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There’s much more to hosting a webinar than simply talking to a bunch of people via your computer. It’s important to make sure it’s a fun, informative, and useful experience for all. Nowadays, people attending a webinar know they’ll get a sales pitch eventually. But they won’t buy — and they definitely won’t come back next time — unless the content you’re providing is top-notch. It’s critical that whatever you’re selling is fabulous, as well. The complete experience from beginning to end must be high-quality.

Think about webinars you’ve attended in the past. What did you like or dislike? What was the registration process? Did they follow up afterwards? Did they make amazing promises… and live up to them? We can learn a lot by what we see others doing correctly (and incorrectly).

Here are four tips for making your webinar audience happy:

Choose the Right Day, Time, and Length

If you know your audience, you’ll already know the perfect day and time to host your webinar. Do they prefer evenings? Mid-day? Weekends? If you’re not sure, consider doing a quick survey on social media to get feedback from your followers.

Webinars should only be 60 – 75 minutes in length. Some webinars are actually shorter than an hour, which can be a good thing if you’re just starting out.

Make Your Webinar Educational

Every webinar should offer a message that educates the audience on something they need (and want) to know and can put into action immediately. Instantly-actionable content is in high demand and it gives participants just a “hint” of the value they’ll get when they invest in your products and services. So, take time to be organized and make it great!

Keep the Message Clear

As with live presentations, it’s critical to make sure the webinar audience can easily understand the info you’re trying to convey. If your message isn’t crystal-clear, or if there’s too much information packed into a way-too-short amount of time, you’ll lose them. They’ll get overwhelmed, confused, or both — and they certainly won’t buy whatever you’re hoping to sell.

Plan out your content minute-by-minute. (Don’t write out the whole script  — just create an outline.) And, have extra content on tap in case you need it. If you don’t use it, you can always save it for a future webinar!

Be Entertaining!

Just because you’re speaking via the computer, doesn’t mean you have to be stoic and boring! Be lively and entertaining using gestures and facial expressions. Share stories and interesting facts. Most importantly, look at the camera!

Consider also using the webinar chat room to interact with your audience. Encourage people to ask questions, then be sure to review the list and provide answers verbally every 10 – 12 minutes. Your viewers will be much happier if they can interact with you and the other participants, so allow them to do that via the chat function.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog post with even more ideas to help you make your webinar audience happy! In the meantime, check out last week’s post and get 6 more secrets for hosting a successful webinar.

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Seems like nearly everyone’s hosting webinars these days. Have you been holding out? Waiting for the weather to be ‘just’ right, or for your mailing list to hit 5,000 subscribers? Wait no more! Just put a date on the calendar and move forward. Here are some tips to help you get started…

Create a Short Informative Sign-Up Page

The sign-up page should be very clean and simple. A big, attention-getting headline that invites the visitor to participate is critical. Make it interesting and intriguing. Consider adding a short video describing what you’ll discuss during the webinar, and then make the ‘next step’ very clear… you want them to sign up for it.

As you write the script (and/or the content) for the sign-up page, always include the WIIFMs. What will they get when they attend? (5 Tips for…, 3 Secrets to…, etc.)

After a person signs up, send them a confirmation email with all the details for the webinar. Then, on the day of the webinar, send them a reminder email. (All this can be done with auto-responders, but that’s a topic for another day.)

Plan Your Webinar Format Ahead of Time

Your personal story should be first. If you tell a story that shows how you overcame an obstacle, it will humanize you for your audience and open their hearts to your message. This section should be no more than 5 or 10 minutes. Anything beyond that will bore your participants and make them lose interest.

Deliver useful, relevant, and actionable content for the next 40 minutes, teasing your participants about the offer you’ll be making to them later.

Not sure what to offer? How about using the webinar to promote an upcoming event? Or, a ‘next step’ coaching call to see if they’d be a good fit for your coaching program? Or, perhaps you can promote the new membership site or video lesson series that you’ve just launched? The options are endless!

