IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Get Talking! Public Speaking Tips for Techies

Hone your skills and use speaking opportunities to make yourself known. By Carolyn Heinze

ONE OF THE BEST WAYS to market your business––and yourself––is by giving a talk. Conferences, lunch ’n’ learns, and seminars are great venues for establishing yourself as an expert. But if you’re new to public speaking, here are some tips to help hone your skills before taking the stage.

Know your audience. Lisa Schorr, an image consultant at Schorr Success, a consulting firm based in Warwick, R.I., notes that one of the biggest mistakes speakers make is not tailoring their talks to the audience. Shorr, who is also co-owner of MSP Secure Future Tech Solutions, urges would-be speakers to do their homework beforehand: Communicate with the event coordinator on who will be attending and check out their LinkedIn profiles. When you gear your presentation to your audience, chances are it will be more engaging and applicable.

Plan your talk. Ron Tsang, a Toronto-based speaker and author of From Presentation to Standing Ovation: 15 Actionable Ideas to Achieve Massive Influence, counsels channel pros to plan their talks thoughtfully. “Start with the destination in mind and have a key takeaway for your audience,” he says. If you wing it, chances are you will start rambling and lose your audience’s attention.

Tell stories. Stories touch people, and storytelling is a great way to engage audiences. Sharing stories that apply to your topic––a customer’s struggle to solve a problem and their subsequent success, or even your own struggle to get where you are today––humanizes the subject and helps people relate. “Take lessons from people who are typically seen as main-stage speakers,” Tsang says. “Sharing a story at the beginning of your presentation builds trust with the audience.”

Tweak for size. While all speaking is public speaking, there are some nuances between addressing a group of 25 and a crowd of 500. In more intimate settings, you can remain in one place and still connect with audience members, but when you’re on a stage you need to move around. “Don’t stand behind the podium,” Schorr says. At the same time, don’t pace so much that people feel like they’re watching a tennis match.

Practice, practice, practice. There are a number of opportunities for would-be speakers to develop their skills: Toastmasters and Business Network International are good places to start, and local chambers of commerce and trade associations regularly seek presenters.

Finally, Schorr reminds channel pros to take advantage of events that occur during the daily course of business: “Treat every sales presentation as public speaking,” she says. “The same preparation goes into meetings as it would going into a public speaking event.”

About the Author

CAROLYN HEINZE is a regular freelance contributor to ChannelPro-SMB.

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