Allison Shapira’s Blog
One of the best ways to practice your public speaking skills is by speaking up in a meeting. Many of our clients say that if you’re in the room for a meeting, you are expected to add your voice to the conversation. But if you’re in front of high-stakes clients or senior leaders, speaking up can be nerve-wracking.
Here are some tips to help you feel comfortable and confident when speaking up:
Come prepared to speak. One executive we work was deathly afraid of public speaking early in her career, so she decided to come to every single meeting prepared with a comment she would make or a question she would ask. She is now an incredibly confident speaker and the head of her organization.
Ask the 3 Questions in advance (Who is your audience, what is your goal, why you?). Come up with 2-3 points you could make or questions you could ask. Don’t write a script, just bring bullet points. Run those questions/comments by a coworker in advance to make sure they move the discussion forward.
Ask the meeting head in advance. If you’re afraid you won’t be able to jump into the conversation, let the person leading the meeting know you’d like to make a point. Ask them to call on you during the meeting so you can confidently respond.
Be fully present and listen to others. It’s easy to get distracted thinking about what you’re going to say and not listen to what’s actually being said in the meeting. Stay present and you will hear a chance to jump in. You’ll also get a chance to redirect the conversation if it’s going off-topic.
Use deep breathing. If you’re nervous about speaking up, deep breathing will both calm you down and give your voice resonance so that when you do speak, your voice is strong and confident.
Wait for a pause in the conversation. Many meetings will move rapidly and you might not know when to jump in. If someone has been rambling, wait for them to take a breath and then use our next suggestion.
Compliment and build. When you have to interrupt someone, one way to soften the impact is to compliment what they’ve just said. If Steve has been rambling off topic and you sense others in the meeting are getting impatient, you can jump in with something like, “I appreciate Steve’s perspective and I’d like to come back to something we said earlier.”
Be clear and concise. Once you do have the floor, make sure your comments are clear and to the point. Make one main point and provide one main example using the PREP framework. If you start to ramble, you lose your credibility and authority as a speaker. That’s why we recommend preparing in advance.
Get rid of minimizers and fillers. When jumping into a conversation, a transition word like “so” or “well” can be helpful up front. However, keep those fillers to a minimum or they will distract others. Also get rid of minimizers like, “I may be way off base here, but…” If you do need to hedge your comments, say something like, “We may want to consider…” which hedges your language but doesn’t diminish your idea.
Smile on the phone. If you’re speaking up on the phone, make sure you physically smile before you speak. Over the phone, your voice can come across more harshly than you intend. A smile literally makes you sound more confident and warmer which is particularly helpful if you’re interrupting someone.
Find allies. Especially if you are frequently interrupted during meetings, find allies in the room who can build you up. Someone could interrupt the interruptor by saying, “Hold on, let’s hear what she has to say,” or compliment and build on what you said earlier.
Be strategic about when you speak. Finally, remember to speak judiciously. If you constantly speak up without giving others an opportunity to do so, you monopolize the meeting time and reduce your credibility and authority. Give others a chance to speak just as you would want a chance.
Use these tools in an upcoming meeting and you will be able to practice your speaking skills every single day. Let us know how it goes!
Exactly 5 years ago, I moved to Washington, DC to launch Global Public Speaking after 10+ years in the Boston area.
At first, I ran the business from my kitchen and then moved into a co-working space as soon as the business was profitable. A few years later, I hired an assistant, Meghan Gonzalez, who very quickly proved herself a capable Business Manager. We moved into our own office in DC and brought on (remotely) Britt Stockert to manage operations and social media.
The response to our work has been overwhelmingly positive: client success stories have turned into enthusiastic referrals and we now have an incredible list of clients and partners, from multinational banks like Bank of America Merrill Lynch to global nonprofits like Vital Voices Global Partnership to federal agencies like the US Patent and Trademark Office.
This increased demand has led us to seek out some of the best trainers in the country to join our team and allow us to help more clients with more services.
We proudly welcome to our team Bill Beaman, Casey Carpenter, and John Watkis as our GPS Trainers and Britt Stockert as our new Operations Manager!
With expertise in media training, sales leadership, and speechwriting in addition to demonstrated success in public speaking and presentation skills, we are thrilled to start 2018 with a team of expert trainers/coaches and skilled administrative staff. Please click here to get to know them or read their quick bios below!
