You may think that as a freelance web designer you don’t need to worry about public speaking. What you don’t know is that there are plenty of speaking opportunities for web designers. Here are just a few of them:
- Professional organizations
- Client presentations
With all of these opportunities, public speaking is great addition to your marketing arsenal. It’s also a good way to establish yourself as an expert in your field.
The fact is that giving a talk in public is good for business. Yet many web designers have no idea how to make a presentation.
In this post, I’ll take you through the public speaking process and give you tips to get you through each step–a total of 16 tips in all.
What you do before your speech is almost as important as the speech itself. Preparation is 90% of the effort. If you’re not prepared, your audience will be able to tell.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for your speech:
- Know your topic. Choose a topic that you are already familiar with, but don’t stop there. Spend some time catching up on the latest changes and trends for your subject matter. If you will be demonstrating a software tool, spend some time with the software.
- Organize your speech. Don’t try to speak off the top of your head. Even if you are very comfortable with the topic, you need to organize your thoughts. It’s too easy to ramble or lose your place if you don’t. An outline of your main points is a good way to get organized.
- Prepare visuals. Presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint or SlideShare can help you add visuals to your presentation. A benefit of using visuals is that it takes the focus away from you. You can also use the presentation software to create handouts for your audience.
- Practice. It’s a good idea to run through your talk several times before you present it. If you can do it in front of a friend or family member, that’s great. If not, try giving your speech in front of a mirror. Be sure to time yourself to make sure that your presentation is not too long or too short.
- Dress appropriately. You want to convey a professional appearance, but not appear overdressed. If you are a member of the organization where you will make the presentation, you may already have an idea of the right things to wear. Otherwise, ask.
Once you’ve prepared your speech, you’re ready to give it. The first step in giving a speech is the opening.
Breaking the Ice
Don’t worry if you’re a little nervous. That’s normal. Traditional advice says to picture your audience in their underwear to overcome stage fright, but that doesn’t always work. A better tactic is to pick two or three spots (such as pictures) on the back wall, directly behind the last row, and give your talk to those spots. The audience won’t really know that you aren’t looking at them.
The first thing you need to do when giving a speech is engage the audience. Here are three tips to help you break the ice:
- Humor. Telling a joke is the traditional method of warming an audience up. This works great if you’re good at telling jokes (keep it clean, of course), but not everyone can tell a joke effectively.
- Location. Another method of warming an audience up is to comment on the location. For example, if you’ve travelled away from your hometown to give the presentation, comment on how much you like a local attraction.
- Weather. If you’re totally at a loss on how to open your presentation, you can always make a few comments on the weather. Nearly everyone in your audience will be able to relate to your reaction to rain, heat, or cold.
Once you’ve got your audience’s attention, it’s time to move on to the main portion of your talk.
The Body of Your Speech
As you move into your main topic, remember the following:
- Stay calm. Sometimes the transition between your opening and your main topic can be difficult. Remember to stay calm. Breath slowly and regularly. Don’t speak too quickly.
- Use notes. You don’t want to read your speech verbatim, but you also don’t want to forget what you were going to say. I recommend using an outline of your main topics.
- Not too long. Make sure that your speech is not too long. If there’s not a clock on the back wall, ask someone to silently signal you when you have five minutes left.
- Break it up. If you’ve been assigned a fairly long time slot, break it up with visual aids and handouts. If you can think of ways for the audience to participate, that’s good too.
Once you’ve completed the main portion of your speech, you are ready to wrap it up.
The closing can be one of the most important parts of your talk. Sometimes it is the main thing that your audience remembers about your presentation after they leave, so it is important to plan it carefully.
Here are four elements to include in your closing:
- Summary. Your summary is simple. Just list the main points that you just made in your presentation.
- Call to action. If you would like the audience to do something (such as buy your product), ask them to do it.
- Questions and answers. Set a limited amount of time aside at the end of your speech to answer any questions that the audience may have.
- Thanks. Last, but not least, thank your host for inviting you to give your talk. Thank the audience for spending the time to listen to you.
Public speaking is truly a skill that improves with practice. The more often you speak in public, the better at it you will be. With practice, you will also become more comfortable preparing and giving presentations.
There are several ways to gain experience as a public speaker. Here are two of them:
- Toastmasters International. This is an international organization dedicated to improving the public speaking skills of its members. Once you join, you will be given opportunities to speak in public and also receive constructive feedback.
- Community College. You can also take a public speaking course at a local college. You will be assigned an instructor who will teach you the basics of public speaking and who will grade your presentations.
Have you added public speaking to your skillset? If so, how has your freelance business benefited? Share your thoughts in the comments.