Frank Bravata is president and founder of Cyber Brigade and an ASCII Group member since 2011
Q: Public speaking can be difficult for anyone in any profession; what are the first steps you recommend for the introverted IT personality?
BRAVATA: Public speaking has a reputation as one of the scariest activities that one could choose to participate in. Regardless of industry, for those without experience or training, public speaking is intimidating.
For the introverted IT crowd, it can seem insurmountable. The first step is taking the time to decide on an end goal. What are we hoping to accomplish? Is this for brand awareness or for direct sales from the stage? While both are considered “public speaking”, the preparation for each is completely different.
If the goal is brand awareness all one must do is educate their audience. For practice, they should simply start with an organization like Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org). This will give the novice speaker time to build his confidence and presentation skills by participating in a series of practice speeches. After a few weeks of practice, the novice speaker should have enough stage-time under their belt to get started.
If the goal is to “sell from the stage” and close business at the event, more complex training and preparation is required. In addition to doing confidence building exercises, one must learn to connect with the audience on an emotional level. They need to embrace story-based selling and understand that the complexities of selling to a crowd.
Once the end-goal has been established, the key to success is practice. There are two different things that need to be practiced. The first is getting accustomed to speaking in front of crowds. Every time the speaker is at an event (it could be a birthday party, a networking event, etc.), they can use the opportunity to try and get microphone time. The more time spent addressing a crowd, the more natural it will become. The second type of practice is to rehearse their signature presentation. The key is to practice it to the point that it is committed to memory and just naturally flows. This helps the speaker to recover much easier if they ever stumble on stage.
Q: When teaching MSPs how to work on their public speaking skills, what are some of the main hurdles they must overcome?
BRAVATA: Most MSPs are engineers by nature, so they tend to focus on statistics and complex concepts when presenting. While facts and stats are certainly important, the key is crafting a presentation at the 5th grade comprehension level. Anything more complex and there is a risk losing the attention of the audience. PowerPoint slides don’t need to be crammed full of text and charts. The best use for presentation slides is to incorporate pictures that evoke emotional responses from the audience. Getting them to connect with the speaker and their presentation on an emotional level is the key to an amazing presentation.
Another hurdle that must be overcome is the tendency to want to “wing-it.” When a person knows their subject matter exceptionally well, as most MSPs do, there is a tendency to want to get up on stage and “speak from the heart.” For seasoned speakers and presenters, this is a viable option. For novice speakers just getting started, this is a recipe for disaster. Until the speaker has bested their stage-fright, it is imperative they write their speech in advance and follow it.
Q: How can refining one’s public speaking skills directly lead to more clients and the establishment of their MSP brand?
BRAVATA: Public speaking immediately grants the speaker authority and expert status in the eyes of their clients, prospects and associates. The key is for the MSP to then take the photos, videos, and audio from these presentations and build them into their content marketing strategy. A single speech can be used in many ways. If the speech is at a prestigious venue, this is even better.
By leveraging their public speaking appearances, MSPs can differentiate themselves from their competition and are able to become the go-to experts in their respective marketplaces. One speech can lead to invitations at other events and this momentum can propel the presenter’s speaking career and the MSPs growth forward.
Q: How has your MSP business grown because of improved public speaking skills?
BRAVATA: After spending time to learn the art of public speaking, my MSP has grown exponentially. We typically bring on 4-8 new clients per month and each month keeps getting better. Starting next month, I am going to be doing 2-3 events around the country promoting my new book and my MSPs services. In addition to the revenue benefits, it has helped us to continue to build out our organizational chart and provide better service to our clients.
In the upcoming months I have been invited to prestigious events such as speaking at NASDAQ Headquarters in NYC, speaking at Harvard University, and speaking in Japan at an entrepreneur’s conference!
Public speaking has truly changed my life and the trajectory for my MSP business. I urge all those who are considering it, to give it a shot!
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