Giving talks to organizations in your community is an excellent opportunity to promote your practice.
Frequently, local organizations invite speakers to come in and talk to their members. They use membership meetings to educate their members, inform them of new developments, and to make them aware of what’s available in the community.
But what if you don’t get invited? Reach out to the organizations in your community and let them know you’re available to speak!
They need speakers, and you have something to say! And it’s a great way to do both, promote your office and practice your public speaking skills.
Except, there may be a small problem. What if the thought of public speaking sends shivers down your spine?
For what it’s worth, you are not alone…
It’s been said for most of us the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death itself!
But why are we so scared, and what are we afraid of?
Most of us are terrified of making mistakes and looking foolish… twice if in public.
And that’s easy to understand. Who in their right mind would rush to the front of the line only to “mess up” and be laughed at?
Thank you, but no takers here!
But what can you do if you want to promote your practice through public speaking; how can you get a handle on your fear?
There are many different strategies you can utilize to reduce your fears, putting the odds of delivering a powerful talk on your side.
I suggest you start with doing this…
It’s crucial you know your audience. Who are the people you’ll be talking to? Let me give you an example.
- Let’s assume you’ve been contacted by a local organization to talk at their monthly meeting. It’s late in the year, almost December. They’d like you to talk about the flu and what members can do to stay healthy
- Do you think it would help to know who you’ll be talking to? Inevitably, your message would differ depending on if your audience would be retirees or mothers of young children.
What are the interests of your audience? What do they know about your topic? Do they have specialized training, use unique language or jargon?
Why will they come to hear you talk? What will they hope to get from your presentation?
To find out as much information as possible about your audience, put yourself in their shoes. And direct your questions to the person or people inviting you.
Doing just a bit of research about your audience gives you a huge benefit and advantage.
Knowing their language and motivation allows you to tailor your talk. You can meet people where they are, reaffirm what they already know and what’s familiar to them.
When you know who there are and understand their motivations, you can speak their language and communicate more effectively.
Preparation, that’s the most critical strategy!
Often, we are afraid of what we don’t know and when we don’t know what to expect. But preparation will take that fear away, or at least reduce it.
Thorough preparation puts the ball in your court because you won’t be leaving anything to chance.
With careful preparation, you’ll know your topic, inside and out. You’ll be prepared to entertain questions and answer them. Once you’re well prepared, there’s no need to feel nervous or afraid anymore.
Of course, that alone is not a guarantee you won’t feel nervous or anxious. So, here’s something else you can do…
If you’re new to public speaking, any size group may make you feel nervous and somewhat afraid. That’s ok…
Start with writing out your talk. Begin with your first draft and refine from there. Make sure you hit all the points you want to cover, and your presentation flows.
Next, practice giving your talk. Stand up when you do and imagine a room full of people in front of you.
Practice looking into “the crowd” and establishing eye contact. Slowly sweep from one side of the room to the other and connect with your audience.
Effective, you bet!
Go through your talk multiple times if possible. This allows you to even out any rough spots and smooth out your transitions.
Watch the Clock
Don’t overextend your welcome…
A few practice runs allow you to time your talk. You want to stay within your allotted time and avoid going over.
If your speech is too long or too short, adjust your talk accordingly so you’ll stay within your assigned time.
Also, make sure to allow enough time for questions.
If at all possible, check out the location ahead of time.
What is the exact location of your speaking engagement? Is there adequate parking? How long will it take you to get there?
What’s the size of the room you’ll be speaking in? Is there any AV equipment? Do you need to bring your own?
What about a whiteboard and markers or anything else you use for your presentation?
Who is your contact at the organization? Can you get in touch if you have additional questions or concerns? Will they help you room setup or preparation of handouts if need be?
If you have unanswered questions, create a list and as soon as possible get in touch with your contact… don’t wait until the last minute.
Time to deliver your talk…
Give yourself enough time, so you get there early; no need to add to the stress by running late!
Perhaps you’ll be nervous. Or your stomach might be upset.
Don’t worry, that’s ok and even normal for many speakers. Chances are most symptoms will go away once you’ll start your talk.
As you make your way to the front of the room, remember that you’ve done your work, you are prepared. You know your material and have valuable information to share with your audience.
Also, remember that people have come to hear you speak because they know you have something valuable to say; something they want to know.
And finally, put your fears aside.
Few people feel good about others making a mistake.
Understand that most, if not all people in the audience will be rooting for you. They want you to do well and win!
Let us know about your experience with public speaking! Love it or hate it? Leave a comment below.
By Johanna Hofmann, MBA, LAc; regular contributor to the NPBusiness blog and author of “Smart Business Planning for Clinicians.”
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash