As a small business owner, you're running the show on every level, and that includes talking to a lot of people. If you freeze up at the thought of speaking to an audience, you're not alone. The good news is every single person has the ability to be a good public speaker.
The first time I spoke at a conference, it was not good. But I also trusted that the more time and energy I invested in practicing, the better I would get at it.
Today, I speak very often about entrepreneurship, the things I used to struggle with (like feeling nervous), and the things I've wanted to get better at (like how to be a more engaging speaker). I've improved on all them, tremendously.
Here are a three simple ways you can become a better public speaker, too, based on what I've experienced:
1. People remember stories, not facts.
Whenever I am doing a presentation for our intimate apparel company, I think hard about how I can communicate the same points I want to make through a story, rather than just rattling off facts.
For example, if I want to get a point across that our company uses real women in its advertising, I could say: "We have women ages 20 through 60, and all ages in between." But if I say the same thing by telling a story about a customer named Hope, who told us how she didn't see any women like her in her 50s, and so we used her in our marketing materials, suddenly there's a story for people to remember. There are images they can see in their mind. And the whole experience, no matter who is listening, becomes a lot more memorable.
2. Don't try to speak like everyone else. Being different is an advantage.
When I first started speaking, I thought I needed to be like everyone else. What I've learned is what makes me different is actually an advantage, especially when speaking right after a big-time CEO who more closely resembles that "formal" archetype. I'm not going to be like the 60-year-old man who spoke before me--and by not trying to be, I am seen as different and unique.
Here's how to check yourself on whether or not you are being true to yourself:
Are you speaking the same way you would to a friend or someone else in your everyday life?
Are you carrying yourself the way you would on a regular workday, or are you trying to act differently because you think it will impress a crowd?
Are you censoring yourself, like not allowing yourself to smile or laugh? These are the things most people tell themselves not to do, when in reality, it's often what the audience ends up loving the most.
3. Being nervous is a good thing, and it can actually help you.
Once you reframe nervousness, everything changes. Imagine this: If you're an athlete, you are always nervous before you compete. It's just part of the process.
In this sense, public speaking is no different because you are expected to perform on the spot. You are literally in the spotlight. So, instead of seeing nervousness as a bad thing, realize that being nervous is what gives you the adrenaline, focus, and ability to perform at your highest level.
I used to always get nervous before speaking. I still do. I get a pit in my stomach. I start to sweat. My heart starts beating faster and faster. These are all very natural reactions for someone to have before performing, in any capacity.
So, in those few moments before you present, remind yourself the nerves are there to serve you, be yourself, and tell powerful stories instead of focusing on the numbers, no matter how proud you are of what those numbers represent.