Tips to Develop Your Public Speaking Ability

[caption id="attachment_7243" align="alignright" width="168" caption="Conversation by Rishi Menon, Creative Commons"]Conversation[/caption]

Fellow business owners and I met a few weeks ago to celebrate 2010. And social media came up – Twitter, Facebook, Posterous and other platforms. We kept reveling in how easy it is to ‘just be human’ when conversing online and agreed it helps build trust with customers.

Then someone said, “I wish I was more myself when speaking in public onstage as I am when on the Web.” This resonated with many of us and we all paused to let his comment sink in.

Then the challenge to ourselves became: how can we better assert our development as public speakers? Some ideas:

1. Observe your voice in relaxed environments when an audience doesn’t exist. Social media tools used in certain ways can be great for this. Consider creating unpublished content to improve speaking skill. Use a smart phone’s audio or video device and regularly record two or three minutes of just talking to yourself (or to a willing peer). Then often review these recordings. If you want to make these informal casts public and online (like on Posterous) great! But going online isn’t the end game with these informal casts. It’s to help you recognize (and emulate) your voice when it’s relaxed and fearless.

2. Seek accountability partners and chances to speak in public. Whether it’s through Ignite events, Toastmasters, or a small group of your trusted colleagues - commit to giving public speeches on a regular basis and receiving critique (this is separate from demos or client pitches, etc).

3. Include public speaking in your marketing strategy and developmental goals. I suggest committing to quantity here i.e., “Present five speeches in Q1.” Designate early in the year the conferences and meetups you/your team would like to present at to help pre-plan topic proposals. Here's a diverse and per-month conference list from Susan Mernit that includes a collection of conferences dedicated to women in business - including the Women's Leadership Forum, Blogher, NAWBO Women's Business Conference plus those in entrepreneurship, social technology and her interests in social cause marketing. Warning! It's 80+ conferences that haven't been updated yet on this post to 2010. BUT all citations link directly to conference sites that will have respective event updates as they are published (with great upcoming events announced at SCORE regularly too).

How we present ourselves in conversation–online and off–is critical. The level of authenticity and skill we bring to both environments hugely influences how others respond to us (and the brand we represent).

It’s fascinating and I can’t wait to talk more about it through February with SCORE's blog readers! How about you? What has helped develop your public speaking ability?

Jill Foster, SCORE Guest Blogger
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