If you're like most professionals, you've had occasion to listen to (maybe endure?!) a dozen or more 'talks' in your career. Also like most folks, chances are you've also asked yourself: "I wonder if I could and should do a talk like this on what I know?"
Well, I'm here to tell you that you not only can -- but you probably should -- make the effort of doing some talks (aka: lectures, speaking engagements, speech, presentations, etc.) in your work life. Bonus: Even if public speaking does rank 13th among human fears ("glossophopia"), it's way easier than you might think to tee this ball up and give it a whack.
The 'why' of it is threefold.
First and foremost for the marketing-minded, public speaking is good exposure for your company. (This assumes, of course, that your subject matter will relate to what you actually do for a living and that your audience is a match for your topic, too: Meaning, it's probably not a nifty idea for a patent attorney to speak about bathroom tiling techniques at a circus-clown convention.) By exposure I mean credibility, brand awareness, word of mouth, and possibly even lead generation.
Second, being able to state and substantiate that you're a public speaker and subject matter expert is broadly good for your professional reputation and specifically good fodder for your resume and LinkedIn profile. (That's not to say you should list every gig on your resume; rather, just list public speaking as a skill and -- yeah -- keep a separate log of your talk topics and venues, for your or your employer's future reference.)
And, finally, it's just good practice for those common occasions when you may be asked to rise-and-shine verbally, be it business contexts like company meeting, sales presentations, department meetings, or company open houses -- or extra-curricular talks occasioned by volunteer activities, schooling, weddings, or (sadly) funerals.
As for the 'how?' I'll list the basics here and keep them super simple:
1) Set your goals. Are you presenting to establish corporate credentials in a new product or service sphere? Generating and cultivating prospects? Increasing your own public speaking skills? (Nothing wrong with that!) Write down any and every objective you have, and be sure to revisit them throughout planning and authoring process to make sure you're not wandering into the weeds.
2) Pinpoint your topics. First, what process, product, problem, or subject do you know well enough to chat about comfortably and at length, including fielding questions that may arise from the audience? Next, narrow it down to something digestible, compelling, and (ideally) original, since presenting on a topic that's too broad or cliche is a one-way ticket to Yawnsville. (A handy idiom to keep in mind: Leave a message, not a mess!) And, finally, continuously revisit the goals you set at the onset. Here are a couple examples of super-narrow-topic talks, that help make the point:
3) Identify & solicit suitable audiences. At a topmost level, this means revisiting who your company's regular 'targets' are -- and then researching and reaching out to audiences comprised of said targets, such as trade associations or interest groups. Also note that I used the plural form of "audience": That's because there's a distinct possibility you can re-present your material to multiple, similar groups. For instance, if you're a wealth management expert presenting to one Rotary Club, why not make the same presentation to the one in the next zip code?
4) Write your presentation(s). Keep in mind these rules of thumb:
5) Prepare, prepare, prepare! Both by writing your notes/script (SMS can help with that, btw!) and doing dry runs with willing test audiences.
6) Lock down logistics. Who is providing the screen, the laptop, and the projector? Will there be IT or AV support on hand? Should you send your slide-set ahead of time for pre-loading or are you expected to bring it with you on a memory stick? What's your plan B if the power goes out or there's some other insurmountable technical glitch (aka: at least bring one print out for yourself, if not handouts for all)?
7) Help your host organization promote your talk before and afterwards. And, for goodness sake, make sure someone takes a pic or records your presentation for immediate (meaning social media) or future use. Otherwise your effort is literally here today, gone tomorrow.
8) Show up early, make sure you're cued up, feel free graciously skip the meal if it helps you stay focused, take a deep breath, and rock it!
Some final quick tips:
That's all there is to it. Now get out there, clear your throat, and talk the talk! -- JH
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