Five Tips for Informal Public Speaking

A recent event in St. Louis featured 6 speakers (5 others and me) offering marketing tips to new business owners. We had an attentive crowd, a comfortable venue (not a classroom) and great coffee!

The format for presenters was simple: Spend 15 minutes on your particular area of expertise. Of course, you cannot completely cover big topics like social media, email marketing, branding, public relations or traditional advertising in 15 minutes. But you can hit some of the major points and share new ideas with the audience.

Based on the event, here are 5 tips that may help you in a similar situation.

  1. Speak often. One of our presenters told me afterward, “That was my first ever presentation.” She did not appear uncomfortable, but she did have difficulty condensing her topic into a 15-minute talk. I strongly encourage you to take every opportunity you can to stand up in front of an audience, even if it’s just a couple of minutes in front of your co-workers or career day at your kid’s school.
  2. Organize your thoughts in detail. You don’t want to write out your remarks word-for-word, but you should have good notes to refer to. You may want more than just simple bullet points.
  3. Rehearse what you’re going to say. Don’t over think it—we are talking about an informal event—but give some thought to timing, transitions and conclusions.
  4. Be careful to distinguish between personal opinion, conventional wisdom and empirical fact. Also, clarify any sweeping declarations. (Example: When you say LinkedIn is better for business than Facebook, you might want to point out that you mean for business-to-business, not business-to-consumer.)
  5. If an audience member has good input, go with it. During the remarks about traditional advertising, a USPS rep in our audience took a moment to talk about a new localized direct mail program. Hers was good information for fellow attendees.

The best way to get better at anything—writing, golfing, cooking, etc.—is to keep doing it. This idea certainly applies to public speaking.

When will you next be asked to speak before a group of people? It could be two years from now or it could be this week. When you are given the chance, go for it!






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