All Eyes on Me: Ways to Prepare for Public Speaking

April 18, 2023

Being onstage while projecting confidence and speaking passionately about your areas of expertise is one of the most powerful forms of thought leadership. Those with stage presence draw people to them in a way that a persuasive sales pitch could never do. Participating in speaking engagements builds credibility and rapport with your audience, expands your reach, broadens your network, and can bring potential opportunities suited to you or your business. And the cherry on top: speaking is one of the best ways to educate and help others on a broader scale.

How it Started: My first presentation with Bossible Co-Owner Jessica Mazzeo in 2017

I started public speaking myself several years ago and have been advising seasoned keynote speakers on their marketing efforts long before that. I’ve also been lucky enough to see a wide array of speakers who demonstrate a powerful presence onstage, including Michelle and Barack Obama, Mindy Kaling, Tory Burch, Brené Brown and many more. Through these experiences, I’ve developed an understanding of the key elements that make a presenter effective and compelling. I now use this knowledge to inform both my clients’ work and my own public speaking efforts. A great speaker makes their job look easy when it’s anything but. Numerous hours go into perfecting a speech and delivering it seamlessly. After participating in a panel last month, I jotted down some of the ways that my fellow panelists and I prepared to get the most out of our speaking experience.  When all eyes are on you, here are some items to keep in mind when preparing for your next speaking engagement:

1) Dress the part.

Dress in a way that makes you feel confident and comfortable while also remaining professional. Wearing a lucky statement piece such as a family heirloom, a special watch, a piece of jewelry, or simply an item of clothing that makes you feel great can go a long way to making you feel your best on stage. Also don’t be afraid of color! Many professionals tend to default to darker clothing but it’s ok to stand out with a bright colored suit or even a bright colored shirt under your dark suit.

2) Get there early.

Arrive at least 30 minutes before you are slated to speak to avoid rushing. Doing so allows you to get situated, do a mic check, and understand the layout of the venue, such as where you’ll be speaking and how to best engage the audience in that layout. Arriving early will also help relax your nerves. Sparking up a conversation with those attending or your fellow panelists allows you to get more comfortable in the space. By having these short conversations in advance, it will give you a friendly and familiar face to find in the audience if your nerves start to creep in while presenting.

3) Practice, practice, practice.

Practice your material in advance until you are very familiar with it, as you don’t want to be constantly looking down and reading from your notes while you’re presenting. Knowing your material from start to finish gives you the flexibility to improvise based on audience questions or things you observe in real time. And remember – no one but you knows what you are going to say so if you miss a word or fumble a sentence – keep moving as you are most likely the only person to realize your misstep.

4) Take notes.

Bring something to mark down any thoughts that come up before the presentation, ideas that arise naturally along the way, or people you want to follow up with afterward. If you are on a panel, take notes on ideas you want to add as a follow up to a co-panelist’s remarks – even if it is to echo and give support to their comments.

5) Bring support.

If possible, bring someone with you to the event to take photos and videos of you for marketing efforts such as social media. Your supporters can also give you feedback and words of encouragement. If you come solo, event organizers are often willing to help capture content for you or find someone who can.

6) Speak into the mic.

AV 101: Speak loudly and directly into the mic. The last thing you want after spending time and energy preparing your talk is for people to not be able to hear you clearly. With handheld microphones, you should have the mic as close to your mouth as possible without touching it so those in the back of the room can hear you clearly. Also, when you first begin speaking pay attention to the back of the room to see if anyone is suggesting having difficulty hearing; it’s ok to ask if everyone can hear you so you can adjust your voice level and get back to it.

7) Stay awhile.

Stick around after the talk for networking and questions and be sure to bring plenty of business cards. Attendees often have follow-up questions or want to share feedback but prefer doing it one-on-one versus during a Q&A session. Plus, if you know someone else speaking or are interested in any of the other programming at the event, support fellow presenters by attending their sessions.

8) Be gracious to your hosts.

Thank your hosts in-person for inviting you to speak and follow up after the presentation with a kind email. A follow-up thank you email is an ideal opportunity to inquire about or propose future partnerships or opportunities.
How it’s Going: Panel Discussion on Personal Branding in March 2023
No matter where you are in your speaking journey – from never having set foot on a stage to speaking to thousands – consider these tips when getting ready for your next speaking engagement. When all eyes are on you, it’s best to be prepared so you can focus on what’s most important: creating and delivering content that shines!

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