Three Tips For Your Next Speaking Gig


At breakfast this morning I reminded myself that I did not yet have a topic for today’s blog post. When that happens, I usually dig through my backlog of ideas (saved in Evernote) and unread articles and blog posts (saved in Instapaper). Instead, this morning I began with a title.

Actually, not the whole title. I wrote down, “Three Tips for. . .” and went back to my eggs.

My subconscious mind came to the rescue. It reminded me that earlier this week, I had given a luncheon presentation. There must be three things I could share about public speaking.

The first one was easy. It was something I didn’t do but will do the next time. The other two I nailed.

So here are my three tips:

Tip number one: Meet the audience before you begin.

Had I done this, I would have learned that one of the guests was an attorney. I could have tailored my remarks to him. I might have engaged him with a question or two. Another guest was a real estate agent. I could have incorporated her background in one of the examples I used in my talk.

It’s usually not possible to meet everyone but meet as many as you can. I knew I was addressing business owners and professionals, but had I met some of them in advance, I would have been able to provide more relevant context (examples, stories) and generally deliver a better talk.

Tip number two: Don’t depend on A/V.

There was no projector available at this location, so I could not use slides. No problem. I knew my talk and could deliver it without any visual aids. In my opinion, this makes for a better presentation because the audience focuses on you instead of the screen.

Use slides if you have to. Avoid them if you can. No matter what, you need to know your subject well enough so that you can deliver it when there is no projector, no electricity, or the bulb burns out.

Tip number three: Have some friendly faces in the audience.

A speaker is only as good as his audience. We draw our energy from the people in the room. If you are addressing a group of dullards, people who don’t smile, don’t laugh at your jokes, and don’t respond when you ask for a show of hands, I don’t care how good you are, your talk will suffer.

My wife was with me. I can always count on her. One of my business partners was in the front row and he has good energy. When I looked at him leaning forward in his seat and smiling at me, it not only helped me, it helped the others in the room who took their cues from him. I had him “keep score” every time one of my “jokes” got a laugh and this added to the fun.

So those are three tips gleaned from this week’s presentation. Okay, I just thought of one more. If you’re doing a lunch presentation, start off by asking for a show of hands: “Did anyone order a salad?” Apologize and tell them you asked the restaurant to leave out the tomatoes. “They’re way too easy to throw at the speaker.”

Make people laugh and they will like you and your presentation. Even if you don’t have any slides.