Imagine yourself approaching the podium in front of a large room full of potential business partners or investors. The stage is bright, making it almost impossible to see the audience, but you know they're out there, waiting for you to speak. You step up to the podium, clear your throat and ready yourself to begin giving your personal message or speech. 

Does this scenario scare you? Does its mere mention cause your heart to beat faster? If you answered yes, you are like most Americans, because according to data from the National Institute of Mental Health, 74 percent of all Americans have some measure of fear when it comes to public speaking. However, many experts feel that to successfully promote your brand and reach the next level of success in business you have to master public speaking.

In fact, according to Dr. Jan Yager, a successful public speaker and author of the book The Fast Track Guide to Speaking in Public,"being able to speak in public is one of the five vital business skills that can either make or break a company. The other four elements crucial to success are new product development, time management, writing and marketing, according to Dr. Yager.

Now that you understand the significance public speaking has on your success, you most assuredly want to ameliorate your public speaking skills, and become part of the speaking circuit. The following are five helpful tips that will enable you to do just that.

1. Minimize Your Focus and Form a Clear Message

You might be able to successfully speak on a wide range of topics. However, speaker bookers, also called meeting planners, often prefer a speaker with a specific message over someone who claims they can talk about anything. Of course, you should be willing and able to speak about a wide variety of topics if called upon. Just don't be too ambiguous when communicating your personal message with a meeting planner.

2. Welcome/ Encourage Constructive Criticism

Video yourself as you give your speech, and be your own most critical judge. Honestly ask yourself if you were the meeting planner, would you hire yourself? If the answer is no, figure out why and improve your speaking technique. Ask a few close friends or colleagues to watch your speech as well. They might notice an aspect that you overlooked. Remember, don't take their criticism personally, the more you alter, change and evolve, the better speaker you will end up becoming, which will lead to more speaking invitations.

3. Be Willing to Speak for Free

When you are first getting started in the speaking circuit, you will most certainly have to give a few free speeches. That is just part of the process. However, don't worry about the lack of monetary compensation, because if you show what you can do when given the opportunity, you will get some paying gigs soon.

4. Create a Showcase Video

This video is a short preview of your speech or small snippets taken from a longer speech. The point is to be able to showcase your skill as a speaker in video form. This is not simply a video of a full speech but more like a highlight reel.

5. Build a Speaker Profile Sheet

To create a speaker profile sheet, which can be sent to various meeting planners, simply put together a one to two page pdf file that includes the following:

  • Brief biography and/or speaker profile
  • Information about what types of speeches, subject wise you give
  • A link to a video showcase of you speaking
  • A list of recent speaking jobs (paid or unpaid)
  • A few client testimonials
  • A headshot preferably one that was taken by a professional
  • Any relevant weblinks

The five tips listed above will give you a good idea of what it takes to get into the speaking circuit. Of course, using any professional connections you already have is wise, and many people feel hiring an agent to help them get bookings is money well-spent as well. Keep in mind, the whole process of becoming a successful speaker can take some time, so patience is crucial. 

Published on: Jun 4, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.