In addition, I’ve just signed a book contract with AMACOM, the publishing arm of the American Management Association, to write The Leader’s Voice: A Handbook for Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. With an anticipated release in late 2018, it will be a practical guide for the busy professional.
As you finalize your 2018 learning and development plans, please reach out to us if we can help you or your colleagues speak with confidence and authenticity in speeches, presentations, and everyday conversations. Our newly expanded team offers executive coaching, group workshops, and keynote speeches.
Thank you for your trust and your partnership over the past 5 years and for your commitment to helping people find their voice and their courage to speak. We cannot wait to work with you again and welcome your continued referrals.
In the meantime, we wish you a happy holiday season and a healthy new year.
New Additions to the GPS Team
To learn more about our new team members, click here
Casey Carpenter comes to Global Public Speaking with an impressive background as a professional speaker, coach, and mentor with an expertise in sales, leadership, and confidence. An introverted, shy, and highly sensitive wallflower turned dynamic business-builder, Casey knows that anyone can improve their skills with the right training and the right mentor. An accomplished speaker, she is a national board member of the National Speakers Association.
John Watkis joins Global Public Speaking with a strong background in speechwriting and stage performance. John is an international speaker, speechwriter, and public speaking coach. In addition to delivering keynote speeches and workshops in six countries and on three continents, he has written speeches for corporations, government officials, non-profits, professional speakers, and hall of fame athletes. He was the first Canadian-born actor to play “Mufasa” in the Disney musical, “The Lion King.”
Britt Stockert, our new Operations Manager, joins our team from the other Washington…state, that is. Britt is an entrepreneur groupie/apprentice with more than a decade of experience in marketing, sales, and business development. In addition to her time in the United States Air Force, she has spent most of her career helping smart, creative people get their innovative ideas off the ground.
Most of us don’t learn about Executive Presence until we grow into careers that require leadership and influence. However, I discovered the power of Executive Presence when I was fifteen years old.
As a sophomore in a performing arts high school in Florida, I was auditioning for a performance troupe that toured through our campus. During the audition, 10 of us lined up in front of an auditorium full of students. One by one, we stepped forward and simply stated our name. No explanation, no bio, just our name.
When my time came, I walked forward, paused, and took a deep breath. I looked calmly and purposefully around the room and felt a sense of anticipation as the audience waited for me to speak. Then I slowly and clearly stated my name as if it were the most critical piece of information that someone should know about me.
I made it into the troupe.
Later on, when explaining why we were chosen, the troupe director would point to my introduction – not my name, but how I had pronounced my name – as the reason why I was chosen. At the time, he had no idea that I was an opera singer in training or that I had performed in front of thousands of people. It all came across in those two words.
Think about how you introduce yourself when you walk into a room or speak up on a conference call. Your voice is one of the most powerful tools you have as a leader. The sound of your words, the energy in your words, and the intentionality behind your words, can all make the difference between being heard or not, between being listened to or not.
Voice is not the only component of Executive Presence, though it is one of the most important and the one I speak about most frequently when I teach leadership communication. Other components include confidence, a sense of purpose, body language, and the way you interact with others.
Think about what gives an opera singer stage presence: it’s the way the soprano walks purposefully out on stage, her sense of passion for the music; it’s the tenor’s confidence in his craft after years of study and practice. It’s the deep connection they both feel to the material, to the music, to why they do what they do.
These skills are even more important in a corporate setting because so few leaders learn them in business school. We believe we are either “born with it” or at a natural disadvantage. Maybe we’ve heard or have even spoken the words:
“We’d love to promote him, but he just doesn’t have leadership potential.”
Those of us in leadership positions and who have taught leadership know differently. We know that even these “soft skills” are both teachable and critical for our professional success at every level. The more senior we become, the more time we spend communicating the company’s message, and the more we wish we had learned these skills years ago. When coaching business executives, I frequently hear the same comment, “I feel like everyone else at my level learned this already; somehow I never did.”
Anyone can go through a technical training program and become technically competent. But the ability to communicate with others, to inspire others to achieve outstanding results, and to foster camaraderie and collaboration – these are crucial elements of business success which are often missing from professional development programs.
Now I’d like you to imagine a great business leader: perhaps the CEO of your organization, perhaps a member of the board, perhaps one of your colleagues. What gives that leader Executive Presence?
