How to Rock Your First Speaking Engagement

By Thomas Griffin, co-founder and president of OptinMonster

When you land your first speaking engagement, it’s exciting. It’s a great opportunity to promote your brand and share your insights with other industry professionals.

Personally, I’ve been a speaker at numerous conferences and industry events. Although I’m comfortable with speaking engagements now, it wasn’t always that way.

Your first speaking engagement can be nerve-wracking. You don’t want to mess up or give a bad first impression to your peers and influential industry players.

Don’t worry, though — you can bring down the house at your next speaking engagement with just a few good tips. Here’s how to rock your fist speaking engagement.

Do your research.

Preparation is key to a successful first speaking engagement. Of course, you may need to spend time researching the topic you’re going to be speaking about and finding interesting industry stats to back up your claims.

But, aside from doing research for your presentation itself, you also need to do some research on the event you’re speaking at. Do some research on the following:

  • Conference location: Checking out the location of the conference and the event map will help you ease the stress of finding your way around on the big day. This will allow you to put the main focus on your speaking engagement. Also, try to get a look at the room you’ll be speaking in so that you’ll be comfortable with your surroundings.
  • Previous speakers: Find out who previously spoke at the event, and see if there are recordings of their presentations online. You can pick up some tips by watching those who have experience at the event.
  • Audience: Do some research on the audience that will be at the conference, including the size of the audience, demographics, key interests and level of knowledge. Knowing your audience will help you create a presentation that’s relevant and engaging for them.

Use visuals, but don’t overdo it.

A slideshow is important for your speaking engagement or presentation; visuals like images, quotes and charts will help your audience stay engaged. But, you don’t want your slides to be the star of the show. You want to be the star of the show. After all, people came to the event to hear you speak.

Many first-time speakers get too wrapped up in creating an overly complicated slideshow. Instead, think of your slideshow as markers in your presentation to help remind your audience of key points.

Also, remember to keep your slides simple and stick to one thought per slide. Create a simple slideshow that highlights what you’re actually going to say.

Be conversational, and interact with your audience.

As mentioned before, the audience is there to see you speak. But, that doesn’t mean you should deliver a stiff speech to the room instead of actually talking with your audience.

If you want to rock your first speaking engagement, you need to be conversational by sharing your personal experiences and using language that’s easy to understand.

Take the time to get to know your audience more by asking them questions throughout the presentation. Interacting with your audience will help them connect with you and make for a more enjoyable presentation.

Record yourself.

As you already know, practice makes perfect. Aside from just reading your speech out loud in the mirror or practicing your presentation in front of friends, record yourself.

When practicing in front of a mirror, you can’t focus on how your speech comes across to listeners, and your friends might sugarcoat their advice.

If you record your presentation, on the other hand, you can watch it back and find out if you’re speaking too fast or too slow, if you sound monotone or if your body language is off. By watching yourself back, you can fine-tune your presentation for the best results.

Boost your confidence.

Lastly, if you want to rock your first speaking engagement, you need to believe you’ll rock it. According to Psychology Today, when people are put in situations where they are expected to fail, their performance plummets. On the other hand, when they’re expected to win, their performance shoots back up.

So, be sure to build your confidence before your first speaking engagement by practicing positive self-talk and doing activities you’re great at, for instance.

When you’re prepared and you have confidence in yourself, you’re sure to rock your first speaking engagement. Plus, once you’ve completed your first awesome speaking engagement, you’ll get invited to speak at more events.

Thomas Griffin is co-founder and president of OptinMonster. He is an expert software architect with a deep knowledge of building products for the mass market.


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