It's not all about eye contact or presence. The reality is that public speaking is like an expensive watch: There’s an almost incalculable amount of highly intricate machinery working behind the scenes to keep it running smoothly. The speaking—like telling time—looks effortless, but it takes many highly coordinated pieces to function.
The presentation itself is only a tiny portion of what goes into an event. It doesn’t matter if it has 50 or 5,000 attendees, more is required of a speaker than just being charismatic on stage. It’s everything besides the talking that makes or breaks a speaker in the eyes of an event coordinator.
So what exactly does it take to not only be a good speaker but one who’s easy to work with?
Leadership coach and author Kristi Hedges has been speaking publicly for over a decade. She’s honed her craft and shared with PRNEWS what that experience has taught her about being a better speaker.
And for a better understanding of what life is like for those behind the scenes, Hope Reichard offered insight into how speakers can make her life easier. She has spent much of her career programming events for brands such as Digiday, Glossy and Modern Retail.
Here are their 10 tips for being the perfect public speaker—both for the audience experience, and for those who are working behind the scenes to make it happen.
Know the audience
Hedges: "That sounds obvious but a lot of speakers I find have a way they like to speak that works better for some audiences more than others. What I try to do is understand who is sitting in the seat. What do they care about? What are some of their concerns? What levels are in front of me? Is it a mixed group of levels in front of me or are they only senior people? I don’t just want to know who they are but i want to know what they care about."
Be part of the content process
Reichard: "Speakers having a bigger part in the content is key. I can pitch a billion session ideas but if that person isn’t working on what I’m suggesting at that time it’s not going to work. We want their input because that ultimately makes the event better for the audience but it also makes them more comfortable as speakers. I know we’re all busy and this is probably the last thing on their minds, but it’s still important to that actual event."
Know your lane as a speaker
Hedges: "My specialty is really leadership communications. So that’s my lane. So if I’m asked to talk to a group of 1000 people I want to make sure I'm in the lane of my real specialty. Speakers should make it easier for people to understand what your lane is. Maybe you have a clear speaker write up that talks about what your core topics are or you have videos.'
Listen to the organizers
Reichard: "Me and my team make sure there are one-sheeters for all the information on the audience, what exactly the session looks like and what the overall trends for the event are and who else is speaking. One of the key things for anyone who is getting on our stage or a stage, in general, is to actually read those documents. A lot of the time we put it together and shoot it out and we get a billion questions back and everything has already been answered. It’s just taking that time and actually look at the stuff we put together."
Hedges: "I never do the same talk twice. I think of it more as modules which allow me to flex with the group and add new content for any group that I'm in front of."
Ask questions (if you have them)
Reichard: "I’d rather have someone ask me a million questions than have someone say ‘Alright we’re cool, see ya then’ and have no communication."
Hedges: "I’ll always ask what's the most helpful for you during this program and then I'm able to incorporate that content so that I’m not repeating something or not talking about something that’s off-topic for people. All of that is just being in the moment and just trying to be helpful."
Reichard: "If I have to follow-up more than three times I get a little bit worried and I start thinking if I should put them on the agenda at all."
Keep your ego in check
Hedges: "You’re being brought in to create an experience for the audience and to help support the event and help support the organizers of the event. Be in the moment to pick up on what people need to hear or the experience that they want to have, you’ll come across as a better speaker and you're going to be the kind of speaker that people want to work with."