- Public speaking about your company is good for business.
- Fear of public speaking is common and a big deterrent.
- There are ways to make the public speaking experience tolerable, if not enjoyable.
You’ve been asked to speak at an industry event where potential customers will be plentiful. While you should be excited about the marketing opportunity, the thought has you shaking in your work boots.
You’re certainly not alone. Fear of speaking in public is a common anxiety, and it manifests in symptoms ranging from mild nervousness to paralyzing panic.
If you think the answer is to avoid public speaking, you might have to consider switching careers. Having to speak in public is inevitable for a contractor, says Christopher Haas, founder of Haas & Sons Electric.
“As an electrical contractor, I find myself having to speak in one capacity or another quite often,” Haas says. “I really don’t see how you could not speak in our vertical, as so much of the trades involve hyper-specific situations that aren’t able to be addressed in an email or other mediums.”
Joseph DeLorme agrees. He is owner of Jolly Plumbing & Heating, Inc., and finds that he is constantly making presentations regarding his business.
“Public speaking is an important skill set for a tradesperson, because you’re constantly selling your product or service to customers, as well as the faith and good intentions your character presents to them,” DeLorme says. “Many people approach a decision with their brain, but ultimately decide with their gut. That’s why speaking confidently and informatively can have huge advantages.”
‘Public speaking is an important skill set for a tradesperson, because you’re constantly selling your product or service to customers.’ -Joseph DeLorme, Jolly Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
In order to have success with public speaking, Haas and DeLorme suggest taking the following steps.
Choose a topic you know well
When you begin speaking in public, it’s a good idea to tackle topics that you know inside and out. Feeling comfortable about what you’re saying will help relieve your nervousness and make it more likely that your presentation will come across as authoritative and conversational.
Prepare and practice
Create a general outline of your presentation that hits the key points, DeLorme suggests. “It’s my opinion that scripting any speech in its entirety is a bad move,” he says. “Having bullet points of key topics you don’t want to forget is perfectly fine, but stop there. Reading from a page at length looks bad and will muffle your projection to the audience.”
Practicing your presentation may not make perfect, but being prepared does dial down the anxiety level considerably. The more you practice, the better you’ll sound in front of an audience.
Keep it simple
“While you’re an expert in your field, understand most people aren’t,” DeLorme says. “Be conversational and give the audience the layman’s approach to whatever you’re discussing for easier digestion and comprehension.”
When possible, offer examples that the audience can relate to that illustrate the various points you’re addressing. Also, use this opportunity to focus on the company’s success. This is a marketing opportunity, so take advantage of it—within reason.
“It’s all about conversation,” Haas adds. “If people wanted to learn the proper jargon and scientific approach to a problem, they would read a book or enroll in a class. They want insight and tips. Your job is to deliver the material in a concise and digestible manner. They want to be entertained and enjoy learning something in a fun manner.”
Focus on the material
When you’re speaking, homing in on the material and not the audience will help you remain calm. Rather than thinking about how there are a lot of people in the audience, keep focused on the material that you’re sharing. Remind yourself that people came to hear what you have to share. This will help keep your nerves in check.
Hold a question and answer session
If time permits, it’s especially helpful for the crowd (and also a good marketing tactic) to answer specific questions at the end of your talk.
“I really enjoy the questions after my speech,” Haas says. “Things become unscripted, and I can really dive into a specific problem. What’s fun about the Q&A session is people will bring you real world problems and ask for your practical advice. This is your chance to shine off the cuff.”
Feel free to warn the audience that you may not have answers to everything. And if something temporarily stumps you, you can always invite that audience member to chat off to the side afterward, which can buy you time to formulate a better answer.