Tips for entrepreneurs to improve their public speaking skills
Public speaking is well known for striking fear into the hearts of even the most experienced professionals, but for entrepreneurs looking to introduce their business and attract new audiences it really is a vital skill. Not only does speaking well allow entrepreneurs to connect with interested parties, it’s also hugely important when it comes to building relationships and preparing a business for growth.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic taking most events online, entrepreneurs are having to brush up on their speaking skills and embrace brand new digital formats. And this presents a whole host of new opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to improve their abilities, while simultaneously ramping up awareness of their business.
If you’re planning to speak at a virtual event over the coming weeks and months, or you’re hoping to brush up on your skills in order to land that all important speaking gig, take a look at our top tips from some of the world’s most talented speakers.
Look at the camera
This might seem like a simple tip, but it’s forgotten far too often! If you’re delivering a presentation via video link, you’ve got to look directly into the camera. Failing to do so can quickly leave audiences feeling disengaged, as they can’t easily connect with what you’re saying.
Focus on building engagement with your audience – even if you can’t actually see them. Look directly into the camera as you speak, and try to minimise on-screen distractions such as your own camera footage, or video feeds from participants. Try to remain still and focussed as you speak, making sure you don’t move around too much.
Position your camera correctly
If you struggle to maintain your eye contact with the camera, it might just be a case of incorrect positioning. Check that your camera is naturally aligned with your eye level, and that you can comfortably focus on the camera for a prolonged period as you speak.
If your camera is placed in the correct position, and it’s at the right height, you’ll find it far easier to maintain that all-important eye contact, keeping your audience engaged throughout the presentation.
Don’t rely on notes
Notes are often used during presentations, and there’s no shame in having a few points jotted down to keep you on track as you present. However, when presentations are delivered virtually the importance of maintaining engagement is heightened, and anything that can lose an audience’s attention must be minimised.
Notes are a major culprit here, because the moment a speaker looks down at their notes they break their line of vision with the camera, and audiences can start to feel disconnected. Of course notes won’t have a huge impact on your presentation if you only glance at them a handful of times. But if you have to look down at your notes for every point you make, it could detract from what you’re saying.
Ask audiences to keep sound on
Starting a presentation by asking everyone to turn on their sound might sound counterintuitive when it comes to improving concentration, but it can be surprisingly effective.
By asking everyone to keep sound on, you’ll create the impression of all participants being together in the same room. This means that participants will feel more engaged with what’s being said, and they’re less likely to lose focus as you speak.
It’s a camera, not an auditorium
Experienced entrepreneurs have usually spoken to full auditoriums on numerous occasions, but delivering a presentation virtually is a little different. Virtual presentations require a focussed approach, similar to that of a 1:1 discussion or a small group seminar.
Remember, even though you may have hundreds of audience members watching, every one of them is watching alone, most likely from their home or office. This means that your interactions will be perceived in a more direct way, and you should adjust your style accordingly.
Practise makes perfect
There’s no substitute for good old fashioned practise. Public speaking is a skill that’s impossible to fake, and that’s why the world’s best talented speakers are the ones that have many hours of experience up their sleeves.
If you’ve never delivered a speech to the camera before, it’s just a case of practising it over and over again, until it feels natural. Start by recording your presentation and watching it back to pinpoint any potential areas of improvement. Ask friends or family to log in and watch a trial version, and keep rehearsing until you feel confident.
If you need guidance, contact a professional presentation coach for advice on how best to perfect your speaking skills.
Consider your background
Nothing distracts an audience quite like a busy background, but overly minimal backgrounds can also feel a little uninspiring. Consider your background when setting up your presentation space, and try to match your background to the context of your virtual presentation.
If you’re planning an informal, relaxed presentation you might want to show some of your home to put the audience at ease and encourage them to get involved. If you’re speaking about a more serious topic, then a blank background is sometimes more appropriate.
Avoid technical glitches
A technical glitch can stop even the most prepared speaker in their tracks. And while matters like these are often out of the speaker’s hands, there are a few things that you can do to avoid an embarrassing technical hiccough.
Test all of your equipment well in advance of your presentation, and do a few trial runs to iron out any problem areas before the big day. Check that your internet connection is as good as it possibly can be, and make sure audiences can see and hear you before you start to speak.
Make the most of technology
There are so many exciting new apps and platforms designed to improve the possibilities of virtual presentations, and many of these could help you to deliver the perfect performance. Consider using visual effects and editing tools to create a more dynamic experience for your audience, integrating different elements to break up the presentation.
Special effects and interactive elements can keep audience members hanging on your every word, but we must issue a word of warning here. Only use effects if you’re completely comfortable doing so. If you feel that these additions would draw attention away from what you’re saying, it may be best to stick with tradition and just rely on your speaking skills.
Public speaking is an art form, and so too is speaking to virtual audiences. Perfect your speaking skills for virtual formats, and you’ll soon be delivering powerful and engaging online presentations that have the same powerful impact that you’d expect from more traditional, in-person presentations