publicspeakingLet me make this plain and simple:  If you can’t command an audience verbally, you’re not going to have much success with whatever it is you are trying to promote.  You can hide behind your computer and tweet all you want about your upcoming specials.  Twitter may generate revenue for you but when it’s time to put a voice behind your tweets, will you be able to effectively rise to the occasion?  It doesn’t matter how awesome your new book is or how well written that press release may be, when the camera, microphone or a paid speaking gig comes along, you’d better be ready.

Having a media and public speaking presence is just as important—no, actually it’s MORE important than the promotion behind you. Now before you start thinking, “I can have someone speak on my behalf,”  let me squash that by saying no one can promote you better than you—no matter how much money you pay them.  Public Relations people are hired to make you shine but you have to put on the polish.

Having a favorable public speaking presence says you can “talk your walk.”  Since I’ve been doing professional public speaking for a quite a few decades now, it does come easy and naturally to me but I know that’s not the case for everyone.  According to an article in Psychology Today, public speaking is the number one fear.  So how do you overcome it so you can shine when the big publicity opportunity comes knocking?  Here are some of my public speaking tips:

Practice:  Before you do a radio or TV interview, see if you can get the questions in advance and then get someone to practice with you.  The more you practice answering questions, the more comfortable you will eventually feel.  If you’re going to be speaking before an audience, try gathering a group of your friends together to listen to you or volunteer to speak at an upcoming event prior to your actual presentation.

Talk above your audience’s head:  If you are speaking publicly for the first time before an audience, try looking just above the tops of their heads.  They won’t know the difference.  Just don’t keep looking up at the ceiling or staring at one section the entire time.

Find the Nodders:  If you feel comfortable looking at your audience, look for the smiling faces and the people who are nodding their heads in agreement with your speech.  Use good eye contact with them and they will make you feel much at ease with your delivery.

Speaking of delivery, concentrate on your tone of voice:  Nothing is more boring than a monotone voice that has no inflection.  There are actual vocal exercises you can do to not only work on your tone, but also your pronunciation.

Engage your audience:  If you can, find a way to have a talk back with the audience during your speech.  If you’re an author, find out how many have already read your book and get a couple of comments.  If you’re relatively unknown, find out who their favorite authors are and get them to tell you what they like about their writing.  When you engage your audience in the beginning, you can break the ice and command their attention right away.

Know when to stop talking:  If you see more than a couple of people closing their eyes for longer than five seconds, that is your cue to wrap it up.  It doesn’t matter how much more you’ve written down.  You may want to close with a funny story or joke so you can leave those still awake with something to smile about.  Thank your audience and sit down.