Be sure to continue offering solid content all the way through the webinar — otherwise, you’re likely to start losing people as soon as you begin talking about your offer. Don’t sound like a used car salesman. DO be humble and genuine. Your wisdom can be hugely helpful to your attendees, and they deserve to know how to continue learning from you.

Give Them a Tight Deadline & Offer Bonuses

You don’t want to make the offer too open-ended, or people will sit on it and wait, and possibly never act. Give them a strict time limit… buy before the end of this webinar… buy before 12 midnight tonight… offer ends Monday at 12 noon, etc.

Be sure to include tons of extra value in the fact-action offer — a PDF download, a separate bonus Q&A session, a freebie coaching call, a bonus recording, and/or a bigger discount. Those extra benefits are what will trigger your participants to buy immediately, so make ’em good!

Describe the Product Simply and Clearly

Clearly explain what they’ll get when they make their purchase — including all the benefits available to them and the fast-action bonuses. This is your ‘sales pitch’ and you want to provide all the juicy details and overcome any objections they might have to buying.

If your offer is fairly detailed, it’d be wise to have a special web page (or a page in their webinar handout) with the specifics that people can review as you discuss it.

Again, I mention the importance of continuing to include solid content throughout the whole webinar. (Can you tell this is an important point to remember? It’s critical!)

Make It as Easy as Possible to Buy

“A confused mind doesn’t buy.” This quote has been attributed to a half-dozen different people. I don’t know who originally said it — but, it’s brilliant! (And, so so true!) You want to have one specific goal for your webinar. Nothing else. Not three different packages, not two different products. Simple. Specific. A no-brainer. One specific goal.

I’m also a huge fan of using PayPal. (Before you grumble at me, keep reading…) PayPal is perfect for what we experience at the local grocery store as “impulse buying.” Think about it. Millions of people all over the world already have PayPal accounts. They can buy a product almost instantly!

If you’re using a regular ‘ol shopping cart (or a service like Stripe), I’ve got to hunt down my purse, choose a credit card, enter the number & expiration date, type out my mailing address, phone number, email, blah blah blah blah blah blah. I’d much rather click on a couple of buttons and be on my merry way.

Impulse buying. Convenient buying. Make it easy as possible.

Follow-Up

You’d be shocked at how many people host webinars and don’t follow up with their audience after it’s over. Most of your sales are likely to happen in the days after the webinar. You may have a few who take advantage of the fast-action bonuses, but you’ll have even more purchases after the event if you follow up. Send a recording of the event; write a blog post using the questions received during the webinar. Find ways to follow-up and continue the conversation.

Webinars are one of the best forms of marketing that your business has ever seen. But, they only work if you learn how to do them correctly — by not being afraid to make your offer in an honest, genuine way to the audience. If you’ve given them a lot of great free content and whetted their appetite for more, it’ll be a no-brainer for them to buy!

Got questions? Post them below!

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You’re a speaker. If we did a search online about you, what would we find? If we did a search on your message, would your information come up?

Pick a conference you’re thinking of attending and do a Google search on the list of speakers that will be presenting. What did you find?

Would you like to have your message stand out when people search you? Would you like to come up when people search for the message you share?

One of the tools that has helped me build a speaking business is having tons of information about my message online. The greatest thing to help me do that was having a blog and posting regularly. Here are some ways for speakers to use a blog to build a brand and message online:

1. A blog is a great place to discover what your audience wants to hear from you.
  • Ask questions of your subscribers; ask questions on your social media page; ask questions of your audience when you speak. Then use the responses to write about the information they asked for.
  • Take a chance and write about things that matter to you, then watch your traffic and see which ideas get more readers and engagement. The subjects and articles people engage with most are what they want to hear from you.
2. Use a blog to get their attention by sharing a solution to their problem.
  • Talk about the problems they have that you have solved. Relate to where they are now in the problem using your own experience.
  • Share practical steps to solve the problems they have with your personal stories of success.
  • Leave them wanting more from you. The best place to use a call to action is placing you in the solution to their problem.
3. Use your blog to educate, not to sell.

