Public speaking isn't for everyone. Even for those of us who enjoy it, presenting in front of an audience presents regular stumbling blocks. Just ask Warren Buffet, who overcame stage fright early in his career.
The rewards of public speaking engagements can far outweigh the challenges, particularly as it significantly accelerates the exposure of a young business. From breathing exercises to seeking help from a physician, the available advice is actionable and helpful. It takes practice, but all that work is worth it.
Just not in the ways you might think at first.
Speaking engagements present a range of benefits beyond visibility to the public eye, and well beyond the specific timeframe of the gig itself. Here are five reasons to say Yes to the next opportunity, even if it means overcoming some stage fright.
Publicly Boost Colleagues
This tip is especially relevant when you're invited to moderate a panel at a conference or a session at a symposium. Since there will be other people on the stage with you, see if you can recommend those speakers whose work you respect, is relevant to the topic, and complement your own. Boosting others' visibility aligns with the philosophy of "a rising tide lifts all boats." When someone in your category succeeds, that success trickles down to other colleagues and businesses. It's the opposite of zero-sum thinking, which has been shown to make us both less happy and less successful.
Crystallize Current Work
A public speaking engagement means there's a specific date and time set aside in your calendar. It's a deadline. See it as an opportunity to crystallize the state of your current work. Since you will presumably have a limited amount of time for your presentation, it's also an opportunity to succinctly articulate the most salient points. There's truth to the old adage, "I wrote you a long letter because I didn't have time to write you a short one." Speaking (or writing) "short" is more challenging, but also more packed with punch.
Listen Hard to the Questions
The Q&A portion of a speaking gig is extremely valuable. The questions could well point to where your business can go, or needs to go next. Questions from the audience can also highlight where you aren't clear, or aren't doing a good job at explaining. If someone in the audience asks for clarification, they've just given you an opportunity to improve how you communicate your pitch or presentation.
Visualize Your Message
Conference organizers, and the audience too, generally love a few visuals to orient themselves around the content. This expectation is a prompt for you and your team to create collateral such as infographics or a fresh redesign of your marketing materials, in order to communicate in a new way to a new audience. There is both art and science to this -- beautiful graphics backed up by research about the cadence of a talk and effective pacing. Learn the ropes, practice practice practice, and you'll enjoy the show just as much as your audience.
Broaden Your Message
The most natural fit for public speaking opportunities is within your own industry or category, and those are optimal low-hanging fruit. But it's when we stretch our thinking beyond those known parameters that quintessential "thinking outside the box" creativity happens. A scheduled speaking gig on the calendar, plus an out-of-the-ordinary audience, are both fertilizers for the seeds of new opportunity. More importantly, perhaps, is the notion that broadening your message also requires simplifying it. That doesn't mean dumbing it down. It does mean articulating your work with such clarity that an audience outside your industry "gets it" quickly. Give it a try, and you're likely to find that it's harder than you think. That's both the challenge and the excitement.