Public speaking is an invaluable tool for personal and professional growth, but it often strikes fear into the hearts of even the most seasoned professionals. The task can be daunting, especially for those new to the experience. But despite the nerves and anticipation, there are ways that any public-speaking newbie can put their best foot forward, showcase their brand or company and get the word out while on stage.
Below, 10 Young Entrepreneur Council members share the best advice they have for nailing a first-time public speaking event.
1. Be Well-Rehearsed
It’s true public speaking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and it took me a while to master this skill. One thing that I make sure of is that I am prepared and well-rehearsed in what I have to say. The fact is, it’s your company. You know it inside and out. All you have to do is choose the best words and visuals possible to present it. The first step should be to sit down in a calm, quiet place and write whatever you want to present. Once you are fully satisfied with your script, then comes the next step. To prepare and rehearse—regardless of how cliché it may sound—standing in front of a mirror and seeing yourself present is the best hack I’ve ever come across. So, all I say is, at least try. Remember: The more you know your script, the better you’ll be able to make your audience believe in what you say. – Vibhav Singh, XTEN-AV LLC
2. Build Anticipation With A Story
If you’re new to speaking, you would be wise to study some of the masters—people like Seth Godin. In doing so, you’ll notice a few things. Rookie speakers start with an intro like, “Good morning. I’m Ben Landers, and I’m here today to talk to you about XYZ.” Rookie speakers forget that every attendee already has something in front of them that says who you are and what the talk is about! The pros start with a story, and they use it to build anticipation and to draw the audience into the topic. Do the same. The second thing you’ll notice is that the pros use PowerPoint to complement what they’re saying, not vice versa. Use fewer slides, more pictures, less text and much larger fonts. Be brief, be bold and be gone! – Ben Landers, Blue Corona
3. Engage In Exposure Therapy
I used to be an extreme introvert who would feel anxious calling on customers and would avoid team meetings at all costs—never mind speaking to an extended and engaged audience. But I knew that I had value I wanted to provide to people, and by avoiding public speaking I wasn’t going to be able to do it as well as I could. With that mindset switch, I embarked on exposure therapy and attended twice weekly Toastmasters events where you get the opportunity to network and practice public speaking in a more comfortable environment. Through continuous practice, I gained confidence and, although I still refer to myself as a “recovered introvert,” speaking in front of an audience is now easy because I know it is a gateway to providing more value. – David Henzel, Love not Fear
4. Lean Into Your Nervousness
Rather than fighting any nervousness, identify it and realize it’s a natural response. Our bodies are preparing us with new energy and focus. Channel this energy and turn it into strength. When we see nervousness as energy, we can find the courage to get up and speak and do new things. When I feel nervous at an event—and I almost always do—I first identify what I’m feeling and then I focus on my breathing. I inhale deeply and then exhale. This helps control my thoughts and shift my perspective from fear to power. Instead of eliminating my anxiety, I see it as a gift and, in that, I find relief, creativity and excitement. – Shu Saito, SpiroPure
5. Share Rather Than Teach
Present on a topic dear to your heart and speak your own story. Fear of public speaking is primarily about imposter syndrome or embarrassment. You can’t go wrong sharing your own story and experience as there’s no wrong answer in presenting the path you’ve walked yourself. So instead of “teaching,” focus on “sharing.” Lessons learned through personal experience are like case studies. A case study isn’t a primer on best practices—it’s combining several known strategies into a unique story that ends up being successful. It may or may not work elsewhere, and your audience is free to draw inspiration and ideas accordingly. – Mario Peshev, Rush
6. Begin With Humor
Humor is always a powerful way to make an impression on any stage. I suggest creating a speech that starts with a strong and appropriate joke or story. This will make you memorable and create an opening for people to approach you and have discussions. I suggest that you ask ChatGPT to help frame a good joke or have a brainstorming session with your team to help you come up with a great speech. You want to practice your delivery because how a joke lands depends on how you delivered the setup and the final line. The effort is worth it, however. You’ll make a clear impact on the day of the event and stand out in people’s minds. This will lead to better engagement and possibly new leads. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
7. Keep It Concise
Less can be more. Sometimes in an effort to be comprehensive, we end up belaboring a point. Plus, it’s easy to speak too much when you’re passionate about a topic. Get too in the weeds, though, and you risk muddying your message and losing your audience. Keep it concise and direct to maintain your audience’s attention. And don’t be afraid to be interactive—often, it’s better to talk with your audience rather than at them. – Samuel Saxton, ConsumerRating.org
8. Speak Authentically
When it comes to speaking at an event or conference, one invaluable piece of advice for newcomers is to embrace authenticity. Speaking authentically means being genuine, true to yourself and transparent in your communication. Why does authenticity matter? 1. Authenticity builds trust with your audience. When you speak from the heart and share your genuine experiences, insights and expertise, it establishes credibility. 2. Authenticity creates an emotional connection. It humanizes you as a speaker and allows the audience to relate to your story, struggles and successes. This emotional bond can leave a lasting impression and resonate with your listeners long after your presentation ends. – Chidambaram Bhat, Integral Technology Solutions, Inc.
9. Share Your Contact Information Afterward
If you give a good presentation, a lot of people will come up to you afterward to thank you and say they can relate to the information you shared. They will also want to keep in touch and be friends with you and, personally, I get anxious when I see people lining up to talk to me. I use an app called Blinq to share my QR code with people so they can easily save my contact information. I tell some people that I want to have a meaningful conversation with them after the event and to book virtual coffee on my link that is on the QR code. I then go a step further and ask them for their contact information so my assistant can follow up and add them to our social media channels. This helps you work the room while still engaging authentically with people. – Givelle Lamano, Oakland DUI Attorneys
10. Have Fun With It
One invaluable tip I’d offer to anyone new to speaking is to genuinely have fun with it. In my most impactful speaking engagements, the difference was when I let go of the fear of making mistakes or overly focusing on the outcome. Instead, I embraced the moment, connected with the audience and enjoyed the process. When you’re having fun, it resonates with the audience, making your talk memorable and authentic. Remember: Audiences don’t just remember what you say, but how you made them feel. So, lighten up, enjoy the experience and let your passion shine through. – Erik Knight, Knight Industries