When asking event planners what they like to see about a speaker online, one answer they all have in common is they hate to see a speaker who is pushy in their blog with their products. They want to see you help not sell.

I know we all need to make sales to be successful in business, but in a blog the more you push sales, the less you sell. The more you educate, the more you sell. Here are some suggestions to make your blog more of an educational path to getting more speaking gigs and making more sales.

  • Write your blog in your own authentic voice. It makes a strong point as a speaker, letting people know you stand apart from anyone else who may have a similar message.
  • Narrow your niche; learn 5 keywords or phrases that both the event planners and your clients would search on to find your solution to their problems.
  • Share your story and make it personal to them. Let them see that you solved the same problem.
  • Include a call to action with suggested next steps like asking for comments, referring them to a newsletter, offering a free guide to download, etc.
4. Use videos and pictures to make your blog stand out.

Pictures and videos were the biggest attraction tools to help build my brand. Some suggestions that will attract both event planners and event hosts are using pictures and videos of your audience interaction from when you speak.

Make a video of a meaningful blog post you did. The use of your own voice and dramatic effect will give them a view of how you are on stage.

Repurpose your live stream videos and interviews to a blog post. It’s a great way to use what you have done already and attract more.

5. Use your blog to write your book.

If you want to write a book about your message but the task of writing seems to be overwhelming, you could break it down into smaller parts and write it one blog post at a time. Make the outline of your book and just write it a point at a time. Keep your work in a Word document; then, when you’re done, combine all your work and get it published.

6. Use your blog as a stepping point from social media.

 Social media may seem like a great attraction tool to find people who want or need your message. But placing all your faith in one site or one tool to build your list and business has been the downfall of many people when that site or tool was gone.

There are two sites where I have had a great deal of content and following and they are now gone. When they were up, they were the hottest trend to use to build your following. Using a blog to show them examples of how you can help is a great list-building tool online because your blog will always be up and running. It won’t be shut down arbitrarily.

7. Use your blog to share your story

And, the last way to use your blog would be to use it to tell your stories. As mentioned above about the step-by-step way to write your book, imagine using your blog to tell your story. In the process, you find out what parts of your story they want to hear. Sharing parts of my story on blogs, interviews, and videos is where I learned what story to tell.

Telling my story about sitting across a table from Zig Ziglar and having him tell me to become a speaker was something that impacted many people. In the beginning, I left that part out because I didn’t think it had relevance to my message. Turns out it was one of the biggest parts of helping others see themselves in my story.

I hope these ideas help you with your online presence. The more you have online about how you can help others, the better!

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I’ve been compiling this list for awhile. There are sooooo many free image sites out there — seems like every time I think I’ve got a complete list, another 2 or 3 pop up! This is a GREAT thing for those of us who are constantly looking for new & fresh images to accompany our blog posts.

Please note that some of these companies also offer paid membership options and/or links to fee-based photo websites. Just be aware of this as you’re clicking around their sites. That’s how they make money and are able to offer royalty-free images, so it’s perfectly understandable.

Click… click… click… have fun looking for new photos!

Free Stock Photo Sites

NOTE: While the images are free, some of these companies require you to give credit to the photographer. Be sure to review each website’s Terms of Use, just to be sure you’re following the rules.

Do you know of any other free image websites? Share them in the comments section below and I’ll update the list!

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Presentations are given for all kinds of reasons.  The type of presentation and presenters that I work with the most are technical in nature.  In working with technical presenters from different fields, I see some common problems that presenters have when they present a technical topic.  Here are 3 of the most common mistakes I see.

1. “Let me tell you everything I know about this…”

Many times in a technical situation, the presenter is an expert in the subject that is being discussed.  The presenter is so knowledgeable that he/she wants to share everything they know.  There is no detail that does not need to be explained.  The problem with this is that the audience probably doesn’t really care about the details.  Many times, just the high level facts will be enough.

2. “PowerPoint is great for my speaker notes!”

