A lot of us toy with the idea of becoming a public speaker. To stand in front of tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people and deliver your message. It is both one of the scariest things a person can do and one of the most exhilarating.
However, for most of us, that’s where the dream stops. We convince ourselves that it’s something we’ll never be able to do and we certainly wouldn’t be able to make a living from it.
Well, with that kind of thinking you’re right. But, the fact of the matter is that it’s more than possible to make a healthy living from public speaking, you just need to pursue it fully. With anything worth doing it takes time to become the best, to hone your skills and to create a following.
Public speaking is no different. The fear of speaking in front of large audiences puts a lot of people off. But it’s important to keep in mind that with any kind of success, you’re putting yourself on display, sometimes to the tune of thousands of people.
Fear shouldn’t be a reason for not pursuing your goals.
It can be paralysing and if you let it dictate your decisions once, it’ll only grow stronger. Check out our guide on stopping fear from ruining your success.
If you have toyed with the idea of becoming a public speaker and if you believe that you have a message that will resonate with large audiences, then read through this guide detailing how you can become a successful public speaker.
Becoming a Public Speaker
Be an Expert
A huge reason that people don’t pursue their public speaking ambitions is that they feel they’re not an expert in anything. No one is born an expert, it takes years of learning and expanding your knowledge. There will never be a point when you can convincingly say, “I know everything there is to know.”
There is, more than likely, some skill set or belief that you have, that other people would be interested in hearing about.
Being an expert starts with identifying your area and starting to learn everything you can on the subject. When you have started to amass a large amount of knowledge, you can then start putting your own spin on it and deciding the messages that are important for you to get across.
Being a successful public speaker does involve positioning yourself in a certain way, even niching yourself to some extent. You need to be able to stand out from the crown and identify your exact message.
This message will be at the core of everything you do.
Make Sure You’re Benefitting Others
It’s all well and good being passionate about a subject that’s important to you. However, it’s a lost cause it’s it’s not important to anyone else. There needs to be a careful balance between passion and popularity. Finding this middle point is essential for growing your brand as a public speaker.
What you’re saying also needs to be informative. People who are seeing you talk want answers to specific questions. They need to feel like they got a lot of value from hearing you speak and that their knowledge on a particular subject has greatly increased.
This requires you to look at your talks not by what you enjoy talking about, but at what other people need answers to. Your focus needs to remain on your audience because if you’re not delivering, you’ll find your speaking engagements dry up rapidly.
It is essential at all times to provide great value to your audience. They are going to be the reason that you get further engagements and conferences. Remember that this not only applies to the people that are in the room with you on the day of a talk. With the internet as it is, many speakers are hitting much larger audiences by showing their videos on social networks.
Always keep this in mind and speak to your audience, not at them.
Start Small with Your Network and Grow
As with any new venture, you cannot spread yourself too thin at the beginning. Concentrate on local events and audiences. Start with a small website and grow.
As your early stages are a chance to gauge your audience’s reactions to your material, it’s beneficial to use these smaller scale engagements to make sure your message is hitting home and being well received.
Be clever about the talks that you do. Speak with local bloggers, see if you can get on a few podcasts. Look at local radio as well as local events and conferences.
You should be doing everything at this stage to finalise your brand and message. It is only after you have that cemented that you should be looking at expanding your network.
Deliver Talks for Free Initially
It’s all well and good thinking about the big bucks at the end, but any successful entrepreneur will tell you that a huge amount of time and effort is put in for free at the beginning. Think of this as laying down the foundations of your success.
Take any engagement, free or not. It is a real, live testing opportunity and a chance to build your reputation.
This also helps to build your confidence and develop your style. You will never learn better than by doing, and by watching yourself back you’ll be able to focus on growing as a speaker. No one is going to hit it out of the park on their first attempt. There will always be room for you to grow but these initial stages will see rapid changes and improvements in your speaking skills.
Set yourself a number of engagements you want to be involved in, say 100. Do everything you can to get booked into 100 different events that allow you to increase your exposure and develop your skills. Make sure you record, ideally everyone but most importantly, your first and last event. You won’t believe the difference you’ll see between them both.
