Speaking is an essential skill for entrepreneurs, and whether you're starting a full-time speaking business or just trying to create more compelling client and investor pitches, there's always room to improve. You can watch all the best TED Talks to learn the secrets of the experts, read the top public speaking books, and build a tech kit of the must-have speaking gadgets to help control for variables that can throw you off your game.
Grant Baldwin, Founder of The Speaker Lab, has trained thousands of speakers on how to captivate an audience and grow a speaking business. He and his team recently compiled a list of 100 speaking tips in honor of the 100th episode of his podcast. The list provides valuable tips on everything from how to prepare for a presentation to how to secure paid speaking gigs.
Here are some of the common mistakes the rookie speakers make.
1. Make it all about you
Oftentimes, new speakers will forget the fine line between and introduction and a monologue, or the difference between a case study showcasing your experience and bragging. "Your job is to encourage, motivate, challenge, and inspire them, not to pat yourself on the back and manipulate them into giving you a standing ovation for your own ego's sake," Baldwin says.
It's important to give context for your experience, so listeners feel like they know and trust you, but don't go overboard and spend too much time talking about yourself. Focus on the value that your experience can bring to your audience, not on creating a verbal resume.
2. Go wide, instead of deep
If you're new to speaking or presenting, you may also feel pressured to make every single presentation entirely unique. "One misconception is that the way you become a motivational speaker is you must have 94 different talks or presentations and they all must be amazing. This is not true," Baldwin says. "The best speakers on the planet only have one or two talks they do and those talks are insanely good. They don't have 94 different mediocre talks like amateurs."
Hone in on one or two topics, as Baldwin says, that best showcase your expertise and experience. Focus on the core elements and information in your presentations that can be easily re-purposed and re-positioned for each different audience you speak to. Really know your content, backwards and forwards and you'll dazzle with less prep.
3. Wing it
While expert speakers and presenters may make it look easy, a seamless and compelling speech or presentation doesn't just happen. Baldwin says preparation is key: "Amateurs wing it. Professionals put in the work."
Rehearse your presentations multiple times before the big moment. Memorize key points and facts so you can share them confidently and without pause. The more your practice and study, the more comfortable you grow with telling your story from center stage.
4. Overdo it
Whether you've booked a presentation on someone's calendar or are filling a slot on a conference agenda, you're bound to be timed. "Audiences, conference planners and other speakers HATE when speakers go over their time," Baldwin says. "If anything, end early, not late."
Before you speak, time yourself so you know how long your presentation will take, and account for whether you'll likely be speaking faster in the moment, or need to leave time for questions.
5. Fill the silence
When you're on-stage or at the head of the conference table, any silence can feel awkward: "They're not laughing... maybe they didn't get my joke." The natural inclination is to want to fill the silence, or to quickly move to your next point, to avoid what feels like an awkward pause. But this empty space is necessary for pacing and for letting important points sink it.
"When you make a strong point, don't rush to the next line," Baldwin says. "Stop and let it hang there. The silence is your friend." Practice impactful pauses when you rehearse your presentations, and try counting a deep breath or two to help pace yourself through silence.
With technology, timing and a live audience at play, something is bound to go wrong. And if you're not expecting it, it can throw you off your A-game. "It happens. There's a million things that can go wrong and eventually some of them will happen to you," Baldwin says.
Take steps--like rehearsing and practicing with technology--to minimize potential variables or problems. But if issues do arise, the important thing is to be human, acknowledge the error, and move on without letting it derail your momentum. "Recognize what you can and can't control," Baldwin says. "There will be times it all seems to be going wrong, but don't panic. Those moments make you a better speaker."