I don’t know how many technical presentations I’ve seen where the PowerPoint slides being used are nothing more than glorified speaker notes.  I wrote about my experience with this in the post titled “Information vs. Presentation Decks” (http://speakingpractically.com/2016/03/28/information-vs-presentation-decks/)

3. “How many acronyms can I fit in one sentence?”

Acronyms are used constantly in our speech.  Texting today can be done almost exclusively in TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) or FLAs (Four Letter Acronyms).  Depending on the audience sometimes the use of acronyms is appropriate but many times there are those in the audience who are unsure of what they mean.  I remember attending an internal conference the first week I joined one high tech company.  In the first 15 minutes of the first speaker on the first day, I had written down 17 acronyms that I did not know!  Fortunately an employee sitting next to me saw the problem and helped translate for me.

If you are asked to make a technical presentation, if you avoid these 3 common mistakes your presentation will shine in the darkness that sometimes is a VERY technical presentation.

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You’ve been selected as a breakout speaker.  Great!  You are on the program with 4 or 5 other speakers with different topics of interest.  The conference planner asks you for your bio and a blurb about your session.

How do you stand out from the herd of other breakout session speakers to get people to your room — especially if you’re not a well-known speaker to that group?

Here are 3 tips that will ensure your session is well-populated and successful for both you and the event planner.

1. Create a Catchy Title and Good Description

Make it something that will spark some interest! My main topic is “Think Like A Negotiator,” and that may pique some interest, but when I add a customized subtitle, it really lets the audience know that the session will be focused on them.

For example: At a recent women’s conference, I called my session, “Think Like A Negotiator: Everyday Negotiation for Women to Build More Confidence.” Not only did this pique the interest of conference attendees, but it also included the event’s theme, “confidence.”

Another event I spoke at was an HR conference and the theme was ’employee engagement.’ My session title was, “Think Like A Negotiator in Employee Engagement.”

Having session titles that were aligned with the conference themes made it much easier to get selected to speak in the first place. In addition to the titles, it’s important that the session descriptions were also aligned with the themes. Be sure to include specific takeaways, so the meeting planner and the potential attendees know what to expect.

Reflecting a conference’s overall theme with your session titles, short descriptions, and list of takeaways demonstrate that you understand their purpose and will help your audience deepen their conference experience. It makes meeting planners want to schedule you and attendees want to grab a seat in your session.

2. Look the Part

Look the part for your audience. Look like your headshot. If you don’t, that will cause confusion.  A confused mind says “no,” and you will lose credibility.

What you wear is equally important. Dress to impress and stand out from the crowd. If it’s a more conservative audience, keep that in mind, but differentiate yourself from all the other speakers by perhaps wearing a colored suit, rather than the traditional black. Be sure that your clothes are flattering, well-fitting, and congruent with your style and brand. If you’ll be speaking on a stage with curtains behind you, DO NOT wear clothing that’s the same color as the curtains. You will disappear.

As professional speakers, it’s important to remember that we are on display for all the world to see. We are a visual society and we can’t help ourselves by looking at what someone is wearing. The audience is judging us — good and bad — before we utter even a single word.

3. Show Up Early

This cannot be a show-up-to-speak-and-leave session.  Speakers who do that don’t make a good impression or connection with the audience.  We have to show up early to connect with people, introduce ourselves and get a buzz going about our breakout session. Otherwise, we’re just a name in the program.

This is hugely important if you’re not yet well-known or if you’re going up against “more interesting” speakers.  Connection builds trust.  The small blurb in the program — while very important — is not enough to get people to your room and fill it to capacity.  There’s much more to be done!

So, what does all this do for you as a speaker? Having a filled-to-capacity breakout session exposes you to more people who can benefit from your message. It makes you look like a RockStar to the event planner, and it increases your chances of getting invited back!

Editor’s Note…

Would you like to guarantee that your room will be overflowing or filled to capacity every time you do a breakout session? I asked Eldonna to write this article because she is amazingly-great at doing just that. She has created a resource that I know you’ll LOVE, called “Breakout Session Success for Speakers.”