With the confidence you will have developed and your reputation growing, it’s now really important to start focussing on your brand.
Develop Your Brand
Audit your online presence
The first thing you’ll need to do is to Google yourself, and see what’s coming up. This is to make sure that everything that comes up on the first few pages looks professional, and highlights your message.
The first things that are going to come up, more than likely, are your social media profiles. Now it is a good idea to separate your personal profiles from your professional ones. On my personal social media profiles, I go by my nickname. My friends know me and I get to use the social profiles personally without anyone really associating me with my personal brand. Not that there’s anything major you need to hide, but if someone is searching for you in relation to the expertise you offer, they’re probably not going to be interested in posts about your nan’s 90th birthday party.
This is completely up to you, but you need to make sure that the profile you have relating to your personal brand, stays on topic.
One final point. If your name is quite a common one and lots of other people are coming up before you in the search results, consider adding a middle initial, title or some other way of differentiating you from the crowd.
Secure a personal website
Purchase the domain name for your name, or as close to it as possible. You might not think you need it yet, but it’s much better to own the domain name now than have someone else snap it up just as your brand is growing.
You then, or at some point – sooner rather than later, need to set up your website with information about yourself and most importantly, how you are helping others. People that visit a website want to know what you can do for them, not just about your back story.
Make sure you have a good contact page set up and consider building an email list to grow your following. In this way, you have a continually growing group of people that you can get your message out to.
It’s also important to produce content relevant to what you’re speaking about. You need to be seen as a subject matter expert and if anyone needs any information in that area, you’re their first port of call.
Finally as you grow, add videos of your talks to your site. This will incentivise people to book you for their own events and conferences. Make sure the videos are high quality.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett
The reputation of your personal brand is essential to maintain. After all, it’s always going to be tied to your name, so you need to ensure that everything you produce and endorse, is of very high quality.
Never back something you wouldn’t be super excited to use yourself. You need to be associated as a thought leader, subject matter expert and most importantly, a person to trust. Gambling all that on a dodgy product or service just to make a quick buck, means people aren’t going to trust what you say the next time.
Speak about what you believe in. Don’t sacrifice your core message and brand for the sake of a trend that will more than likely pass by shortly.
Associate with other strong brands
If you’re seen writing, speaking for or working with other strong brands, people will automatically associate you as being of that caliber. It’s not hard to find great brands to write for, however, it is difficult to write to a standard that they’ll be interested in.
What you need to do is create a list of strong brands in your sector. See what works well on their sites, think of an interesting topic in your area and write an article in the style of the publication you’re hoping to feature it on. for example, if the website publishes a lot of lists – write in that format. If they’re highly visual – provide that.
When you’ve done this, contact strong brands and let them know you’ve created what you think is a great article on their site. A lot of websites are constantly looking for great content and will jump at the chance to use it providing it’s designed well.
Best of all, these methods provide you with authors profiles that will allow you to demonstrate yourself as a speaker, allowing you to be seen working with market leaders. This can lead to a lot of speaking engagements when done correctly.
Evolve & Reward
Take your followers on a journey and allow them to see you evolve. Nobody knows everything from the onset and it’s perfectly fine to admit your mistakes. In fact, people respect you more for it. What comes across as ridiculous is someone who stubbornly sticks their guns when they’re clearly in the wrong.
Create a personal connection with your audience and they’ll want you to succeed. Most importantly, always make sure to thank your followers for their continued support. It is after all, them who will drive your success and you should never forget that.
Give as much as you can. If you come across a great free resource, let people know about it. You don’t have to make money on every action. It’s about establishing trust and providing a lot of value. This is what will make you remembered.
On top of this, people remember when they’ve been given something for free and will want to do something in return. This means more shares, engagement, and gratitude.
Now we’ve identified how to create a strong brand, here are some tips that will really help you to become an effective public speaker.
Effective Public Speaking Tips
Don’t read your presentation
Don’t make the mistake of reading your presentation from the paper in front of you, or your laptop.
Rehearse in advance so you can deliver your speech as naturally as possible, the whole point of public speaking is that people can watch you perform your speech! Spend plenty of time practicing in front of the mirror beforehand.
Watch how natural you are. If you seem uncomfortable up there then your audience will be uncomfortable.
