18 May 2009

Public speaking...

I spoke for the first time to a group of about 40 administrative professionals at a local hospital on Administrative Professionals Day. Well...I had spoken to a group of teen girls at a camp once and I did speak at my daughter's shower, but this was different. I was the keynote speaker at a professional event and had to speak for 45 minutes. Yikes!

I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be. Nobody there knew me so they would have no idea if this was my first time or the hundreth time so that made it a bit easier. I had my material prepared and knew what I wanted to share, but I wasn't sure about delivery.

I am happy to report it went very well. Whew! At the end of my presentation I told them it was my first time presenting and there was an audible gasp in the audience. I think that meant they were surprised.

I wrote an article some time ago called "Just Say Yes" and told about my decision to not let fear stop me from doing things that I really wanted to try. I have always wanted to speak and felt I had some good things to share, so when a former employer asked me if I would speak to their admin group, I didn't hesitate and said Yes.

Here are some things that I learned from this experience:
  • Know your topic well. If you don't, your audience will pick up on it;
  • Speaking is like acting. Act as if you are confident and halfway through, you will actually feel it;
  • Think of your audience as a group of your best friends and speak to them that way;
  • Make eye contact with your audience, but don't single anybody out. Some people have also recommended that if you don't feel comfortable looking them in the eye, just look a little over their heads ;
  • Give examples and use personal experiences where appropriate. It is nice to hear how the suggestions you give have worked in real life;
  • Stick around and speak to people afterwards. Some people might have further questions about your talk.

My boss told me that now that I have spoken to 40, it shouldn't matter whether I speak to 40 or 400 because the same principles apply. I think he is correct about that, but will wait for my next speaking engagement and report back.

It was a great experience however and I hope to repeat it many more times.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great tips on public speaking! For those who need a little more assistance in polishing their speaking skills, I highly recommend Toastmasters - it's been a very valuable resource for me in giving me the confidence to speak with execs, and with the ability to provide supporting points without freezing up. It's an organization that provides speaking (and leadership) skills training.

It's a global organization - if you'd like to find a club near you, you can search on their website (based on your country):