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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

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      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

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          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

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                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

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                    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

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                          Last Updated on April 11, 2019

                          How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                          How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                          Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

                          I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

                          I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

                          Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

                          How Communication Skills Help Your Success

                          Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

                          Create a Positive Experience

                          Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

                          When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

                          What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

                          Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

                          As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

                          Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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                          Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

                          Help Leadership Skills

                          It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

                          Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

                          As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

                          Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

                          If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

                          Build Better Teams

                          Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

                          In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

                          If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

                          When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

                          Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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                          How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

                          There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

                          Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

                          1. Listen

                          Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

                          Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

                          People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

                          Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

                          Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

                          2. Know Your Audience

                          Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

                          Here is a good way to think about it:

                          Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

                          You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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                          3. Minimize

                          I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

                          He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

                          Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

                          State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

                          The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

                          4. Over Communicate

                          So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

                          What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

                          Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

                          Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

                          Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

                          There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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                          5. Body Language

                          The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

                          When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

                          In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

                          When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

                          Conclusion

                          Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

                          Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

                          There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

                          Now go communicate your way to success.

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                          Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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