Total Reading Time: 3 minutes.
I clicked play slideshow on my Macbook Pro, picked up the clicker, and looked up. 100 or so young, sharp, bright-eyed people were staring right at me. I had their complete, undivided attention.
So I did what every pro does — immediately started shaking and getting nervous. “Just introduce yourself and go with the slides”, I thought.
I botched the first minute, but no one knows. Because of the insane amount of time I put into practicing the presentation (lesson #6), my autopilot turned on and I got through the first couple minutes.
Speaking is an incredibly nuanced, yet fascinating and fulfilling art. I’ve always thought I would be a natural at speaking, but of course, I was wrong. Like everything, it requires dedication to mastery.
Being passionate, outgoing, and extroverted is not enough. In fact, some of the best speakers are introverts. There are a few key lessons I learned and I’d love to share them with you below.
This post is not about how you can get speaking gigs, although if you’re interested in that too I’d love for you to let me know in the comments below.
This is about the 11 key lessons I learned and thoughts I have after speaking three times in three days. Consider this my 80/20 to speaking.
Through these lessons I hope you’ll takeaway some actionable strategies that will help you in preparing for your next (or first) speaking gig.
Here Are 11 Lessons and Thoughts from 3 Speaking Engagements in 3 Days:
Speaking and teaching is incredibly fulfilling. The immediate feedback and engagement you get is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m sure it will be the same for you.
2. High as a Kite
The energy and high is crazy. There’s nothing like seeing people’s eyes light up. Having a queue of people hang around and wait up to an hour after the talk just to connect feels great. You’ll make some new, loyal friends if you deliver a powerful message.
Speaking is so exhausting. I have even more respect for speakers now. You have to be laser focused on every word, movement, and action you take; while also constantly checking your audience’s pulse and trying to create (and maintain) engagement.
You must focus on what’s in it for them otherwise you will lose their attention. I didn’t mention anything about myself until 20 minutes into the presentation, and this worked well. The initial hook is very important.
5. Embrace the Inevitable
You will probably be nervous no matter what you do. I almost froze in the beginning, but if you practice enough your autopilot will take over until you regain composure.
6. Practice Until…
“Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.” — Tweet this!
This advice came from a good friend while I was preparing, and it’s dead on. I planned and practiced nonstop for weeks prior, and could have done even more. You should set a goal to get through a complete rehearsal of the talk 25 times.
7. Killer Resource
An amazing book and resource is Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. A huge thank you to Antonio Neves for the recommendation and being an inspiration.
8. Prizes for Engagement
Having a giveaway or prizes gets more people engaged and on your side. This is an instant way to create allies. I gave away books and gift cards for good questions, and offered my courses and resources to everyone at the end for free.
9. Prepare for the Worst
Things will go wrong and you will make mistakes (I’ve made plenty). My camera battery died, the microphone malfunctioned, powerpoint’s broke, clicker’s broke — all kinds of sh*t happens. It’s how you handle yourself in that moment that counts. If you’re cool and laugh about it, the audience will be too.
10. Passion and Charisma
Being passionate, charismatic, and having fun is key. If you can show how much you care about the topic, people will care too. I tried to show off my personality, and I know I’ll do even more of this going forward. People want the real you and the truth that goes with it!
11. Specific Feedback
You’ll always wish you did better, and it’s hard to judge how you actually did. Most people don’t give honest feedback, they just say “that was great!” By asking people specific questions I got more detailed and worthwhile answers.
What are some of your biggest lessons and tricks for being a better speaker?