For those readers here who are in a service business, one of the most effective tools in your marketing kit is public speaking. Giving a presentation is a great way to show off your professional expertise and to introduce yourself to a group of potential buyers of that expertise.
Based on my own experience and that of my clients, I urge you to consider how you can use public speaking to your advantage. If you give a great presentation that strikes a chord, people will remember you when they need someone with your skills. I’ve had clients who have had phone calls a year later from people who have heard them speak. I would be hard pressed to think of a client who hasn’t gotten business from public speaking.
With this in mind, I was happy to come across a two-part series yesterday entitled “How to Give a Great Speech,” by Paul Sloane, someone I follow on Twitter (@PaulSloane) because he writes interesting pieces about innovation and leadership. Paul’s advice in these articles is excellent. In Part 1, he talks about preparation and in Part 2, he talks about the actual delivery of the speech. I highly recommend these articles to anyone who is going to be doing public speaking.
The one thing Paul didn’t touch on, however, is perhaps the most important thing I learned when I took the Dale Carnegie speaking course years ago. That lesson was to always speak from my personal experience. When you talk from your own experience two things happen:
• You are more at ease when talking about something you’ve personally experienced. This is as opposed to telling anecdotes about other people, which some speakers thing they have to do. Usually these speakers will talk about famous folks, people they don’t actually know…in fact, often people who are already dead!
Speakers do this, I think, because they believe it will make what they’re saying more impressive if they tell a story about Abraham Lincoln or Thomas Edison some other historic figure. But trying to dress up your speech with references to famous people means you have to work harder to remember the story you’re telling, since it’s not your own story. In short, it’s much easier to talk about something you know really well than it is to make your way through a speech that is filled with information you only dug up for the purposes of the speech! (After taking the Carnegie course, I completely changed my approach to speechwriting for clients because of this lesson.)
• Your passion shows through more clearly. When you’re talking about something you know intimately, it is easy for your audience to feel how passionate you are about the subject. And who doesn’t want to work with someone who is passionate about their work?
When you’re talking from your passion and telling your story instead of someone else’s, you are far less likely to have to rely on your notes and you’re better able to make eye contact with your listeners. Your skills as a speaker instantly improve.
This is not to say that if you find an absolutely perfect quote from a famous person that you shouldn’t use it. But don’t build your whole speech around the words and experiences of others because there is little chance of the real you coming through if you do.