Small business owners need to hone many skills to succeed and communicating well ranks near the top of the list. In last month’s post, we shared tips to write effectively. This time, we’ll focus on verbal communication, specifically on how to speak more confidently and comfortably in front of groups of people.
For some people, public speaking has about as much appeal as having a root canal. Whether delivering a short and sweet elevator pitch at a small networking event or addressing a few hundred people at an industry conference, putting yourself out there can be intimidating at best. Here are some tips for making your time in the spotlight less traumatic and more effective.
Four Tips To Help You Present Your Best Self When Speaking In Public
- Prepare. “Winging it” will likely leave you stuttering and stammering over your words. Well in advance of your speaking engagement, think through and write down the key points you want to cover. If there are specific details you think you might forget, write them down, too. Although you don’t want to appear scripted and stiff by reading verbatim off of an index card or iPad, having notes will help keep you on point and enable you to recall important information when under pressure.
- Rehearse. Practice. Practice. Practice. The more familiar you become with the message you’re delivering, the more at ease you’ll be when it’s game time. Rehearse using any supporting visual aids (like Powerpoint presentations, product demos, etc.) to make sure you work out any “technical” bugs that might disrupt the flow of your message. Also consider asking a SCORE mentor, colleague, friend, or family member to serve as a “dress rehearsal” audience. That will help you acclimate to being in front of people as you talk through your points.
- Look them in the eye. Making eye contact with the people in your audience builds rapport and helps keep them interested. The more they feel a part of the presentation, the more likely they will be to stay engaged in your message.
- Relax. Do what you can to keep your nerves at bay. Plan ahead to make your time before your speaking engagement as unhurried and stress-free as possible. Ensure all of your materials are ready to go well in advance of heading out the door. Also, realize that the people in your audience are not there to judge you; they’re there for information. It’s about them not you; reminding yourself of that can help alleviate some of the performance anxiety you might feel.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll never escape occasions when you need to speak in public. It’s often an essential component of presenting your products and services to potential customers. Even if you don’t find the experience comfortable, you can do it successfully by devoting the time and attention needed to planning, practicing, and putting the task into proper perspective.
If you’re looking to improve your business communication skills—whether verbal or written—consider contacting a SCORE mentor for guidance and feedback. Our volunteers have expertise in all areas of starting and running a business, and they can offer valuable insight to help you improve your communications skills.