How To Give An Awesome Speech

Alana Horowitz

Monday, April 25th, 2011

You don’t have to pull off a crazy stunt to be a successful marketer. Sometimes you just need to say the right thing. Public relations whiz Bill McGowan, who heads Clarity Media Group, teaches clients how to promote themselves through public speaking. If you know what you’re doing, giving speeches or lectures is a free, easy way to get your name out there. Here are his tips on how to give a great speech that will make people want to know more.

Find the right events.Non-profits, community organizations and networking groups always need speakers, says McGowan. Whether it’s at a small meeting or a big fundraiser, these kinds of groups are eager to hear what you have to say. And let your friends, family members and colleagues know you’d like to get your voice out there. “You have to make it the worst kept secret,” he says.

Know your audience.Find out to whom you’re speaking, so you can prepare a speech that’s a perfect fit. It’s as simple as calling up whoever is organizing the event. See if you can get a guest list. And be straightforward. “Ask, what do you want the audience to get out of this?” says McGowan.

Ward off stage fright.Nervous speakers are a huge turnoff. If you look miserable, the audience will have a hard time buying what you’re saying. But stage fright isn’t incurable. “Short of getting a prescription for beta blockers, you have to remember to breathe properly,” says McGowan. “When we get nervous, we tend to hyperventilate." Taking deep, slow yoga breaths will keep your mind calm and your voice steady.

Work the room.A great way to connect with your audience, says McGowan, is to talk to people one-on-one before your address the whole room. “Try to meet as many of them as possible,” he says. “It helps create a more engaged listener. Not one of those people is going to look down and check their Blackberrys during your presentation.” Plus, since you’ve established recognition, your speech will feel more like a conversation.

Don’t shove your business down people’s throats.Yes, your speech has ulterior motives. But you can’t be too obvious about it or people will feel like you’re only there to sell something. Make it clear that they have something to learn—not just buy—from you. “The best way to sell yourself is to offer your knowledge and share your wisdom without any strings attached,” says McGowan. “It’s really important that you make sure the audience is very clear what the takeaway lessons are.” When people talk to you after the speech (and if you do well, they will), then you can be a little more forward. Ask them what their challenges are, and tell them how you can help.

Get to the point.One of the most common problems of bad public speakers is that they ramble on forever. Before McGowan was in PR, he was a journalist. “I think brevity and economy of words has carried over with me to presenting and public speaking,” he says. “Most people do not get to the point quickly, and when they do, they belabor it.”

Article Courtesy of Open Forum