Remember no one’s waiting for you to fail, they generally want to hear from you so give them what they want.
Don’t be afraid to use videos or background visuals
Videos are an excellent way of showing information and they offer a nice break in the midst of your talk. Make sure they’re well put together and full of great information.
This is also a really handy way of displaying the facts and figures you have in your talk, rather than reading all of them out.
Be a storyteller
Make sure that you include relevant and interesting stories in your speech. People love relating to characters in a story and it’s a fantastic way to build a connection and trust when done correctly.
This is also another way of breaking up a speech, particularly if you have lots of information. People like stories and often can’t wait to hear what happens in them.
Check out these ‘inspiring speeches‘ to see how it’s done.
No one wants to see someone standing robot-like on stage, delivering their talk in a monotone way. Use the stage.
Use positive body language. Be energetic in the way that you are speaking and make sure to emphasize relevant points.
Energy is contagious and it will make the audience feel more excited and engaged.
Don’t overload the statistics
One of the quickest ways you can lose interest is by overloading your audience with facts and figures. If you’re speaking on a topic where this is necessary, then try to deliver them using visual aids.
Your audience will take down the ones that jump out the most but if you are saying all of them in your talk, chances are you’ll have an audience who’s eyes will glaze over.
Pretty obvious right? You would think so. However all to often I see someone giving a talk copying or mimicking someone else. Little things are ok but you can’t force yourself to be someone else and the audience will be to pick up on that as well.
Remember, it’s all about being as natural as possible up there, and the best way to do that is by being you.
Don’t tell jokes unless you are 100% certain, that you are hilarious.
Many speakers make the mistake of thinking that have to make jokes during a talk. However, there is little as uncomfortable as watching a speaker telling an (unfunny) joke and waiting for the reaction that doesn’t come…
Stick to what you’re there to speak about. If you’re natural and energetic, you don’t need jokes. You’re not a stand-up comedian after all!
It’s OK to skip the Q&As
To be honest, they make the audience as nervous as they make you so it’s fine not to hold a Q&A afterward.
Instead, why not invite the audience to come up to you after the talk for a chat? That way you can network more effectively and they won’t feel so shy about speaking out in front of the entire room.
Learn from the Greats
A good public speaker captures the imagination of their audience. They use evocative words laced with purpose. Their entire body joins in the speech and the onlooking audience feels a rush of adrenaline and captivation, hanging on to every word that is spoken. By the end of the speech, they feel compelled to act immediately.
While it is true that some people have a natural gift for speaking to large groups, it is not a skill that’s can’t be worked upon. For one thing, you have to believe within all doubt, the words in which you are relaying. Any doubt or hesitancy you may have will soon settle upon the audience and the spell will be broken.
You need to be confident, passionate and clear. These are your basics, but elements that a lot of people overlook when it comes to giving speeches. To help you prepare, here are some of the greatest speeches that have ever been made.
Some may be from movies but the premise remains the same – you’re all trying to captivate your audience.
Notice your emotions during the speech, the rhythm of the words and how they change as the speaker wills you to become excited about what they’re saying. See the passion and hear the inflections and change of tones in the voice.
Identify what you believe makes the speech great and use those aspects when planning your own talks.–
1) The Greatest Speech Ever Made
Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of the movie ‘The Great Dictator.’
2) Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have A Dream Speech
Martin Luther King directing the march of 250,000 people and delivering the iconic ‘I have a Dream’ Speech.
3) JFK- Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You
JFK’s famous speech where he spoke the words “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
4) Rocky Balboa – Nothing Hit As Hard As Life
Rocky Balboa’s inspirational speech to his son.
Useful Books to Read
A Successful public speaker is always seeking ways to hone their craft. One of the most effective ways to do this is by seeking advice from masters in the field. There are many tips and techniques that will allow you to get better.
The following 6 books are essential reads for anyone considering a career in public speaking.
1) Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire by Paul Smith
Storytelling has come of age in the business world. Today, many of the most successful companies use storytelling as a leadership tool. At Nike, all senior executives are designated “corporate storytellers.” 3M banned bullet points years ago and replaced them with a process of writing “strategic narratives.” Procter & Gamble hired Hollywood directors to teach its executives storytelling techniques. Some forward-thinking business schools have even added storytelling courses to their management curriculum.
