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.
How innovation is transforming government
According to Washington Technology’s Top 100 list, Leidos is the largest IT provider to the government. But as Lieutenant General William J. Bender explains, “that barely scratches the surface” of the company’s portfolio and drive for innovation.
Bender, who spent three and a half decades in the military, including a stint as the U.S. Air Force’s Chief Information Officer (CIO), has seen action in the field and in technology during that time, and it runs in the family. Bender’s son is an F-16 instructor pilot. So it stands to reason Bender Senior intends to ensure a thriving technological base for the U.S. Air Force. “What we’re really doing here is transforming the federal government from the industrial age into the information age and doing it hand-in-hand with industry,” he says.
The significant changes that have taken place in the wider technology world are precisely the capabilities Leidos is trying to pilot the U.S. Air Force through. It boils down to developing cyberspace as a new domain of battle, globally connected and constantly challenged by the threat of cybersecurity attacks.
“We recognize the importance of the U.S. Air Force’s missions,” says Bender, “and making sure they achieve those missions. We sit side-by-side with the air combat command, intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance infrastructure across the Air Force. There are multiple large programs where the Air Force is partnering with Leidos to ensure their mission is successfully accomplished 24/7/365. In this company, we’re all in on making sure there’s no drop in capability.”
That partnership relies on a shared understanding of delivering successful national security outcomes, really understanding the mission at hand, and Leidos’ long-standing relationship of over 50 years with the federal government.
To look at where technology is going, Bender thinks it is important to look back at the last 10 to 15 years. “What we’ve seen is a complete shift in how technology gets developed,” he says. “It used to be that the government invested aggressively in research and development, and some of those technologies, once they were launched in a military context, would find their way into the commercial space. That has shifted almost a hundred percent now, where the bulk of the research and development dollars and the development of tech-explicit technologies takes place in the commercial sector.”
“There’s a long-standing desire to adopt commercial technology into defense applications, but it’s had a hard time crossing the ‘valley of death’ [government slang for commercial technologies and partnerships that fail to effectively transition into government missions]. Increasingly we’re able to do that. We need to look at open architectures and open systems for a true plug-and-play capability. Instead of buying it now and trying to guess what it’s going to be used for 12 years from now, it should be evolving iteratively.”