Since I’ve started the ground work to building my own inspirational lifestyle brand, I’ve learned how to market myself more by attending networking events, reaching out to like minded individuals and brands via social media to connect and get advice. In putting myself out there I’ve had opportunities to speak in front of schools, community organizations, churches and other youth groups. I find the hardest thing for me in terms of preparation is getting over the pre-engagement jitters. I’ve found it difficult to figure out what I’m going to say to these impressionable minds. Sometimes when I’m asked to speak, there is a theme like a career day, or relationship workshop or some guideline to help me figure it out, but then there are cases where I’m just told to show up and inspire the masses and I’m left thinking…and excuse my french, but “what the hell am I supposed to say?!” Here are some tips:
Know Your Audience.
As said there are times where you might not know what the theme of the event is or you might not have been given a guideline, but you should still at least identify your audience. Is this speaking engagement at a school? If so, is it an elementary, middle or high school? What’s the age range? Is there a specific gender? Where is the event being held? By researching the event, you should be able to better prepare for it.
Less Slides….More Stories.
Creating Powerpoint presentations and having visuals are certainly helpful. They are great ways to keep yourself on track with talking points, they help you stay on topic and they give your audience something that appeals to a very important sense. However, when using Powerpoints you want to spend less time reading them or else your speaking time turns into a lecture. Share stories and give lots of examples.
For example, I was invited to speak at a career day in Brooklyn and I talked about my work as a writer and freelance journalist. Rather than lecturing them and reading the powerpoint I had prepared verbatim, I simply used them as talking points. I shared specific events and stories from my adventures as a writer to keep them interested and to generate questions in their heads. I tweaked my presentation to focus on what journalism and news would be like for their generation.
Don’t just talk at people. Talk to them and allow space for healthy dialogue. As I was talking about what a typical day looks like at a newsroom, I asked audience members to give me an example of news that they had seen that day. I explained the pitch process and editorial teams, and research strategies. The important thing is I allowed them to be apart of my presentation.
As I said, allow your audience to be apart of your presentation. Have activities for them throughout your presentation. I did a “Day in the Life” where I had the students break up into editorial teams according to usual editorial verticals such as fashion/beauty, sports, entertainment, news, etc. They each had to come up with one story idea that they thought was a trending topic for their age group. Then they had to create a pitch and roleplay as if I was their editor and sell me their idea. They had fun and really got to see what it’s like to work in editorial.
Don’t Be So Serious.
Have fun with it. Even if you’re talking to a room full of adults don’t bore them to death. If you rehearse your presentation and you feel bored, then most likely your audience will too. Be your own worst critic at home, but have fun with your audience.
Speaking engagements always lead to more speaking engagements. There’s someone in the audience who’s going to want you to come to their event and so forth. So have fun, be relatable and know your audience.