The reason for this is simple: stories have the ability to engage an audience the way logic and bullet points alone never could. Whether you are trying to communicate a vision, sell an idea, or inspire commitment, storytelling is a powerful business tool that can mean the difference between mediocre results and phenomenal success.
2) So What? How to Really Communicate what Matters to Your Audience by Mark Magnacca
It’s tough, but true–the people you’re trying to communicate with, sell to, or convince don’t really care about you. Nor do they care what you’re offering them–until they understand exactly how it’ll benefit them. If you recognize that one hard, cold fact–and you know what to do about it–you’ll make more money, achieve greater success, and even have more fun!
Magnacca shows you how to answer the “So What?” question brilliantly, every time–no matter who’s asking it or what you’re trying to achieve. This book will transform the way you communicate: You’ll use it every day to get what you want–in business and in life!
3) Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” His observation rings true: Urban legends, conspiracy theories, and bogus public-health scares circulate effortlessly. Meanwhile, people with important ideas–business people, teachers, politicians, journalists, and others–struggle to make their ideas “stick.”
Why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? InMade to Stick, accomplished educators and idea collectors Chip and Dan Heath tackle head-on these vexing questions. Inside, the brothers Heath reveal the anatomy of ideas that stick and explain ways to make ideas stickier, such as applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”
4) Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki
Enchantment, as defined by bestselling business guru Guy Kawasaki, is not about manipulating people. It transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers and the undecided into the loyal.
Enchantment can happen during a retail transaction, a high-level corporate negotiation, or a Facebook update. And when done right, it’s more powerful than traditional persuasion, influence, or marketing techniques.–
5) Influence: Science and Practice by Dr. Robert Cialdini
Influence: Science and Practice is an examination of the psychology of compliance (i.e. uncovering which factors cause a person to say “yes” to another’s request).
Written in a narrative style combined with scholarly research, Cialdini combines evidence from experimental work with the techniques and strategies he gathered while working as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in other positions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics to get us to say “yes.” Widely used in classes, as well as sold to people operating successfully in the business world, the eagerly awaited revision of Influence reminds the reader of the power of persuasion.
6) Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun
In this hilarious and highly practical book, author and professional speaker Scott Berkun reveals the techniques behind what great communicators do and shows how anyone can learn to use them well. For managers and teachers — and anyone else who talks and expects someone to listen — Confessions of a Public Speaker provides an insider’s perspective on how to effectively present ideas to anyone.
It’s a unique, entertaining, and instructional romp through the embarrassments and triumphs Scott has experienced over 15 years of speaking to crowds of all sizes.
The following tips are taken from SPEAKING UP©, MIT Freshman Advising Seminar 055, that was offered by Norma McGavern (former UROP Director) in Fall 1996. These tips provide you with advice on how to deliver your message clearly and strongly, with as little pain as possible for you —the speaker —and your audience.
- Preparation for Speaking —Your Voice and the Sounds It Makes
- Writing for Speaking
- Mapping the Content of your Speech
- Writing Elements and Speaking Elements
- The Audience and You
- Using Visuals
- On the Day of Your Speech- Avoid Panic!
Introduction to Public Speaking – by the University of Washington
Instructor Dr. Matt McGarrity from U of W’s Department of Communications guides learners through a 10-week course designed to help participants verbally communicate their thoughts in a more articulate way
Fundamental of Public Speaking – by University of Houston
This is a free course delivered by Prof. Deborah Bridges that’s an excellent insight into public speaking.
Public Speaking – by The Saylor Academy
This free course systematically examines the elements and factors which result in an effective speech. Great for people that like deconstructing a process and understanding exactly what makes it work.
The Art of Public Speaking – by Dale Carnegie
A free audio download of this timeless classic.
This website offers an assortment of virtual tools to help users improve their public speaking skills.
Finally, after a very long post (Thanks for sticking with us!) Here are our main points in both infographic format. If you liked this post and found it beneficial, please feel free to download or share with others that might be interested in learning how to become a public speaker.
Best of luck with your journey!