Sooner or later, if business is going well, you'll be asked to speak about your product or service publicly. For most of us, that is a terrifying proposition.
Even as a young child, I was afraid of public speaking. I can remember sitting in the second grade, feeling sheer terror at the prospect of being called on. I was paralyzed. School did not come easily to me. I knew I was intelligent, but spelling, writing and speaking were difficult for me. So I avoided situations where I had to pipe up.
I found my voice as an adult. To my great amazement, I kept being invited to speak in front of larger and larger audiences about my products and experiences. In one year, I gave over 100 presentations! I've also had the pleasure of appearing on national television -- talk about a large crowd. So what changed? The following five tips explain how I grew to become an effective public speaker.
Love your topic. I am passionate about my ideas. So passionate, in fact, that I want to tell everyone about them. I discovered that I'm much more comfortable speaking in front of an audience if I'm talking about a subject I love. The reality is, when we talk about subjects we care about, we end up speaking from the heart. Audiences love that, because they can relate to it. I might mispronounce a word or make a minor stumble, but the audience is willing to overlook it. Enthusiasm is contagious. Deep down, we all want to be passionate about something. When we see that quality in others, it encourages us.
Reveal something personal. Share something personal with your audience -- an embarrassing story or one of your failures, for example. When you bear your soul, it allows your audience to connect with you on a personal level. You're not just some figurehead up there, you're a real person! Break down the invisible wall with a story. The audience will love you for your courageousness.
Arrive early. If you arrive early, you can spend a few minutes meeting your audience. I make it a point to shake as many hands as I can. I welcome everyone, look them in the eye and thank them for coming. If I have time, I'll make some small talk. But most of all, I smile. Then, when I'm up at the podium, I feel some familiarity with my audience. It's much easier to speak to friends, after all, than a bunch of strangers. Don't rush this period though; it's important to be sincere in your effort to greet people and introduce yourself.
Acknowledge your audience with a smile. Stand tall with your hands at your side and spend a minute or two smiling at your audience. Do it even if you're nervous and want to get started. Over the years, I've learned that this simple step has incredible valuable. You will come off as confident and self-assured (even if you don't feel like it). It's easy to underestimate the importance of body language. If you're not convinced, have someone record you while you're speaking. You'll be amazed at the movements you're not aware you're making.
Remember to be a storyteller, not a lecturer. It doesn't matter how dry your topic is. The secret to becoming an excellent public speaker is to focus on how you can deliver your content by telling a story. Storytelling is an incredibly powerful medium. If you tell a story, it will be easier for people to focus on your message and your audience will have something to walk away with. Remember: Stories have a beginning, middle and end. Don't just think about what you're going to say -- think about how you're going to say it.
Your fear of public speaking probably stems from childhood. But we grow up. And I really do believe most people want others to succeed. So find your voice and tell your story. Your audience will love you for it.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.