It’s packed full of very specific, easy-to-do tasks that will help you fill the room, connect with potential clients or product buyers, and knock the socks off the event planner! The process is so simple that if you have a breakout session tomorrow, it could be a huge success! Click here for more information on “Breakout Session Success for Speakers.”

(P.S. I’m not being compensated for making this referral. I’ve seen it work, and I’ve even helped to design some of Eldonna’s marketing material. It works. You’ll see!)

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You know the feeling, don’t you? Your speech is brilliant… packed full of instantly-usable content… you know without a doubt that you will ROCK your audience today.

And then it happens.

Just before you’re introduced, you look out over the audience… and realize… at least half of those people are messing around on their freakin’ phones ! Argghhhhh.

Nowadays, our success (or failure) at being effective presenters can be hugely impacted by how well we use social media as a tool to engage those distracted people in the audience. My hope with this and future posts is to give you some helpful ways to do that.

Technique #1 ~ Share Your Tweetables!

Hall of Fame Speaker Patricia Fripp is well-known for her “Frippicisms” — short, pithy nuggets of public speaking & sales wisdom that she shares with the audience.

During her presentations, Patricia encourages attendees to post on social media using the hashtag #FrippVT, which is the name of her virtual training community.

Here’s an important point… she doesn’t just mention it at the beginning of her speech. She reminds participants throughout the presentation. Every once in a while, you’ll hear her tell the audience, “Tweet this!” and the wording and hashtag are visible on her PPT slide up on the screen for people to copy.

I love this because Fripp is making it super-easy for people in the audience to participate. It allows them a quick way to take notes that they can go back and review later. She even gets an extra boost in visibility as attendees — and non-attendees — retweet & share her Frippicisms and post ‘thank-you’ messages afterwards. Add all this to the additional visibility her online community gets via the #FrippVT hashtag, and we’ve got a fantastic example of how to get distracted participants involved! (To see a few of Fripp’s hundreds of Frippicisms, click here.)

Technique #2 ~ Pull Out That Selfie-Stick!

First… if you don’t have a selfie-stick, go buy one. Seriously. You can find one on Amazon for around $10.

Accredited Speaker, Eldonna Lewis Fernandez, is the best selfie-stick-wielding-speaker I know! She takes it everywhere, and her workshop attendees benefit greatly from it.

Taking photos is not just a fabulous way to develop rapport and have fun with your audience — you can use the activity as a teaching tool, as well. Figure out a way to incorporate the activity into your presentation or group work. Perhaps use it as a metaphor or analogy in a story. Be creative!

Sometimes, at the end of a presentation, Eldonna will broadcast live via Facebook. Her attendees get to act goofy while she talks about how great they are or shares tips about her niche topic, negotiation skills. As with Fripp, Eldonna uses a unique hashtag (#iNegotiate) whenever she posts. The FB viewers get to see what kind of trainer she is (umm… SUPER-FUN!) and the visibility she brings to the event is always much-appreciated by the meeting planners.

Bottom line . . .

What it really comes down to is grabbing — and keeping — the attention of our audience, right? Whether it’s incorporating social media, games, stories, or activities, it’s our responsibility as speakers to make it happen. The fun part is coming up with new & unique ways to do it!

What techniques have you used to engage your audience members when they’re too busy tweeting to pay attention? Share your thoughts below!

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An exciting option for speakers and authors is lending your voice to commercials, cartoons, and other ‘announcer-type’ vocal opportunities. But just buying a $75 microphone and plugging it into your computer does not a pro announcer make.

When I first started doing professional voiceovers, you had to find a studio. Radio stations and commercial studios where about the only options, and you couldn’t just email the script and attach a file. Even if you’ve been told, “You should be in radio – or doing audio books” because of your deep or professional delivery, you need to know the facts.

