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2007-12-31 12:07:00

13 Tips to Develop Your Speaking Skills

Often I am asked how I broke into speaking. My answer is, "By doing it for free." As it’s always been said, practice, practice, practice! I would get up at 4 AM. and drive three hours to present to the "Benevolent Society of One-Eyed German Shepherds" for cold scrambled eggs, greasy potatoes, and not even expenses - practice, practice. Then after two years and more than 60 presentations, I got a call and I was in a pissy mood. So off the wall I said, "I would have to have $300 to do that," and they said, "OK." And my brain went - ding ding ding ding ding!

Nothing will do more to increase your business than speaking frequently to different groups. If you have a fear of public speaking, most of us do, join Toastmasters International. If you would like to know why you have this common fear read my book Dog Eat Dog and Vice Versa, Chapter 2.

Now for pointers on how to become proficient:

  1. Know your topic. You’ll never know it better than when you teach it.
  2. Know your audience. I missed this one once with 340 CPA's - My topic... Creativity, well that was painful. 
  3. Have an opening. Comedy is the toughest open to do - and telling someone else's joke is NOT a good idea.
  4. Timing - not only how long, but when - nothing like teaching Marketing to an Association of Independent Carpet Cleaners - after dinner and open bar. OUCH!
  5. Pay attention to other speakers. I've spent 30 years learning about timing. I teach timing to other instructors, I've written on timing, I coach other speakers on timing, I practice it each time I go out, and yet, there are volumes to learn. Some of the best in my opinion are: Johnny Carson, Ellen DeGeneres, Charlie Rose, Ben Stein, and Jack Benny.
  6. Use your third eye - now that's a long email in itself, but bottom line, monitor yourself and others from outside of yourself.
  7. Breathe - breathing and breath control demonstrates confidence, and smoothness. It creates a calming acceptance from the audience.
  8. Dance - stationary speakers standing behind a podium are for funerals (not mine please), besides a moving target is harder to hit with a tomato.
  9. Speak to the Room - not just those in the front row. As you dance, give everyone in the room (randomly) eye contact. Speak to both sides of the room and from both sides of the stage. Stage - anything at the front of the room before two or more people. Next time you are in an audience, watch for speakers who only talk to or from one side.
  10. Have and use VISUALS! Words on a screen are not visuals. Rubber Duck is not a visual, a picture of a Yellow Duck Bath Toy is. There are hundreds of other lessons on Visual Presentations; most include the term, "Less is More".
  11. NEVER turn your back to the audience and read the visual! In Hawaii, the room was set for 700 people and it was packed. It was set up with my computer at the back of the room, stage left. I could barley see it, let alone pick up clues as to what it said. I elected to leave it as to change it would delay the already time-filled program. I, therefore, had to turn my back to the audience to see which slide was up. BAD FORM.

    Once at a National Assn. of REALTORS meeting when I had the same unacceptable setup, I said, "STOP IT!" and made AV change the setup. Well, they did, but, the two screens were fuzzy and blurry! (Critiques were generally good and it was the number one selling CD. However, there were lots of comments on the poor visuals even though the audience was aware of the situation. Lesson, when you have the choice of turning your back to the audience or blurry screen, choose turning your back.
  12. Repeat the question! This accomplishes three things: One, it gives the person asking the question the ability to correct it if you heard it wrong or they said it wrong. Two, it gives you time to formulate an answer. Three, and most important, it lets the audience hear what was asked! And don’t forget it’s a sign of respect.
  13. Have FUN! If you don't, your audience won't.

(Rossi, Certified e-PRO Trainer, ROSSI Speaks, inc. Edutainer, Humorist, Coach, & Bon Vivant, and author of Dog Eat Dog & Vice Versa: 9 Secrets To Put the Bite Into Your Marketing.)

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