Four tricks of public speaking for business leaders

Managing a successful business can have you invited to speak at different panels or events. This can offer a great opportunity to raise awareness about your brand and the work you do.

Personally, by accepting invitations to share my story at these events, I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting people and work on exciting projects. It has also helped me conquer my fear of public speaking.

Many, like me, suffer from a phobia of speaking in public. No matter how many times I have been on stage, I still feel those nerves beforehand. And I know I am not alone.

Over the years, I have encountered numerous successful people who refused to speak in public to share their story. They are the kind of people you would never consider to be scared to address an audience. Some research indicates that some people fear public speaking more than they fear death.

So here are few tips that helped me beat my phobia:

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

While you may be the expert in your field, writing down the key points you want to say and revising your speech beforehand is extremely helpful. What is your key message? What important advice would be beneficial for those in the audience?

Ask the event organiser for some help on this: information on who the attendees are and what they expect from you would be useful. This will aid you in your preparation. Then before the event, rehearse in front of a mirror and monitor your gestures and eye contact.

It’s also wise to practise in front of family and friends and take on board their feedback. Finally, write down they key points on index cards and take them with you on the day to help keep you on track if you get nervous.

Dress comfortably

Dark colours work best, as they hide sweat patches and also maintain a professional appearance. Men should opt for a dark suit and ensure the length of their trousers are not too short, particularly if they are sitting on a panel facing the audience.

Avoid polka dot or striped shirts as they can be distracting. If you are a woman, make sure your shoes are comfortable for standing and walking around the stage. The last thing you want is to trip on stage.

Visit the venue and do a sound check

Ask the organiser to let you check out the venue before the event. That way, you will know where you will be standing or sitting, and will be able to test out the microphone. Ask for a hands-free microphone. If that’s not available, ask the organiser to show you how the handheld microphone works and the best way to hold it.

From my experience, it’s best to hold it away from your mouth to stop it from catching the sound of your breathing; instead hold it close to the middle of your chest and avoid moving it around with your hand gestures.

Breathe and greet the audience

You may be extremely nervous, especially if it is your first time, but remember this is a perfectly normal feeling. Take a deep breath, smile and greet the audience. Then take your time to get out your cards and settle your thoughts. This should not take more than a few seconds and will help to settle your nerves.

If you feel your nerves mounting or you are speaking too fast, remember to slow down and breathe to give the audience enough time to digest your speech. Before you finish your delivery, ask if anyone has any questions.

If you have a visual aid behind you, such as a projector screen, then highlight your contact details such as your website and social media handles, as some audience members might be live tweeting the event. If a visual aid is not an option, then just share your details verbally.

With public speaking, practice makes one perfect. So take a deep breath and keep in mind the opportunities these events can present your business.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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