With the ability to own their own professional audio software and equipment that was once locked in studios, more and more people with broadcasting and acting backgrounds have decided to put themselves in business on the internet. Competition is fierce with so many in my own broadcasting industry looking to make extra money. Websites like Fiverr, Voice 123, and others allow people to post samples and offer their services at a huge discount.

If you’re going to accept money to do professional voice work, you need to have the ‘thing’ that sets you apart from others. I stopped chasing voiceover work because of the very low rates being paid when trying to compete with thousands and thousands at the end of a computer around the world. I still encourage you to explore the experience, but be realistic about what the market pays. Most major voice over work is done by actors because it’s so easy to complete the work and it pays well at that level. Most authors will record their own works for audio books. Just a handful of working voice professionals are set up to do the sheer amount of work necessary from home studios to make a successful living at it.

That said, if your dream still burns brightly and you want to jump into the voice-over arena, here’s what you need to get started:

1. Send demo files of your previous work to send to prospective clients. This demo needs to highlight your abilities in less than two minutes, with a sample of styles of what you can do (or have done) with your voice.

2. Unless you’ve been a professional announcer before, don’t use a ‘radio’ or put on amplified voice. Today, very few people want a ‘Game Show’ type announcer delivery. Be you – and amplify who you really are.

3. Being a professional speaker doesn’t automatically translate into being a voice artist. Many of the same rules about vocal variety still apply, but no one can see you. Acting is more in line with what you will need to do to paint the picture or convey the emotions from the copy you read.

4. Put your samples on various websites that showcase talent for hire (google search it) and your own site.

5. Send your samples to local production houses and studios. Radio and television groups seldom use outside talent and can share staff from many locations, it isn’t a priority to reach out to them.

And if you’ve already done some voice-over and want to do more:

1. Update your demo to include areas of expertise. Character voices, accents, vocal quality, and age range. Often my demo will get a follow-up to include more of what the client is looking for as in high energy, smooth, upbeat, and youth or adult delivery.

2. Offer to lend your voice to other collaborators in the speaking industry to let it be known you’re interested and able to do voice-over and narration as a service.

3. Look for an agent who will add you to their stable of voice demos. I sent out hundreds of demos and sure enough, one landed on the desk of a casting agent. I ended up working with Barney, the dinosaur, because of it!

Samples of some of my current work with local advertisers and the “Voice” of the National Speakers Association show “Voices of Experience” can be heard on my website. http://www.samvoiceman.com/broadcaster.html

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“They want to know how much I charge to speak for an hour!”

That was part of a conversation with my business coach. When you toss your hat into the ring to be a speaker — a paid speaker —you must have a ready answer for this question.

Throughout this blog post, you’ll learn about some of the MAJOR mistakes I’ve made over the years that held me back as a paid speaker. My hope is that you’ll learn from my mistakes and excel in your own speaking business. My speaking career would be farther along if I had acted on tips I heard from other speakers. There are different ways to reach your goal, but my intention here is to get you to at least out of the starting blocks!

Here we go! Not sure if kids still say this, but . . . Let me ‘drop some knowledge’ to help you be the paid speaker you want to be.

Tip 1 – where the experts gather

Attend your local chapter of the National Speakers Association (NSA). Here’s where my first mistake occurred. Walking into the ballroom at the hotel where the Colorado Chapter was meeting, I ran into Mike, a professional speaker, and after a brief chat, we set up a day to meet to talk about what I wanted to do with my so-called speaking career. Here is the BIGGEST blunder I made. Yes, we did meet. We talked. But, that’s it. — First lesson… GET A COACH!!  Mike told me his coaching fee and all I thought about was what was lacking in my life at that time – MONEY. Find a way to get the money you need to get a coach.

