Public speaking is an important way to boost your professional reputation, but it’s not easy. One of the biggest problems is fear. Most people are petrified of public speaking. Even those who are experienced and good at it are usually nervous moments before they step out onto the stage in front of a large audience. It takes a lot of passion to keep doing this despite the fear, but it’s certainly worth it. Public speaking is a skill that is learned with time. Each time you speak, you build confidence, further develop your skills, and learn more about yourself and your career. Here are some of the lessons I have learned from a long career of public speaking.
Give as many talks as possible
The more talks that you give, the further you develop your public speaking skills and build your profile. Whenever you get a chance to speak about something that you are really passionate about, do not hesitate. This applies whether or not the compensation is what you expect — or even if it’s nonexistent. Learn to inspire people without expecting payment, because the benefits will often surpass any monetary compensation. If you impress a number of people, you will leave a lasting image, and they will always want to come to your seminars. After all, you should be doing public speaking because you enjoy it.
Aspire to solve people’s problems
The world is full of problems, and people are always looking for ways to solve them to improve their lives. Base the subject matter of your talks around these major problems, and offer actionable solutions. It’s also important that you interact with your audience and make a real connection with them. Accept questions at the end of your speech or presentation, and invite your audience to contact you with a contact information slide at the end of your deck. This will also help you to gauge how well you delivered your message.
Take every opportunity given to you to speak
Always show up whenever you are called to speak. It is hard enough finding an audience, especially when you are first starting out, so whenever you are asked to be a speaker, grab that opportunity. Even if you feel unprepared to speak, or feel anxious about doing so, you never know when the next opportunity will arise. Every opportunity you take will also open more doors for your speaking career. Share some of your experiences or personal stories with your audience in order to establish a deeper connection with them. Share both your struggles and your success stories, for this will also inspire them.
Focus on one subject and be good at it
This is particularly important at the beginning of your public speaking career. Once you identify the area of your expertise, take that and be known for speaking on it. This will further help in building your profile, and people will always associate a particular subject or topic with you. Speak passionately about this subject and provide solutions. If you are good at what you do, then it will no longer be difficult. Resist the urge to jump from topic to topic when choosing speaking topics — there’s a lot of room for variation, but don’t be completely inconsistent.
You are a teacher and a trainer as well
What you teach, you also learn from. Consciously review your speaking notes and slide decks to make sure that your material is consistent, but up-to-date. Stay current with your chosen industry and field. For example, if you speak on blockchain, stay up to date with different blockchain applications and regulatory actions. Also stay open to feedback about your presentations. Once you start speaking more, people will begin to approach you to share their thoughts about your talks. Take any advice to heart and use it to grow as a speaker and professional. Ideas for further research and talks should also be welcomed.
Being able to speak in public requires a lot of patience and practice. It may not be the easiest task especially at the beginning, but you must remember that experience takes time. Trust me, after 5 years, I still feel the jitters sometimes before a talk! But by keeping these five lessons in mind, you can have a fruitful and rewarding speaking career. This speaking career will reap you benefits both personally and professionally, for the rest of your life.
Olga V. Mack is a blockchain strategist, public speaker, and adjunct professor at Berkeley Law. She is Vice President of Strategy at Quantstamp, the first decentralized security auditing blockchain platform. Most recently, she served as General Counsel at ClearSlide and she has held legal and operational roles at Visa, Zoosk, Pacific Art League, Wilson Sonsini, and Yahoo. Olga founded the Women Serve on Boards movement that advocates for women to serve on the corporate boards of Fortune 500 companies. You can email Olga at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @olgavmack.