Episode 8: 7 Steps To Get Started Speaking
May 13, 2020
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No matter if you’re an entrepreneur trying to make a career of speaking or an employee for an organization asked to give occasional presentations, being a skilled communicator and speaker is crucial for your career. Everyone needs to know how to communicate well, and being a skilled public speaker can be a huge boost for your career.
Jacob and I have turned speaking into a major part of our jobs. We’ve had the chance to travel the world and give speeches for thousands of people at conferences, workshops and events. But it wasn’t always that way. Neither of us planned to be professional speakers, but we realized it was critical to the success of our businesses to get out there and share our message. At the beginning, I was a nervous wreck who wouldn’t even get up to ask a question during a panel discussion. Likewise, Jacob wasn’t confident or comfortable on stage when he began. We both had to work through our insecurities and build our skills to get to where we are today.
You’ve heard that people fear public speaking more than death. So, people who put effort into becoming better communicators and speakers will have so many more opportunities in their careers. The hardest part is often getting started and knowing how to jump in.
Here are seven steps to get started speaking.
- Have something to talk about. To be a successful speaker or presenter, you must have credibility, authority and experience. That can come from working for a company or in certain a line of work, writing a book and doing research or building your brand as a content creator or subject matter expert. Find ways to build credibility so that people want to listen to you and will believe what you say.
- Find your niche. Become an expert on a topic and build a community around it. This adds to your personal brand and helps people find you to speak at their events. You can find your niche by not necessarily following your passion, but by following your talent. What do people ask you to do? Before I started speaking on customer experience, I was always asked for help with customer service programs because I was good at it. I realized I could make that my niche and become a speaker about an important topic not a lot of people were covering.
- Manage expectations. Like with most things in life, you have to start on the ground floor with speaking. Don’t expect to be invited to a huge conference for your first speaking engagement and to be paid huge amounts of money off the bat. Get experience by speaking for free and building your confidence, and you’ll slowly move forward. Realistic expectations can make the grind more enjoyable.
- Find your voice. Great speakers stand out and are unique with their own brand and voice. Don’t feel like you need to look or act like every other speaker you see. When Jacob started, he gave his speeches in a suit, but he eventually moved to wearing a nice t-shirt and jeans to match his casual voice. It helps him stand out and keeps him comfortable on stage.
- Learn the art of storytelling. People don’t care about charts and graphs. What they really connect with is stories. Learn to use stories to get your point across and back them up with data and research. Collect stories from your life, things you read, history and other inspirations.
- Get outside help. Becoming an effective speaker and communicator takes work. Don’t be afraid to get outside help. Years ago, I attended Toastmasters, which built my confidence and gave me plenty of opportunities to practice speaking. I’ve also worked with a coach who gave great advice and help craft one of my most popular speeches. You can also practice your speech on family, friends and co-workers and ask for their honest feedback. Use all the outside resources you can to make yourself a better speaker.
- Build resilience. No matter if it’s giving a keynote address or speaking up in a meeting, speaking isn’t easy. Everyone has an opinion, and you’ll likely receive criticism and negative comments. Instead of giving up and never speaking again, try to understand the context around the comments. Use criticism to improve and build resilience. With practice, you can gain confidence that will help you endure negativity.
You won’t become a successful professional speaker overnight. But no matter if you are giving a presentation to a huge auditorium or a small group, these steps can help you find your voice and build your confidence. Improving as a speaker is a constant journey, but with practice and resilience, you can create a successful and lucrative speaking career.