The Ultimate Public Speaking Guide
I have had the pleasure of developing opportunities for myself in public speaking. It’s become a bit of a (what the kids would say) side hustle. Actually, I’m kidding, I just wanted to say side hustle to sound cool. The reality is, that developing opportunities through public speaking is just a part of the bigger picture strategy of my career development. I spent the last ten years building my branding agency and therefore helping to build the businesses of the hundreds of clients I have worked with over these years. Just by the nature of this exposure, to so many businesses I was able to develop some pretty darn good insights into what it takes to build a successful brand.
At the beginning though, not only was I unqualified to speak in front of groups, I was legit terrified. I knew I had to get over it so I just started to dip my feet in slowly. I would introduce people or speak for brief moments in front of small groups. I also set the intention that I needed to start speaking more. Furthering that, I realized that writing more was just as important. There are so many great ways to communicate, I decided to collaborate with one of my content creators, Dylan Baron, to write this blog. The goal was to create a helpful resource for anyone that is curious about public speaking. In this blog, we will cover the history, how to get into the industry, how to get good at it, and we will share some facts that may wildly change the way you think about this industry.
The very idea of public speaking was introduced almost 2500 years ago in ancient Greece. Many community members were required to make a speech about war, society, and were often left to defend themselves in the court or legislative meetings. These speeches were considered a civic duty. This was also a great way to participate in a potentially healthy social discourse. Aristotle is one of the first people to study public speaking.
“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Aristotle
As the relevance of speaking grew with our society, so did conferences that encouraged public speaking. One of the most famous speaking conferences, Ted Talks. (Yes, the conference that EVERY college students references in their papers). It was created in 1984 by a man named Richard Saul Wurman. This conference (along with many others) brought the power of speech to a global stage.
From there, a heap of speakers were born to embrace the stage. But, they all started somewhere, one word and one breath in through the nose and out through the mouth at a time. Let’s tackle a few tips on how to get ready and start presenting (pun intended) yourself as a speaker.
The Best Tips I know At the Moment
When I know more, I will share more.
Speak to others in your community.
So you got an important topic, you’ve done your research, and you know your audience. Next up? Hit the streets!
Find someone in your community who is familiar with speaking and might be already a speaker, and ask them for tips. Opening yourself to someone familiar with speaking can ultimately help you find a speaking gig, discover a new audience within your community, or even help with their own speech!
Pro tip: Offer to open up for a local speaker for free. This ultimately helps your exposure, and helps build confidence when you start speaking solo! It also builds off of the law of reciprocity (if you haven’t, you should read the book Influence by Dr. Robert Cialdini. He describes the law of reciprocity perfectly).
Speak. Always be Speaking.
Realistically, speaking is something we do every single day. You can practice anytime and anywhere. Always be speaking, on the bus, to coworkers, to family members, even a pet armadillo!
Pro tip: Get a group of friends (4-7) and give them a five-minute presentation on the value of friendship. Ask them to drill you with questions afterwards. Feedback is important. Focus on engaging them and considering their question while stoically navigating their questions.
Understand You’re going to be Nervous and Welcome it.
Picture this; Its high school again. Your crush just giggled as you walk in front of the classroom to nervously deliver a speech about whatever topic you whipped together the night before. You think to yourself, as your heart pounds in your chest, “If this works out, I can be a public speaker! What’s the worst that can happen? I pass out and vomit?”. You open your mouth, ready to deliver the first line of your speech, yet not even a squeak comes out. Dead silence. Turns out you (and many others) suffer from Glossophobia, a fear of public speaking. Seriously, the worst that could happen is absolute public humiliation. What does that mean though? You end up not being funny, you lose your breath, you cry, you wet yourself…? Ok, let’s say that does happen. What happens next? You continue to exist. You go home, grab a cheeseburger on your way, eat it, cry, watch an episode of Game of Thrones. The next day you wake up, dust yourself off and do it again. Guess what… the audience will barely remember anything you did. None of us are that important. You’re almost certainly not going to be good at first. Don’t even have that expectation. Go up there and expect to screw up a bit… this will guarantee you won’t be let down at least. Go up there with the expectation of getting slightly better every time. Again, you’re going to have shaky needs, shortness of breath, self doubt but DO IT ANYWAYS!