It could be the confident way she walks into the room and starts a meeting. It might be the clear, concise way he speaks, cutting out the jargon and the bureaucracy and getting straight to the point. Perhaps it’s the reputation that person has within the company. Maybe it’s in the power of their voice. All those attributes are critical elements of Executive Presence and they combine together to make a crucial impression on your audience.
Earlier this year, I was preparing to give a presentation on Executive Presence to a group of banking executives in a Fortune 500 company. In preparing my program, I interviewed three different individuals who would be in the audience. I asked all of them what they thought of Executive Presence and why it was important when presenting to clients.
Their answers were incredibly illuminating:
- Do you look like you deserve to be there?
- Does what you say make sense?
- Do you look like you’ll be able to execute the business?
Whether your audience comprises external or internal clients, every presentation is an opportunity to influence people’s behaviors, beliefs, or actions. You might be attempting to persuade the CEO to increase your budget to hire additional staff or adopt an experimental new program. Do you truly believe in what you are saying? Are you confident in your ability to deliver results? Do you have a sense of purpose in why you do what you do? Your Executive Presence addresses all those questions.
It’s not about creating a false leadership persona – your audience can see right through that and it negatively affects your reputation and your credibility. Presence requires you to connect authentically with what drives you in your work and then allow that sense of purpose to infuse your words, your actions, and your energy which creates a very powerful, persuasive argument.
Every time you speak up, you have an opportunity to change people’s behaviors and influence their actions. By focusing on your Executive Presence, you ensure that every aspect of your communication delivers the same powerful message.
One of my clients was preparing the opening remarks for a fundraising event. The goal of the event was to raise money to cure a disease that her father had suffered from. She was concerned that she would break down in tears during the speech, so she asked me, “How do I manage my emotions in a speech?”
When you have a personal connection to your subject, showing emotion is a powerful way to connect with your audience as an authentic, genuine person. We connect with people through shared feelings and emotions, whether we are in a corporate boardroom or a nonprofit fundraiser.
However, there’s a difference between showing emotion and being overwhelmed by emotion.
Showing emotion can include:
- Smiling as you talk about an accomplishment you are proud of
- Softening your voice as you reflect on a personal loss
- Speaking with passion about an issue you care about
Being overwhelmed by emotion is when you get flustered to the point where you lose the main message of your speech.
So how you do you show emotion without being overwhelmed by it?
In advance of your speech, ask the 3 questions: Who is your audience, What is your goal, and Why you (why do you care about your subject)? The third question, Why you? helps you connect with an authentic emotion around your subject.
In addition, ask a few other questions, such as, What level of emotion is appropriate for this audience? Where can you push the boundaries without pushing them too far? Let the answers to those questions guide your choice of stories or anecdotes.
If you are concerned about being overwhelmed by emotion in your speech, practice it with someone else in advance. Do you consistently break down at a certain story? If so, you may not be ready to share that particular story. Find a different anecdote that makes the same point but draws less emotion.
Despite our best efforts, there will still be times when we are overcome with emotion in a speech. In those cases, here are some ways to get back on track:
- Pause and breathe
- Have water with you and take a sip when you need a moment to collect your thoughts
- Have notes ready so you can find your place
- Take another deep breath and keep going
- Consider adding the emotional story to the end of your speech, so that you end with meaning and can leave the stage without feeling like you cut the speech short
Tapping into emotion is a powerful and authentic way to connect with your audience. You can feel comfortable showing emotion in your speech and you now have some tips to keep your cool when you are overwhelmed by emotion.
She said: “I have been giving speeches for 10 years. You’d think I’d be more comfortable with it by now! But I’m always afraid that my mind will go blank. That thought alone makes me so nervous!”
Those were the words of a woman I worked with during a recent public speaking workshop.
It happens to all of us. The more important the occasion, the more you care about an issue, the more worried you are that your mind will go blank.
There are ways to prevent it in advance and there are ways to deal with it when it happens. Let’s go through each one.
First, don’t memorize a script. When you memorize, you become an actor reciting lines instead of a genuine person having a conversation with the audience. Instead of memorizing your script, draft bullet points of your remarks and practice giving the speech from those bullet points. Each time, you’ll say something slightly different but each time it will be genuine.
