

About the expert(s):
Ali Brown  is fast becoming regarded as the voice for women in business and success. After launching her first business from her tiny New York City studio apartment in 1999, she has grown it into what is today Ali International, a multimillion-dollar enterprise with 50,000 members that ranked in 2009’s Inc. 500 list of fastest growing private companies in the nation.  Forbes.com recently ranked Ali as #1 Woman for Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. Ali is dedicated to helping women start and grow their own businesses via her coaching and publishing company the Millionaire Protégé Club; her female-centric Ali Magazine; her online Ali Boutique; and Shine, her annual fall conference where Ali delivers the best in business-building strategies for entrepreneurs of all levels.  www.AliBrown.com


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