A lot of people are afraid of public speaking. If you ask a psychologist, they would attribute it to a fear of oneself, not of the audience! When queried recently on the topic, I introspected, glanced through my documents and came up with the list below:

Public speaking is one of the most effective ways to build your brand. For starters, please identify your area of expertise. The focus should be on adding value to the audience, many of whom would have paid a significant amount of conference fees to hear you speak! People do not want to hear what they could find at home via a Google search. People want to hear your unique insights, based on your experience. As they say, it is better for people to learn from the experiences of others, rather than go through the experience on their own!

Master the art of storytelling. The number of times I have seen the audience switch quickly to their phones when the speaker begins to talk about the 3 P’s, or the 5 C’s of a topic is more often than you can imagine. People are generally not wired to listen to dry facts and academic theories. They love listening to stories, anecdotes and personal experiences. So, weave your message into carefully crafted stories. This calls for preparation when you debut into the world of public speaking, but you will master it in no time. Notes are generally avoidable – optically, you may not come across as an “expert” if you need to keep referring to various slips of paper.

It is about the audience, not about you. A lot of speakers, when given the options, love to babble away, and forget the raison d’etre for being in the slot in the first place! The idea is to share your personal experiences, but for the benefit of the audience! The messages need to be tailored for the topic on hand and framed in a way that will best resonate with the audience, depending on whether they are new to the topic or are experts themselves.

As you build your brand, you will gradually become known as an expert in your field. For that next stage, I have a second part of my message.

A lot of people take success for granted. Once they establish themselves, they think they just need to turn up, and success is theirs for the taking. What we need to realize is today’s world is about a “learn-it-all” approach rather than a “know-it-all” approach. So, the humility to know one’s limits and the accompanying desire to keep learning & re-inventing oneself are of paramount importance.

So, carrying on from the earlier section, keep humility at the forefront. If you are genuinely challenged by a superior soul in the audience, accept it and appreciate them. A specious attempt at talking oneself out a situation can hurt one’s credibility. Instead, genuine acknowledgement goes a long way towards endearing you to the audience.

Lastly, keep variety in mind. This is not in conflict with point #1. The idea is to keep yourself—and your audience—interested so that your expertise comes across on various dimensions of the topic. For instance, if you are talking about artificial intelligence, you can talk about its impact on human beings as one dimension, and the way the future will play out as another dimension. A lot of speakers end up unwittingly as uni-dimensional speakers on a topic. You don’t want to end up with a blind spot wherein you find people avoiding you, thinking “there he goes again”! 

As you build your expertise, and credibility, momentum comes into play. Good speeches beget more invitations to give more speeches. Just as a snowball becomes bigger as it keeps rolling, your expertise in your area, and often even beyond your area, will grow. The key is to do it with genuine interest. Remember the golden words “if you can speak, you can influence. If you can influence, you can change lives!” All the best!


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