Second, draft your main points in advance. One client I worked with mentioned that when she debates someone who doesn’t believe in the value of her work, she gets so angry that her mind goes blank. I reminded her that because this situation happens frequently, she can anticipate those questions in advance and prepare notes with her main points so that she has them in front of her, like a trusty guide, to keep her focused.
Third, make sure your speech is logical. Another key to prevent your mind going blank is to make sure your speech flows logically from one point to the next. When I’m practicing a speech out loud and can’t remember what comes next, it’s usually because I didn’t take the time to bridge the two ideas. My mind goes blank because my speech lacks structure.
Fourth, calm and center yourself in advance. The more you can relax before your speech, the more present and focused you will be in front of an audience. Take 10 minutes for yourself and walk through these 5 steps to center yourself before the speech.
The more you can relax before your speech, the more present and focused you will be in front of an audience.
But still: what if your mind goes blank even having done all of the above?
- This is the technique I recommend to all my clients:Pause and calmly take a sip of water (which is hopefully located on the nearby lectern or a small table)
- Nod thoughtfully while looking down at your notes
- Find your place
- Keep going with your presentation
You don’t need to tell the audience that you lost your place. Most of the time, they won’t even notice. Simply pause and breathe, find your place, and move on. If you catch yourself rambling and want to get back on track, pause and nod, then say Let me move on to a different point or Let’s come back to a point I mentioned earlier. You look thoughtful and purposeful.
A note about notes: Prepare your notes in a way that makes it easy to find your place. Print them out in large font with plenty of white space and print them single-sided so you’re not turning papers over in front of your audience.
There are ways to prevent your mind going blank and there are ways to deal with it when it happens. Find the right way to prepare and center yourself, and you will ensure that even if your mind does go blank, you can smoothly move through it and give an impactful presentation.
What does it mean to find your voice? It’s a concept I use frequently with clients and friends. Many of them want to sound more authentic and genuine when they speak, but they don’t quite know how.
Watch the video above – filmed outside the United States Capitol in Washington, DC – and read below for the steps you can take to find your own voice.
1. Look inward.
The process of finding your voice starts by looking inward to determine your core values.
What’s important to you? What do you believe in and how does it drive your actions every single day? Identify and validate your core values; perhaps you live the value of selflessness by putting others before yourself. Perhaps you live the value of integrity by always modeling the behavior you want to see from others. Connect with what truly drives you and it will embolden you to speak up.
2. Look outward.
After you’ve looked inward at your values, look outward at the world around you.
Where are those values being challenged? Where does your voice need to be heard? Maybe there’s an issue at work that’s threatening to destroy the workplace culture; perhaps there’s an injustice in your community that no one else will confront. It’s easy to get overwhelmed; which issue calls to you personally or professionally? Choose one and study if from as many angles as you can. The more you learn about an issue, the more confident you will feel speaking up.
3. Build your communication skills.
What do you need to learn to become the speaker you have always wanted to be?
People hold themselves back from speaking up for many reasons: one reason is they believe they aren’t good enough at public speaking. But public speaking is a skill, not a talent. Choose 1-2 areas where you’d like to improve; perhaps it’s learning how to craft an impactful message or how your voice can project strength and warmth. Work with a coach, attend a seminar, or join Toastmasters. Practice these skills in every interaction, from a 1:1 conversation to a group presentation. The more you build your skills, the more you build your confidence.
4. Look for opportunities to speak and build allies.
Look for places where you can speak up and give others a chance to speak.
You’ve determined the issue you’re passionate about and have started to build your communication skills. Now, it’s time to test out those ideas. Start by holding conversations with friends and family, then look to your organization or community (depending on the issue). Remember that this isn’t about pushing your ideas; it’s about creating a dialogue around an issue and finding allies so that you don’t have to speak alone. Who else can you empower to speak up? What shared values can you tap into that everyone can relate to?
5. Take action on your ideas.
Finally, it’s time to take action on your ideas.
What steps are you committed to taking to make your idea a reality? What steps can your audience take? The more focused you are on action, the more you can create a groundswell for change. Your voice becomes a catalyst for action, and you become a role model for others.
At Global Public Speaking, we believe that every person has a voice; every person has something to say. Our mission is to help people find their voice, build their communication skills. and find their confidence to speak up on behalf of what they believe in.
Finding your voice is about self-actualization: determining what’s important to you, what change you want to see in the world, and what you are going to do about it.
