Advertising
Advertising

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

Other than “practice makes perfect,” what’s one tip you have for fellow entrepreneurs about to speak in front of a big crowd?

1. Put Purpose at the Forefront

Brett Farmiloe

    Start with why you’re there (i.e., what’s the purpose of your talk?). End with your purpose, and use everything in between the bookends of your talk to support your purpose. When purpose is at the forefront of a talk, the audience acts.

    Brett Farmiloe, Internet Marketing Agency

    2. Understand Your Audience

    Dan Price

      Understand your audience: who they are, what they care about, what they want to hear and where they’re coming from. Don’t think about what you want to share. Instead, focus on how they are looking to grow and what experience you can share that will help them get what they want out of it.

      Dan Price, Gravity Payments

      Advertising

      3. Tell Stories

      allie siarto

        Stories will always connect with an audience on a much deeper level than facts. Even if you’re presenting on something technical or instructional, try to weave personal stories into your entire speech to relate back to the audience and keep them engaged.

        Allie Siarto, Loudpixel

        4. Know Yourself

        Suzanne Smith

          Figure out what drives you best during these speeches. For me, it is the energy of the audience, so I spend the first 10 minutes talking to people and introducing myself to develop an instant rapport once I start speaking. I use their names and talk to their interests, which always helps me tailor the message and maintain their interest.

          Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

          5. Embrace the Nerves

          Advertising

          James Simpson

            Always keep in mind that even the most accomplished speakers get nervous leading up to public speaking. It is completely natural. The nerves are actually a good thing and can be used to your advantage if channeled correctly. Those nerves get adrenaline pumping through your veins similar to what a professional athlete might experience. Use this to your advantage to deliver a knockout speech.

            James Simpson, GoldFire Studios

            6. Know Your Content

            Patrick Conley

              There’s a big difference between relying on a slide deck for the content of your talk and just keeping to a rough outline. If you know your content so well that you can have a no-stress casual conversation off-stage about it all day long, you’ll be much more comfortable on stage. Giving a speech where you need to constantly read off cheat cards is a recipe for disaster.

              Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

              7. Use a Personal Mantra

              Matt ehrlichman

                “Smile, breathe, and go slowly.” That’s what I repeat to myself every time I’m about to speak in front of a large crowd. No matter how many times I do it, big crowds still get my adrenaline pumping, and sometimes I speak too quickly as a result. Having a mantra helps ground me and remind me to chill out and be myself. I find this works great for job interviews and investor pitches as well.

                Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

                Advertising

                8. Be Human

                Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer

                  Approach the crowd like you’re having a conversation with a friend. Assume everyone there likes you, wants to hear what you have to say and wants to grab a beer with you afterwards. Talk like a human, act like a human, and own it.

                  Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer, AirPR

                  9. Breathe

                  Derek Flanzraich

                    Nothing can be more powerful than acknowledging, embracing and taking charge of your breath before speaking in front of a large audience. Breathe in to the big moments, and breathe out to pause between them.

                    Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

                    10. Speak From the Heart

                    Advertising

                    Andy Karuza

                      The only thing worse than not being prepared is preparing too much. If you’re going to speak in front of an audience, it should come naturally. It should be prepared in advance, but not recited. If you plan your speech verbatim, you run the risk of losing the beat and getting lost when you stumble. However, if you focus on fewer high-level points, you can speak intuitively around those.

                      Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

                      11. Believe You’re the Expert

                      Logan Lenz

                        I often perform best when I convince myself that everyone in the room wants to hear what I have to say. If you are positioned as an expert and attendees are in need of your knowledge, speaking confidently will come much more easily. Besides, speaking with confidence will ensure that the audience trusts that you know your stuff.

                        Logan Lenz, Endagon

                        12. Work on the Climax

                        Derek Capo

                          When you speak, it is important to construct the speech like a movie. Your audience needs to be able to be attentive from the very beginning. If not, you will lose them for the rest of the speech. Once you have your hook, you need to lead them to the climax of the story or what you are tying communicate. Make the people feel that they were part of the story and get emotionally tied to it.

                          Derek Capo, Next Step China

                          More by this author

                          9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

                          Trending in Communication

                          1 7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers 2 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 3 11 Tips for Maintaining a Positive Attitude Every Day 4 What Is the Meaning of Life? A Guide to Living With Meaning 5 How to Stop Being a Perfectionist (Step-by-Step Guide)

                          Read Next

                          Advertising
                          Advertising
                          Advertising

                          Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                          8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                          How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

                          Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

                          When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

                          Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

                          What Makes People Poor Listeners?

                          Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

                          1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

                          Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

                          Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

                          It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

                          2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

                          This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

                          Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

                          3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

                          It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

                          Advertising

                          I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

                          If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

                          4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

                          While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

                          To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

                          My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

                          Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

                          Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

                          How To Be a Better Listener

                          For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

                          1. Pay Attention

                          A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

                          According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

                          As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

                          Advertising

                          I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

                          2. Use Positive Body Language

                          You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

                          A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

                          People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

                          But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

                          According to Alan Gurney,[2]

                          “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

                          Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

                          3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

                          I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

                          Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

                          Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

                          Advertising

                          Be polite and wait your turn!

                          4. Ask Questions

                          Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

                          5. Just Listen

                          This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

                          I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

                          I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

                          6. Remember and Follow Up

                          Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

                          For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

                          According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

                          It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

                          7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

                          If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

                          Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

                          Advertising

                          Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

                          Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

                          NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

                          1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
                          2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

                          8. Maintain Eye Contact

                          When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

                          Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

                          By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

                          Final Thoughts

                          Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

                          You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

                          And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

                          More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

                          Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
                          [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
                          [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
                          [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

                          Read Next