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HigherLogic and Socious

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6 Public Speaking Tips to Improve Your Conferences

Posted by Joshua Paul on Thu, Mar 24, 2011 @ 07:01 AM

Public Speaking Tips for Association and Nonprofit LeadersHere at Socious, not only do we help people get the most out of their event management software, we also help them succeed in other ways. Our speaker management system can help you manage your speakers and sessions of all sizes and scope. However, if your presenters don’t offer effective, organized, and compelling messaging, your conference will suffer.

As a professional speaking coach, I am often asked to impart some words of wisdom to someone preparing to get up and speak in front of a group of people. Though this guidance is rooted in common sense, here are six professional public speaking tips that the nonprofit and corporate leaders at your conference can use to engage their audiences:

1) Know Your Topic Better Than Anyone in the Room

The first, and by far the most important, thing one must do is know the topic up, down and sideways.  All of the rest of what someone like me can impart, while important, can only be built on a solid foundation. That foundation is knowledge of content. The more confident you are about what you are going to say, the more solid and confident you will be, no matter your level of public speaking experience.  I call it “trickle up confidence”. 

When preparing for a presentation, it’s very easy to get caught up in details like worrying about how you’re going to stand, how you are going to gesture, projecting properly, appearance, and looking and sounding authoritative.  These are all very important items and worthy of attention, but to borrow an old cliché, “don’t put the cart before the horse”. Be an expert on topic first.

2) Prepare Your Content Like a Pro

Start at the beginning. When putting together your content, remember that different things work for different people. If you already have a method that works, use it. If you don’t, maybe mine can help. 

First, I put together a pseudo outline that I call “free outlining”.  It’s a lot like “free writing” except it’s only comprised of ideas and bullet points.  After, I completed my free-outline, I tweak it until it’s somewhat organized.  My next step is to actually free-write using my free-outline as a reference.  Finally, I turn my writing into a loose essay.  This is what I will use as the basis for my speech.

3) Really Know Your Audience

Knowing your information fully is the cornerstone of any successful presentation, but a very close second is being able to communicate it properly and with clarity.  There are two items to keep in mind when focusing on the clarity of your message.  
First, you must know your audience.  Are you using jargon that is above their heads, or speaking to them in a manner that is too fundamental?  Keeping their attention is extremely important. This is very difficult if either they have no idea what you are saying, or if you are telling them things they already know. Make sure you are speaking to them on their level.  

4) Be Thorough Yet Succinct

The second item relating to clarity is a little more complex, but can be boiled down to the following. Don’t be redundant and long-winded.  An audience’s attention span, unless they are being entertained, is quite short.  Make sure that you spend no more time than necessary covering what needs to be covered. Your free outlining and free writing will be an asset helping you to keep track of what you need to cover and how deep it’s being covered.

5) Practice and Practice, Then Practice Again

When you have finally reached the point where you have a well-defined speech that addresses the needs of your audience, the last thing to do is practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Unfortunately, it helps to practice a lot, and it really helps to do it aloud.  Sorry, but it’s true.

So, you know where to start; at the beginning with a solid foundation of knowledge of your subject.  The greatest asset you have and the greatest confidence you can get is from the organized knowledge of your topic.  The next most important factor is the clarity of your message.  Make sure you are brief but thorough and that you are talking “to” your audience, not below or above them.  Also, did I mention the need to practice?

6) Speaking is a Privilege

Finally, don’t forget why you are there in the first place.  You have been asked, or told, to do this not because you look great in Dockers, but because someone somewhere thinks that you have something important to tell others.  That’s a compliment!  Treat it as such.

Feel free to share this article with your conference’s speakers. However, this is just a summary of some of the skills necessary to a successful presentation.  On March 31st , I’ll be hosting a webinar on public speaking and invite you to join me.  I’ll be discussing these points and in a lot greater detail.

Post written by Brady Antonio, Client Manager at Socious

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Tags: Association Management, Social Business, Speaker Management, Public Speaking

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