It’s the day of a big presentation and you’re so nervous you can’t think straight. Your heart is beating, your palms are sweating, and your shoulders are tense. A million “should have’s” are running through your mind: “I should have practiced more…I should have joined Toastmasters…I should have gone to bed early.”
10 years ago, I remember coaching a group of college students the day they presented their leadership projects to donors, parents, and professors. In the hallway outside the conference room they clustered around me, clamoring for help to calm down. They were so nervous, they couldn’t eat dinner.
Has that ever happened to you?
I led them through the following excise which I use with each and every client, from emerging leaders to senior executives.
No matter our background or level of experience, we all get nervous before a speech or presentation.
Click on the video below to watch a clip that guides you through these exercises, recorded on beautiful Candlewood Lake in Brookfield, CT, and share this with your friends, family or colleagues to help them before an upcoming speech.
Here are 5 steps to calm your nerves right before a speech.
Step 1: Find a quiet place where you can be alone. It might be your office, your hotel room, or even a public restroom at the venue where you are speaking.
Step 2: Get rid of nervous energy. Start by shaking out your arms and legs, one at a time. Stretch out your face to lightly loosen your jaw. Do vocalized lip trills to warm up your voice. Find the right posture for speaking: raise your arms up while you take a deep breath in, then slowly exhale while you lower your arms, keeping your rib cage up. This is the best posture for speaking with confidence.
Step 3: Center yourself. Take deep breaths into your stomach, feeling the energy fill your body. As you exhale, center yourself and be present in the moment. Don’t think about anything other than your breath. Take another breath in and slowly exhale.
Step 4: Remind yourself, “Why You?” Those of you who have worked with me know I like to ask the question “Why you?” constantly. Why do you do what you do? Why do you care about this speech subject and about your audience? Answer those questions out loud. If you have a core value statement, read that out loud. This exercise connects you with your sense of purpose so that you stop focusing on your nerves and instead focus on your message and the impact you want to have on the audience.
Step 5. Run through your opening and closing. The only parts I recommend you memorize in your speech are the first and last sentences, so that when you walk out on stage, you are prepared to start and end with power and purpose.
After you go through these 5 steps, you are ready to give your speech. Look for the smiling, nodding heads in the crowd, smile back at them, and begin to speak. When you’re done, immediately debrief the experience – watch our quick tip video about that.
Public speaking is a skill, not a talent.
Everybody gets nervous before a speech or presentation, but the more you speak, the more confident, comfortable, and authentic you will feel.
Try these exercises and send the video above to your friends, family, or colleagues who are nervous about an upcoming speech or presentation. You will be great!
One of the most common questions I receive is how to get rid of filler words: um, ah, you know, like, so, kind of, sort of, and more. It doesn’t matter what language you speak; every language has its own fillers.
There’s nothing wrong with a few filler words in your speech. Sometimes, they can be an effective way to jump into a meeting or conference call when it’s hard to get a word in otherwise. A well-placed filler such as “well” or “so” can help you wedge your way into a conversation.
But used excessively, filler words can reduce your credibility and authority as a speaker. They literally tell the audience you are unprepared.
They can happen at the beginning of a presentation:
- So, yeah, let’s get started…
In the middle of a sentence:
- I’m the, ah, CEO of…
And at the end of a presentation:
- So, yeah…that’s it, I guess.
Especially when you start or end your presentation with a filler, you lose an opportunity to make a powerful impression on your audience.
So, how do you reduce your filler words? (Those of you who’ve taken my workshops know that my personal filler word is “so”)
- Listen for fillers in other people. Every individual has their own preference for fillers, and many times people in one organization will use the same fillers. Listening for those fillers in others will help you recognize and reduce them in your own speech.
- Practice with a friend or colleague. Practice with someone who can give you a subtle audible or visual cue (knock on the table or raise their hand) every time they hear a filler word. Use our new worksheet “Catch the Fillers” to find out which words you use most often. Note: do this during practice only, not during the actual presentation.
- Practice on your phone. There are applications such as LikeSo and Orai that let you record a practice speech and the app will count the number of filler words. This can be a helpful tool, though those apps don’t catch all the fillers (hopefully they soon will).
- Practice your presentation out loud in advance. Take time to practice your presentation out loud to make sure the language sounds smooth and natural to you. If something doesn’t feel right, fix it in the practice stage so you don’t fumble for words on stage.