Tip 2 – know your marketing strengths

A coach will help you figure out your USP your Unique Selling Proposition — the reason you’re different and more unique than your competition. Along those lines, you’ll also be thinking about your Target Market (not target audience, but market). Who’s going to pay you to speak? Yes, it’s good to know who you’d like to speak to, but it’s much more important to know who’s going to PAY you to speak. So, even before you start working with a coach, think about…

  • What makes you different from your competition?
  • Who is going to pay you?
  • Who is your audience?
Tip 3 – a modern short-cut

Back in the ‘old days,’ speakers actually had to take transportation to attend a professional development workshop. (I know! Insane, right? LOL) Nowadays, there’s an online class you will absolutely WANT to take to help you on your journey. It’s called “How to Build a Successful Speaking Career,” and it was created by Joe Sabah, co-founder of NSA/Colorado. Joe knows a thing or two (and more!) about speaking, and his class will help you get started as a pro speaker.

In the course, you’ll learn the basics of getting yourself booked to speak. It’s not about building a business — it’s simply about how to get your calendar full of speaking engagements. At first, you’ll very likely be speaking for free or little money, but the more you do it, the more your speaking skills will improve and the better your chances will be of getting paid speaking gigs.

Tip 4 – keep swinging

The game of baseball is a good way to understand success expectations. When a ball player comes to bat, they’re not always going to hit a home run. Reality is, you (the professional speaker) shouldn’t be afraid to ‘strike out’ or stumble. Professional speaking, just like a baseball game, isn’t always going to be perfect.

During my first paid gig, I had technical issues with the mic and the slideshow ‘clicker.’ It was extremely frustrating and disheartening. (The head waiter felt so bad for me that he gave me two pieces of tiramisu cake!) Lesson… don’t let the imperfect realities bring you down. Learn from those opportunities and do better next time.

Do you want to be a successful speaker? I know, it’s a dumb question. But it’s important to really want it. You will be on the right path if you understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint. If you follow these ‘getting-started’ tips, it will move you closer to the day you’ll ask your coach, “How much should I charge?”

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There are many four-word phrases that I hate hearing — “The car sounds funny.” “Your flight’s been delayed.” “Are you sitting down?” “The IRS just called.”

When it comes to public speaking, the most dangerous four-word phrase is “I can wing it.” Ugh! I’ve seen this attempted by both novice and experienced speakers, usually with the same crash and burn result.  A common concern is that more rehearsal leads to the speaker sounding “phony” or “over-rehearsed.”  Ironically, the best presentations I’ve observed were the ones where the speaker rehearsed the most.  Why?  Because more rehearsal = LESS focus on YOURSELF = MORE focus on your AUDIENCE.  You want to create an emotional connection with your audience, and that’s hard to do if your main focus is on you and not on them.

If I’ve sold you on the importance of rehearsal, how can we make it as effective as possible?  I’ve found the following tips to be helpful:

  • Rehearse out loud — not in your head.
    Yes, I know this is an obvious one, but I’m amazed at how many speakers just rehearse in their head.  The problem with this is that we write much differently than we speak.  If we write out our speech and we just read it internally, we don’t discover the tongue-twisters and awkward phrases that exist when we actually say it out loud.  You’re going to give the speech out loud—rehearse it out loud.
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  • All the way and all out.
    A mistake I used to do during rehearsal is to stop each time I messed up and start over at the beginning.  The only part of my presentation that got better was the beginning because I seldom got to the end.  Don’t repeat my mistake!  In real life you seldom have an option of saying, “Oops—messed up—let’s go back to the beginning.”  Rehearsing from start to finish, even if you stumble along the way, will give you confidence that you can work your way through any stumbles in an actual speech or presentation.  It’s a good skill to develop. The “all out” part of this tip is exactly as the name implies—rehearse with the same energy, voice, gestures, and visual aids or props that you want to do/use in the actual presentation.  Make that rehearsal as “real” as possible.
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  • “Record your speech and it will teach.”
    If you use a digital recorder during rehearsal you can hear if you are rushing or using too many filler words.  If you video record your rehearsal, you can not only hear how you sound but you can also detect any odd physical mannerisms or gestures that might be distracting for the audience.  An added bonus of recording your speech is time management—it enables you to confirm that you are staying within your designated time slot, which everyone appreciates.

In summary, remember that rehearsal is your friend. “Winging it” is for the birds!

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