- Research the event
I have been blessed to have been asked to speak at over 30 events in the past year and I can promise you that no two events are the same. It’s arrogant to think that you can you just turn up at an event and speak without doing your homework prior. You won’t be able to satisfy the event organisers or attendees if you don’t know why you’re there. The most important thing is to ask the event organisers what they are trying to achieve by putting on an event and why they’ve asked you to speak. In the past, I was invited to a business seminar and asked to speak about ‘how I used social media built Vitae London through social media’ so I knew that in my preparation I had to find examples of successful social media campaigns. These people at this seminar probably wouldn’t be as interested in hearing about the manufacturing process of the watches or my life story as people at other events would.
2 - Read the room
As I said before preparing beforehand is incredibly important for any speaking engagement but you also have to be able to adapt on the fly by reading the room. Sometimes you can do a lot of research into an event and come up with what you consider the perfect talk but there are so many variables you have to take into account. For example number of attendees, the demographics of attendees, the speakers before you, the amount of time you were told you had versus the amount of time you actually have etc… Be prepared to adapt.
3 - Build stories into your talk
You can have the most insight in the world but people won’t be able to grasp it if it is boring. Information is so readily available and phones are so distracting that you can lose an audience in less than 3 minutes if you’re not careful. People consume hours and hours of entertainment content in the forms of podcast, books and film/tv because as humans we naturally connect with stories and storytelling. To you, your story and your life might not seem like something people will be interested in but your wrong. Share your story but just make sure that your story fully relates to the rest of your talk, has a clear narrative and timeline and isn’t too long.
4 - Practise practise practise
This may seem weird but I have an annoying habit of practicing everyday all day. I love to sing and the only way to be a great singer is to sing constantly. In the mirror, in the shower, in the car, at dinner with my wife, I am well known for irritating everyone I love by singing at the top of my voice every chance I get. I have taken this approach in to public speaking; every time I think of a cool anecdote or story people might be interested in I don’t wait to be alone or write it down I try it out right there and then. The people around you will get accustomed to it after a while and the people you’re speaking to will be grateful that they’ve heard a well thought out and well-practiced anecdote.
5 - Banter is best
At the end of the day it’s not that serious. People are more likely to connect with people they feel that they could be friends with outside of a formal setting, so don’t be afraid to be yourself. Just make sure the jokes are age and crowd appropriate and that they’re funny.