Conquering Your Fear of Public Speaking

Do you have a speech on the horizon? Do you feel prepared? Are you anxious?

It’s normal to be slightly anxious and nervous prior to a speech. It happens to everyone although it comes out in different ways. Some boast of how terrific they are, others ask other presenters if they are nervous, some go buzzing about, others sit quietly and everyone has their heart racing and rate of breathing increase. Anxiety around speaking is a normal human reaction and everyone – I mean everyone – experiences it, some have just mastered how not to show it.

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was by a director when I studied acting in my early days of college. He said to me “everyone gets nervous and anxious before a public performance, your job is to accept that as a normal human reaction and use that nervous energy to improve your performance.”

Here are some tips on preparing for speeches and dealing with the anxiety that comes along with it:

Watch the pros. Before a speech, I often go straight to YouTube and watch several public personalities deliver speeches over the life cycle of their days in the public spotlight. You can learn a lot from their evolution – from speed, intonation patterns, emphasis points to speaking aids.

Practice to build your confidence. But not so much that you are emotionally divorced from your words while actually delivering the speech to your audience. We’ve all seen that happen. The person is there in body but their personality has left the room. Breathe, take a pause, and remember that your goal is to inspire, educate and motivate. Smile, make eye contact, release your hold on the speech and remember why you are there.

Connect with your audience. Interact with them by involving them in your speech. Mention several audience members by name, ask questions, or poll the audience through a show of hands. Constantly take the pulse of the room so you can react to the audience by changing your speech and your approach.

Know when to stop talking. Have you ever been in the audience when a presenter fell in love with the beauty of their own words right before your eyes and forgot you where there? Or perhaps it was a meeting. Painful, wasn’t it? Don’t be that person. Watch body language clues for audience reaction and respond appropriately.

Seek feedback either through videotaping your speeches or by surveying your audience afterwards. Incorporate what you learn into your next speech and remember that the more speeches you give, the better you will become.

Using Thought Leadership to Transform Your Brand

Is your brand recognized as a thought leader in its industry?

In today’s social age, potential clients are making business choices based on the quality and visibility of your brand’s thought leadership before they engage with you. Thought leadership is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but a necessity.

By sharing insights and ideas – online and offline – that are relevant to your current and potential markets, thought leadership can differentiate your brand from the competition.

Here are six steps towards building a successful thought leadership strategy:

Revisit your brand strategy. You will need to know the core offerings of your brand and how that will evolve in the future. Review your strategy with leadership and have a conversation about the future.

Identify the experts. Review the expertise and background of your c-level executives. Align their expertise with your core offerings now and in the future to begin to determine how their knowledge can be maximized to make your brand more credible and marketable. Keep in mind your most valuable thought leader might be the most unassuming person in the room who never ‘toots their own horn’.

Examine the playing field. Research the channels and opportunities available within your brand’s current and future target markets. Understand themes and content trends over time. Which are more successful than others? Which brands are well positioned and why?

Determine your timeline. How long will it realistically take for you to implement your thought leadership strategy? Your experts may need training first so you will need to allow additional time and you may need to socialize the importance of thought leadership throughout your company.

Develop your thought leadership strategy. Create strategic goals, a content plan and pipeline that align each expert with a particular market segment. Identify what mix of channels will not only be most effective but where the experts will be most comfortable. Ideally, it is a mix of both online (platforms and channels) and offline (speaking events and webinars). Determine how you will measure results and how often.

Take content risks. Clients and potential clients will want to know how your brand envisions the future. Your experts should be comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone to discuss what will be happening in the future within their market areas – whether right or wrong.

Remember to include your experts and leadership in the development of the strategy and to keep your content within your brand’s service areas now and in the future. This will enable you to establish your company’s commitment to thought leadership and to maintain content alignment with your brand strategy in the long-term.