Pro tip: Challenge yourself to test your grit. This means, tell a story to your friends or strangers with really weak punchlines. Understand that the story needs to be designed to fall flat. The idea is to sit in the awkward silence of the stories ending. Don’t apologize, don’t say “you had to be there”, just sit in it and bathe in the cringe-fest you just created. This will build resilience, I promise.
Being Nervous is A-Ok
Public Speaking is the #1 fear in the United States, followed by heights and of course, creepy critters. Becoming nervous as you pursue the speaking dream is as natural as dew on crisp mornings. As Mark Twain once said, “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous. 2. Liars.”
Nervous feelings are no fun to deal with, but fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help yourself feel better, present flawlessly, and master the art of public speaking.
1. Arrive early and scope out the venue beforehand. Knowing your placement and general layout of the area allows you to feel comfortable in the environment itself.
2. Keep practicing! Create a routine that you can stick to for a bit, then branch out when you feel comfortable with audience questions and engagement.
3. Be loosey goosey baby! Remember that body language is also a way to convey a message to your audience. If you’re stiff like a robot, your audience may send Will Smith to make I, Robot 2. Talk with your hands, smile, and maintain eye contact with your audience!
Find Someone You Admire and Study Them
If you’re taking your career towards public speaking, you probably already have a few speakers that you idolize. Next step? Develop a keen eye for how they talk, interact with the audience, the flow of their speech, and even what their hands are doing! So you jot it down, make bullet points, and fall down the rabbit hole of Youtube Ted Talks, now what?
Well…practice! Take the key elements that you think make the speaker interesting and start incorporating some tactics into your own presentation. It sounds silly but hey, it works! With practice comes greater skill and before you know it, you’ll be creating your own flow and habits that ultimately help you look and feel confident, while also finding your own voice. You do want to find your own voice but at the beginning, like children, imitation is an effective form of development.
Hey, everyone needs to start somewhere.
Always Be Speaking.
Yes, it’s here twice because it’s THAT important. The money will come, Bernie Mack would do standup on the bus, just to get practice and entertain.
A basketball player only gets good when he’s playing basketball, a singer gets better by singing, (and) a drummer only gets good by drumming on everything they can get their hands on.
Present in front of family, friends, dogs, cats, even your pet armadillo! If you really want to feel nervous, you can practice in front of a hungry crocodile.
Public Speaking Facts
Public Speaking is the number 1 fear Americans face. Followed by heights and creepy critters (snakes, bugs, etc)
“America’s top fears: Public Speaking, heights and bugs” – Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post
Adding numbers and statistics gives you 20% more chance to have your message stick to an audience member.
“15 insights into giving a great presentation” – Richard Feloni, Business Insider
It took Steve Jobs 2 days to fully prepare for a presentation
“15 insights into giving a great presentation” – Richard Feloni, Business Insider
Engagement drops 14% if the speaker doesn’t talk to the audience or let anyone ask questions
5 Shocking Public Speaking Statistics” – Kelly Allison, Ethos3.com.
A fear of public speaking causes issues within your career or schooling.
10% impairment on college graduation
15% impairment in the promotion to management.
“7 Unbelievable “Fear of Public Speaking” Statistics” – Peter Khoury, Magnetic Speaking.
3 seconds is the sweet spot for Eye Contact. If you look for too short a time, then you are seen as shifty and maybe dishonest. If you look for too long at a person it will seem like you’re staring at them and that’s simply creepy.
8 Public Speakers in High Demand
Tony Robbins — 1mil per talk
Eric Thomas — $30,000 plus per talk
Amy Purdy – $30,000 plus per talk
Gary Vaynerchuck — $100,000 plus per talk
William Hague — $32,000 plus per talk
Ben Carson — $40,000 plus per talk
Richard Branson — $100,000 plus per talk
Anna Wintour — $100,000 plus per talk
These prices were picked up around the internet and may be wildly inaccurate. We just wanted to share with you how much a big hitter would get paid. Something that may be more helpful for you is the entry fee. To start, speakers can get paid anywhere between 0-$1000. A lot of this depends on a few factors; experience, skill level, topic, popularity (when you first start out a lot of promoters will look to your social media to gauge this), and your negotiating ability. At the end of the day, you get what you can convince someone you’re worth. If you convince them you’re worth a lot, you better deliver though. Public speaking is a long term play. You need to build relationships that are mutually beneficial, as a result, you will build a long-lasting career.