Networking events are a great platform for all kinds of business activities, but I never used them as a stage until recently. I was offered an opportunity to have a four minute slot to speak about my business in front of 30 female entrepreneurs at a morning network event in London.
I want to say that I have never been on a course to do public speaking before. Although Dale Carnegie’s book on public speaking is one of my favourite but what helped me with my decision to take this opportunity was that I listen to quite a few presentations both live (where I attended) and recorded; seminars, workshops, webinars as well as short videos.
In my experience when you listen to a lot of speakers you start subconsciously absorbing quite a lot of things even if you are not planning to stand in front of an audience. This also makes you think – if they can do it, I can do it too.
How I prepared the presentation
One of my colleagues, who is used to public speaking, says: “Prepare well, keep it simple, don't talk too much.....”.
I want to share some of my thoughts on “prepare well”. I believe it’s a good idea to start with a short presentation, and network events maybe ideal for this. I only had 3 days before the event when I received the confirmation that I got my slot.
Here are the steps that I took to prepare my four minute presentation:
- Step One. I thought of my outline: introduce myself, add a few questions that show the problems that businesses have with online exposure and how I was going to give them a tailor-made solution.
- Step Two. I composed my presentation – 400 words.
- Step Three. I edited it the following day and got a feedback from a colleague of mine.
- Step Four. I learnt it “off by heart”, rehearsed in front of two colleagues and using their feedback I improved my speech.
- Step Five. On the day of the event – I took a printed copy of the presentation with me and for the final touch my partner recorded a video of me doing the presentation so that I could critique myself.
Standing in front of the audience – strategies I used to help overcome my fear
On the agenda there were six speakers, and I was number five. I was very relaxed and enjoying the speeches until speaker number four began her presentation! At that point my heart started beating fast and loud, I became so nervous that I even thought I wasn’t going to get up on stage and stand there, where she was?...
All sorts of fears suddenly rushed through my mind: what if my throat gets dry and I will not be able to utter a thing?; what if my hands begin shaking?; I’ll be really ashamed!;what if I forget what to say – it would look bad if I read it straight from my notes?; etc.
What really helped me cope with my emotional state was the moment when I started thinking about the audience and not about myself and the value I wanted to give them.
I actually started “talking” to myself: listen, these ladies are here to get some good content from you and you have a valuable content to share. You really want them to benefit from what you have to tell them and what you want to see on their faces is how your content is helping them, not sympathy.
By concentrating on their needs, I shifted focus from my fears to the outcome that the people – the audience - were expecting from me.
The lessons I have learnt: focus on what you are going to give, focus on the results and outcome, focus on them – the people, your audience, your customers. Remember, the main question is always “What Is In It For Them?”!!
How you can use your presentation to build authority and credibility
Take your colleague, friend or business partner to record your presentation at the event and take photos that will add credibility and authority to your status as a well established business and expert in your niche.
Not only will you have a great piece of content for your website, blog, YouTube channel as well as your community on LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also turn your presentation into an article and submit it to article directories websites, such as EzineArticles.com.
Improving upon my presentation and my delivery
I could not have my partner there to record my presentation as it was a “women only” event. What we did instead was this – when I was ready with my presentation, he recorded me on a flip camera. This really helped me to “hear” what I was saying and also how I was conveying my message to the audience, so this exercise helps you in the process of preparation.
More than just a presentation
As you can see there is much more to it than building your confidence and getting more exposure for your business. You may be thinking that you are doing a presentation, whereas in reality you are leveraging all your resources: time, money, energy, efforts, technology, internet, social media etc.
When you move from the audience to the stage, you immediately become an authority much in the same way that an author does when he or she has written a book on a specific topic.
Feedback – how it helped me
Who did I ask?
I approached the lady whose presentation was the best at this event and asked her for a feedback regarding my presentation. I got a really helpful feedback.
She advised to give people more time to answer my questions, whereas I had rushed through the questions and had not even planned to get any replies, because I thought my task was completely different. By putting a few questions in the beginning of my presentation I wanted to raise their awareness of some problems that I had a solution for.
One of the pieces of advice that I will follow next time I do a presentation is to wait for a few answers to my questions and use these short interactions to build a rapport with as many of the listeners as possible and also to better connect with them as someone who knows what problems they experience, what challenges they go through, what segment of their business they want to improve. This is how you get your audience engaged with you as a speaker.
Remember feedback is to help and improve, so take it as such.
What I learnt from my first public speaking experience
I learnt that although it is uncomfortable up until you are in the flow of your presentation, the satisfaction you get after you have done it is worth all the effort.
When I finished, I did not feel like leaving the stage. I have realized how powerful it is when you stand in front of people and they listen to you. It is incredible if you are good at it.
I have experienced exactly what one of the female speakers said about public speaking when she went on stage to speak in front of 700 women in London, and I was one of the 700.
She went up on to the stage, looked at us and said: “Wow, it’s so powerful! You guys, should all try this!”
Well, I am really glad I did.
What was your first public speaking experience like? Please leave your comment.