People always want to know what it’s like on the speaking circuit.
It’s not that glamorous. In a given week you could be on 10 different flights, run (literally) through airports so as not to miss your connecting flight, get stopped by TSA for lipgloss in your purse, forget which rental car is yours, and have hotel room numbers written on your hand so you don’t accidentally go to last night’s room.
But when you get on stage, your adrenaline starts to pump, the butterflies flutter, and you turn on the charm. For the next hour, all of that adrenaline is like a drug; you feel like you’re on top of the world.
But turning on the charm and not being boring isn’t easy. You almost have to act when you’re on stage and become a more animated version of yourself.
Here are nine tips to get yourself ready to speak, present, or even just attend a client or new business meeting.
1. Have a positive attitude.
We all have problems and issues. It’s been a rough three years, and we’re all weighed down at work. But if you don’t know how to compartmentalize those things and maintain a positive attitude, the charm won’t come.
I know, I know. You don’t have time. That’s baloney.
Exercise is like brushing your teeth—you don’t leave the house until you do it. Daily exercise, especially if you’re on the road, makes you feel less tired and gives you a boost of confidence. Trust me, I know how hard it is to exercise on the road. But push yourself through those first five minutes and you won’t regret it.
3. Dress to impress.
I’m not a believer in wearing jeans to speaking events or business meetings, and I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me. My advice is dress to impress, be comfortable, and always dress up. As my mom said when we were kids, “It’s better to overdress than underdress.”
4. Introduce yourself.
Before a keynote speech, I was talking with the executive director and the sponsor, who was to introduce me. A few people wandered up to say hello. I introduced myself to those people instead of waiting for someone else to introduce me. This shows confidence, but also strokes the person’s ego a little bit. People want to know you recognize that they’re standing there.
5. This is about them, not you.
We have an internal joke about a Type OO, or “output only” person. You know who this is—the person who only talks about himself and never asks about you. When you’re “on,” you should always ask questions, listen and engage.
6. Always remember the little guys.
When my husband and I were dating, one of the things that made me fall in love with him was that he looks everyone in the eye when he speaks to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or the busboy. He treats everyone the same.
As Bill Gates famously said, “Be nice to the nerds. You may end up working for one.” This goes hand-in-hand with introducing yourself. You never know who a person is, how he or she can help you, and vice versa.
7. Manage your reputation.
Pay attention to what people say about you or your company online. An easy way to do this is to create a Google alert. You will receive an email anytime someone mentions you online.
8. Admit your mistakes.
If you hurt someone’s feelings, say something wrong, or even misrepresent a conversation you had, there are two little words that go a long way: “I’m sorry.” It’s easy to make a mistake if you spend a lot of time in meetings or speaking. We’re all human. It happens. Apologize and move on.
9. Inflect your voice.
Nothing is worse than listening to a speaker who sounds like the Peanuts teacher. Animate yourself, laugh, smile, and inflect your voice.
If you’re an introvert like me, it’s easy to stay in your shell and not push yourself to speak, present or go to big meetings. But, if you follow these tips, I guarantee you’ll have success.
Soon you will be running through airports and arguing with TSA for that hour of adrenaline coursing through your veins.