- Consciously pause and breathe instead of using a filler. By physically closing your mouth to breathe during a presentation, you stop yourself from using a filler. That deep breathing also gives more power and impact to your next point.
- Practice the power of the pause. Many times, we feel uncomfortable with silence during our presentation. Recognize how powerful a pause can be in creating suspense and causing your audience to lean in for the next thing you say. Note: pauses can be powerful in between phrases, but used excessively they can also cause you to lose momentum.
Remember, it’s OK to have a few filler words; the audience doesn’t expect a perfect speech. But don’t let them distract from the power of your message. The more you practice in advance, the easier it becomes to reduce fillers. Then, when you get in front of an audience, relax and focus on your message, and every word will have impact.
Speaking on a panel can seem less daunting than giving a speech at a conference.
For one thing, you are not alone; you’re sitting on stage with at least two other people. In addition, speaking on a panel carries many of the same benefits as giving a presentation: professional credibility, personal visibility, and great networking opportunities.
While these facts may make you less nervous, they shouldn’t make you less prepared.
Here are some specific tips when speaking on a panel:
How to prepare: It’s critical to find out who else is speaking on the panel. For instance, does everyone feel the same way about an issue, or are you debating one another? Ask the moderator in advance how much time you’ll have to speak and what types of questions will be covered. Prepare your brief introduction and potential responses, just as you would prepare for a formal speech.
Think of your main points in advance: Since you cannot control the questions, make sure you have your main points firmly identified in your mind so you can refer back to them throughout the conversation. It’s OK to bring a piece of paper or notepad with you on stage.
Think about attire and posture: Usually, panelists are seated on a raised stage. For women, that means paying attention to the length of your skirt or deciding to wear pants in order to be more comfortable. For men, that means thinking about your posture; I’ve observed some male panelists who spread their legs wide in an overly casual way when sitting on a high stool. For both men and women, sometimes the front row’s line of sight will be right at your legs or shoes, so pay special attention to how the bottom half of your body will appear.
Think about voice and energy: I always recommend speaking with a clear, conversational voice. The challenge is that on a panel, we tend to take our cues from others. If the moderator speaks in a low voice, we might subconsciously mirror their voice in order to blend in. At one conference, a client of mine mentioned he was consciously lowering his energy level so he wouldn’t stick out on the panel. But in fact, if he had used his natural energy and enthusiasm, he could have lifted the energy of the entire panel and in turn, the audience.
Think about eye contact: Where do you look when seated on a panel? You can look at the moderator and at the other panelists, but don’t forget to look out at the audience, especially when answering a question. Some people will answer directly to the moderator, but the real audience comprises all the people in the audience, with whom you are building a relationship of trust. Eye contact builds that relationship.
If you’re moderating the panel, here are some specific tips:
Serving as a moderator is a great honor and an intensive experience. Instead of preparing a speech, you act as a facilitator and guide by setting the overall mood and flow of the discussion. You keep panelists on track, ensure all voices are heard, and invite the audience to participate.
Before the conference, consider having a briefing call with all the panelists to make sure everyone understands the goals and format. It also helps the panelists get to know each other. On stage, you can start with a brief overview of the subject, your personal connection, and a brief introduction of each panelist. If you’ve set strict time limits for discussions, mention that publicly because it gives you permission to politely interrupt panelists when they speak for too long.
Here are the most common mistakes I’ve seen moderators make:
- Speaking for too long. The moderator is a facilitator, not another panelist. You should set up the conversation but not dominate it.
- Not leaving enough time for audience questions. Many times, moderators will ask too many questions of the panelists and not allow enough time for audience questions. As someone who nearly always asks a question, that frustrates me in the audience.
- Not allowing equal time for all panelists. Make sure each panelist has an opportunity for air time so they don’t feel like they have to jump in and interrupt someone else in order to speak.
- Speaking too softly. As the moderator, you are setting the tone for the entire discussion. If you speak with a low voice, your panelists will unconsciously mirror that and it will bring down the energy of the entire panel.
Panel discussions are a terrific opportunity for credibility, visibility, and networking. Use these tips to maximize those situations and they will help you become a more confident and more engaging speaker.
