Top tips for overcoming public speaking
Recently, I was asked to be a panelist for a webinar about using the power of publicity to achieve your goals. The participants asked great questions.
The first: “How do you step into the spotlight when you don’t like the spotlight?”
Getting media attention and speaking engagements -- the spotlight -- goes right to the heart of my book, “Celebritize Yourself.” By boosting your visibility and your credibility, you set yourself apart from your competition and become a trusted authority in your field.
Should you abandon that avenue if you don’t like the spotlight?
I was – and still am – that person. I had no desire to seek the spotlight, and even had trepidation about it, but eventually I realized I had to for the sake of my business.
First I had to figure out why I was so uncomfortable with the idea of being in the spotlight.
The answer for me was simple: The thought of public speaking terrified me. I’d seen wonderful speakers, including my own brother, who could captivate huge audiences and have them hanging on every word. I knew I didn’t have that kind of talent so why bother even trying?
Because, as I came to realize, I had to. I needed to do it in order to grow my business and, on a deeper level, I needed to do it for me! My fear was holding me back – an admission that became increasingly painful as time marched on.
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I talked to my brother about the problem. “It comes naturally to you and the other great speakers I’ve seen,” I told him. “But it doesn’t come naturally to me!”
His response surprised me.
“No, it doesn’t all come naturally,” he said. “I had to work at it.”
For years, he spoke to small audiences at seminars. They proved an ideal training ground. He critiqued himself and got feedback from others so that he could constantly polish his delivery.
So, first tip: Start small. Give yourself time to get used to the spotlight.
Here are a few more tips for public speaking.
Know your material
You won’t feel comfortable speaking if you don’t thoroughly know your material. How do actors and Olympic athletes make their feats look so easy? They practice! That doesn’t mean memorizing a speech, which can lack enthusiasm and leaves little room for spontaneity. Know your key talking points, the anecdotes or other means you’ll use to illustrate them, and how you will smoothly segue from one point to the next.
Positive energy is contagious – if you’re upbeat, excited and passionate about your message, chances are, your audience will be, too. And you’ll be surprised about the positive cycle that creates: An enthusiastic audience can pump up your energy even more! Use hand gestures to illustrate points and, when appropriate, smile, smile, smile.
Make eye contact
Find friendly, receptive faces in the audience and speak to them. Making eye contact with individuals helps prevent you staring off into the distance or reading from notes. It also helps make you feel like you’re engaging in a conversation rather than speaking to a group. I’ve found that visually touching base with engaged audience members gives me little shots of confidence that help propel me through my presentation.
Look your best!
When you look great you feel great and that makes you stand taller and exude confidence. Speaking engagements aren’t the best place to break in a new outfit (who knows what wardrobe malfunctions might surprise you?) Instead wear clothing and shoes you feel good in and that are appropriate to the setting – you can’t go wrong with business formal. Simple is fine, but you should look crisp and polished from head to toe.
A fear of the spotlight shouldn’t prevent you from getting the visibility and credibility that can build your brand and your business. Remember – you’re not alone. The fear of public speaking is said to be one of the top 10 worldwide!
If I can overcome it, so can you.
About the author
Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insiderevery Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. Follow her on Twitter: @marshafriedman.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.