Public Speaking Help

Back when I first started having to speak in front of groups, I needed a lot of public speaking help. I went to professors and organizations looking for ‘crash courses’ in public speaking.

Unfortunately, the only way for you to truly get over your public speaking fears is to actually get up in front of people!

You might have heard me tell this story on this site before, but I used to be deathly afraid of public presentations. I once got choked up in front of about a hundred people in a business plan competition with a payout of $7,500.

The next year, I came back and won first place.

The public speaking help I sought?  That happened in between events.

The first thing I did was try and educate myself.  So I stumbled upon this program – Wake Em Up.  I went through the whole thing and learned a ton.

Then, I started speaking in front of small groups..

Basically, I spoke every chance I got. I volunteered to speak in front of college students. I offered to put on an internet marketing presentation for the local advertising club. I put myself in a very public consulting role for one of my clients where I had to speak in front of 20-40 employees every week.  I also held formal and informal workshops and taught all kinds of techniques in front of people.

Most noteably, I got grilled for 4 hours in a big, wide open room with nothing to hang on to (as in props), speaking to one professor who was sitting in front of a big window that was glaring in my eyes.

That was all the public speaking help I needed.

In that four hour session, I realized three very important things:

Eye contact
How to deliver speaking material

Think about this for a minute.  Speaking in front of 100 people isn’t any different than speaking in front of 1 person.  Holding a conversation over coffee shouldn’t be any different than giving a huge presentation.  The people are the same.  The content is the same.  It’s just that there are more people in the audience!

You need to concentrate on only a few key points, no matter how long your speech is.  Three major topics is sufficient.  Have a couple Powerpoint slides for each key component and get an idea of stories you can tell to help reinforce your points.  And make sure that when you deliver those points, you are concentrating on connecting to one person at a time!

Oftentimes, public speaking teachers will tell you to look at people’s shoulders or make eye contact.  For me, it needs to be eye contact.  When I am in front of a crowd, I need to be looking people in the eye long enough to complete at least a couple seconds.  It helps reinforce my thinking and solidify thoughts in my head.

Finally, the actual delivery of content.  Powerpoint is a great tool, but should be used wisely.  Don’t write out each and every one of your points.  In fact, use more images if at all possible.  The best powerpoint presentations don’t have any words in them at all!

One of the things I like to see in presentations is a nice blend of words and images.  Something to cue an attendees memory when you give them your handouts, but not enough to piece together the whole speech.  That seems to work best for both the speakers and the students.

In short, the best public speaking help you can ever get is to just commit to speaking in public better and find as many excuses as possible to get in front of people.  If you do that, you’ll improve almost immediately!