We took these tips from our new “Speaking with Confidence” manual which walks you through the process of writing, practicing, and delivering a speech or presentation. Learn more about that manual here: http://www.allisonshapira.com/store/speaking-confidence-digital-manual/
For this month’s newsletter, we interviewed Michelle Sara King, President and CEO of King Consults, to learn more about how public speakers can use social media to engage with their audiences before, during, and after a speech, presentation, or panel discussion.
During our interview, Michelle guided us through the best practices and also the biggest mistakes speakers make.
As a general rule, you want to be so engaging as a speaker that people put down their phones and listen. However, sometimes you can engage your audience even more by having them take out their phones and participate.
Michelle says, “I’ve been on both sides, as a panel moderator and as an audience member. As an audience member, I’ve tweeted questions and then heard them asked live during the event. It feels like direct engagement. When you’re a moderator, sometimes you see people on their phone and wonder if they are actually interested in the conversation or if they’re just on their phone… It’s really interesting to see people’s tweets and know that they are actually engaged.
A few months ago, I moderated an event for the American Society of Association Executives on doing business in Korea. I posted on Twitter before the event, engaged with people, and encouraged them to register. During the event, we had a dialogue on Twitter and people tweeted questions out that I could answer in real time.”
Here are Michelle’s tips to engage your audience using social media:
- Do your research beforehand. Start following the organization and the other speakers’ Twitter handles before the event. Retweet or like their tweets, Direct Message them, and retweet any relevant follow-up tweets.
- Post on social media before the event to encourage people to follow you and the event ahead of time. You can say, “Excited to attend next week’s event on XYZ!” with a link to the event page.
- Send sample tweets to the event organizers. Include 3-4 sample tweets in your pre-event preparation materials so you ensure that the organizers promote your main messages.
- Make it easy to find you online. Put your social media handles on printed materials, your slides, event signage, and even your business card.
- Use hashtags. Use the event hashtag or create your own in addition, to let your brand stand out. That way, you can more effectively focus on your own perspective and you can continue using the hashtag even after the event to engage with people.
- Guide your audience. Speakers and moderators should directly invite the audience to engage through social media. Keep the request goal-focused and action-oriented, such as “Send us your questions and we’ll answer them live.”
- Answer questions in real time. If you ask people to tweet questions at you in real time, make sure you respond in real time to the entire audience. Both the speech and social media should feel like a real conversation with your audience. If you ask them to tweet for follow up after the event, be available to respond later on.
- Continue the discussion. The most successful events are ones that continue the discussion or lead to follow-up activity. If you present unique solutions to challenging problems during the speech, keep your online audience updated as you implement those solutions.
At Global Public Speaking, we always encourage practicing before an event. In addition to the above tips, we recommend you build social media into your pre-event practice. You can invite a friend or colleague to tweet questions at you to simulate answering in real time.
Although Twitter is the most effective engagement tool to use during presentations, LinkedIn and Facebook can also be useful in engaging audiences before and after events. Use these platforms to post pre-event information and a summary along with a few quotes or photos from the event. Facebook Live can also be a great way to engage with a virtual audience and continue the conversation going forward.
When should you not use social media?
- When it’s off the record. The “record” now includes public sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
- When the content is sensitive. “I go to events focused on cyber security or intelligence, and I don’t tweet from those events.” – Michelle
- During internal meetings. To engage in a high-level or confidential discussion of an issue or strategy, people need to feel comfortable that their ideas will remain confidential.
What are the biggest mistakes speakers make when using social media?
- Misquoting audience members or fellow speakers. The challenge in using social media at events is making sure you’re accurate. Don’t use a direct quote unless you’re sure of the wording. And if you’re going to quote an audience member, ask their permission first.
- Not following up. Follow-up is key to gaining trust and credibility with your audience. If they ask questions on social media, answer them in a timely manner.
- Using too many hashtags for one event. The fewer hashtags and handles you use, the easier it will be for the audience to engage with you.
- And at Global Public Speaking, we’ll add this one: Not understanding social media before getting on stage. Familiarizing yourself with these tools in advance is critical.
Thank you, Michelle Sara King, for sharing your knowledge with our Global Public Speaking community. You can find Michelle at ASAE and Women in Government Relations events or networking in the Washington, DC area. Links for Michelle’s social platforms are below:
If you are a meeting planner or part of an association that is interested in public speaking training for industry speakers, please visit our information page here: www.allisonshapira.com/nomoreboringspeeches