A side benefit of becoming a well-known and successful entrepreneur is that you suddenly get asked to speak at any and every event. You realize that indeed there is an event for everything - from devotees of light bulbs to food science to birds. And surprisingly, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who attend.
Every entrepreneur gets asked to speak; not every entrepreneur can speak well. I saw Mark Zuckerberg speak at a recent event and even he looked a touch hesitant just before taking the podium. Public speaking is not easy but it's certainly teachable. And it's also good for your business.
So before you take the stage, read these four pointers. They will help ensure you make the biggest impact.
1. Smile. Seriously, don't forget to smile. One speechwriter I know makes sure to pepper his scripts with jokes up top to help his client remember to smile and laugh. Your job right when you take the stage is to connect with your audience-when you walk onstage, do what your mother told you which is to stand up straight, wave and SMILE. It's easy to be nervous and in your head right before you take the mic, but the side effect is your face may look like something between passive to growly. Not a great first impression. Exude warmth by smiling.
2. Get Off Script: I used to rely heavily on scripts when speaking onstage but now I ad lib my way through with the help of some notes jotted down. Why is that? The number one reason is you want to have a conversation with your audience and you can't do that if you're reading from a stack of papers. Another reason is every single word you say has to be spoken with conviction and you can't do that by reading the words. Lastly, getting off script allows you to come out from behind the podium and walk around onstage, which is so much better than being blocked by a big piece of wood.
3. Know Your Audience: After a while, you might find that you are speaking about the same topic over and over again. You'll make the same points, the same jokes, tell the same stories. That's okay because a lot of people who speak publicly do the same thing. The chances of you hitting the same audience are pretty small, which leads me to this third point: just because you're giving the same talk doesn't mean you're giving the same talk to the same audience. Take the time to learn who is there so that you can speak directly to them and their experiences. A group of sales associates will have a very different reception to your talk than a group of advertisers. Remember to keep their needs in mind and most of all, respect them. Having the opportunity to speak to an audience is a privilege, not an obligation.
4. Storytell, storytell, storytell: Call it the caveman in all of us. We human beings have been storytelling since the dawn of our species, first around a campfire, then in books and now in whatever format we desire. Research shows hearing stories trigger feel-good chemicals in our brains; we also get stressed when we hear tense parts in a story. Whatever biological impact is going on, we know that hearing stories makes your speech or talk more memorable. "That slide was the best slide ever," said almost no one after a speech. What you hear most often is: "Wow, that story about so and so was really interesting." Remember that if you want to make a big impression, tell impressive stories. Stories happen everyday-tap the caveman in you to bring them out. I look forward to seeing you on a stage near me...very soon.