I’d say that for the past 18 months, I’ve regularly been engaging in, panelling, hosting, and speaking at events.
This whole public speaking thing teaches you a lot! It’s not just about having a bubbly personality and character, which is how many people who meet me would often describe me. That is not all that it takes. It’s so much more! And here are some of the most things important that I’d definitely advise when deciding to do public speaking.
1. Do your research and ask yourself, does this brand represent me? Bet you weren’t expecting that one. Yes, it can of course be incredibly humbling if that organisation reaches out to you or slides in the DM saying they want you and from the moment you say yes they’ll start promoting you as a speaker etc – but how much do you know about the organisation and the initiatives they plan to set out? Is it truly representative of you and your own brand that you’re building? In 10 years time would you still be happy in saying that you spoke at this place? Rather than doing it for the clout, do it knowing that where you associate yourself speaks highly of you. So important! If the message behind the organisation doesn’t sit well with you or you think won’t represent you well, you don’t have to say yes. On the flip side, you can of course reach out to organisations that you may have researched and like what they do. Shoot your shot and go for it! Explain a bit about what you do, what you love about their organisation, and express interest in wanting to speak at any upcoming events they have in the works.
2. Figure out your angle or talking point. There may be a particular theme that you have to talk about, or they could even give you the freedom to talk about whatever you want. Either way, have fun with it! List some ideas you’d like to touch on – and always remember that the person that asked you to speak should be in communication with you answering any additional questions you may have if you’re unsure about your talking point.
3. Plan it out. Write it down! I like to do a spider diagram or a check list of things I’d like to cover. And then I write my little ‘programme’ of how I envision the talk to go. I often begin with a soft intro, hello etc. I like to make my talks interactive too. Whether it’s a random statement like: “in the words of beyoncè, I’m getting my life before I become somebody’s wife.” That always gets a few giggles/rounds of applauds. Literally write down all talking points you hope to cover, and be sure to fit in time to rehearse beforehand. Not heavy loads of rehearsal, but just enough to feel confident in the structure of your talk.
4. It’s show time. Body language should always be approachable; whether you’re sitting down or standing up. Make sure eye contact is strong as it shows confidence. Take your time when speaking. I had a habit of sometimes feeling like I was speaking too fast to the point that I was rapping or something. If you’ve been given a time slot, make sure you structure it well to ensure you’re staying within it. Avoid babbling. Speaking for ages doesn’t mean it makes a talk stronger; when you’re done, be done. Usually at the end of some talks you get a Q&A section, which you can sometimes not always prepare for simply because you don’t know what questions are coming! But it comes with time and practice. Just be honest, share your own experiences, don’t be afraid to be you, and smiling helps too!
Also, here are some random FAQs I usually get and felt to share too..
Do you get paid to speak?
Usually, yes. But if it’s a cause quite close to my heart, then I won’t charge a rate.
What if the communication with the organisation leading up to the day is bad?
Then it speaks badly of that organisation. Guess it shows they are people who you may think twice about working with in the future?
Have you had to reject a speaking engagement before?
Yes, a couple actually. I didn’t understand the message behind the organisation(s), and felt one held no substance or impact on what they were meant to set out to achieve.
What if I’m introverted or shy?
There’s nothing wrong with that! To me it shows personality and something that makes you stand out. I can understand it gets overwhelming, especially at the end when everyone runs to you for a networking chat or photo, but honestly, it’s fine. Remain as calm as you can and remember how far you’ve come to get to this place of wanting to inspire others!
Watch my TEDx, here.
Thank you for reading!