become better speaker

How to Become a Better Speaker: Improve Public Speaking

Learning how to become a better speaker is different for everyone.

If you’ve ever attended school, been employed, or participated as a member of a club or committee, you have almost definitely been subjected to some form of public speaking. 😨💀

Horrific, scarring, awful. We sweat, we cry, maybe we throw up.

Public speaking can be a terrible experience for the unprepared person, the anxious person, the just-spilled-coffee-down-the-front-of-my-white-dress person (maybe that one was just me?), but the benefits of public speaking FAR outweigh the negatives, AND (great news!) I’m here to help.

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We’re going to learn how to be better at public speaking:

  1. Why it’s important to be a good speaker
  2. How speaking can grow your career
  3. How to become a better speaker
  4. Tips for being a strong speaker

Why It’s Important to Improve Speaking Skills

Like I said, participating in nearly anything presents the opportunity for public speaking. Can it be avoided most of the time? Probably. In fact–

When I was in college, seventeen-year-old Hannah’s presentation skills were weighed, measured, and found wanting. I spoke too fast, I used too many filler words (and filler sounds 😬), and I made inside jokes as a nervous tick (shoutout to my friends who sat in the back and laughed way louder than they needed to).

Opportunity after opportunity to speak in public presented themselves. I gave research presentations, I addressed committees, I taught classes for honors credit–it came up a LOT. And I was an expert at crawfishing my way out of it.

For example, in my required Speech class, I put HOURS of work into writing, practicing, and perfecting speeches–only to strategically fall ill, have a dentist appointment, or slouch so low in my desk I was halfway on the floor to avoid actually giving the speech.

I was supposed to give SIX presentations for that class–I gave ONE, and I only gave that one because someone ratted me out.

Shockingly, refusing to practice didn’t make me any better at speaking.

Go figure. I eventually decided I needed to face my fears and just rip it like a bandaid until I improved. Sophomore year, I started hopping at opportunities to speak. If we had a group project, I’d present. If we were hosting a fundraiser for an organization I chaired, I’d give the thank you address. I went to live readings for creative writing and read my own pieces out loud (awful, terrible, kill me).

It was awkward and uncomfortable! I’d walk up to podiums bright red and breathing heavy on my shaky little legs. But the more I threw myself out of my comfort zone, the better I got, and the more natural it came to me.

By my senior year, I was presenting something almost every week. I breathed evenly, my legs didn’t shake anymore, and my face stayed its natural, iridescent pale for the whole presentation.

Being a good public speaker often directly translates to being a better private speaker as well.

Here’s what I learned from public speaking:

  • I learned how to give cues better–I indicate with my hands to help people follow along with multiple or complex ideas
  • I can better read a room’s environment
  • I can code switch more precisely
  • I can translate ideas to coherent verbal communication much easier
  • I caught a lot of opportunities by putting myself out there. You never know who’s in an audience and what they’ll remember you for. I got job offers, scholarships, and friends just from using my voice and putting myself out there.

It is less often the things you say and more often how you say them that can influence people. A confident speaker instills confidence–people trust a well-presented thought more than that same thought when it’s expressed with stammering and uptalk.

If you believe what you’re saying, and you sound like you believe what you’re saying, other people will be inclined to believe it as well.

How Becoming a Better Speaker Can Grow Your Career

In almost any industry, being a strong speaker can help build your career. Taking on speaking roles can prove leadership capabilities, responsibility, confidence, and competence.

Volunteering to pitch a project to your boss, for example, can endear you to the coworkers who have been alleviated of the task, places you as the face of the project, and shows your boss that you have initiative. That’s something people remember.

If you’re self-employed, speaking at events can help promote your own work–like products, books, and courses. Public speaking events can be a great platform facet.

Pairing a book with a course with in-person seminars creates a full experience for your clients. And, just like in a traditional job, speaking well projects leadership, responsibility, confidence, and competence.

A step by step guide containing 5 elements necessary to become a better speaker

How to Become a Better Speaker

So we know why we want to be better speakers, but how do we get there?

Here are five easy ways you can practice public speaking without actually throwing yourself into the ring yet.

#1 – Study other people’s speeches

Watch talks from strong orators or presenters in your industry. See what you like about their presentation style, think about what you would do differently, and apply that insight to your own speeches. Take note of how they use the stage space, what they do with their hands, how they keep eye contact, and how they utilize pauses. All of these are practiced, intentional actions that experienced speakers master over time.

#2 – Practice at home

Rehearse your speeches in front of a mirror, or even record yourself presenting. Watch the video back to see how your body language is helping or hurting, if you keep good eye contact (or lens contact), and spot any filler language you might need to cut back on. This low-pressure rehearsal time will help you focus on honing specific skills.

Until I was sixteen, I barely spoke to people outside of my immediate family. I never expressed when I was uncomfortable, I never argued. Then I started my first YouTube channel. My old videos are awkward and cringey to watch now, but they literally taught me how to verbally express myself. I developed an online voice, and it translated over to how I spoke with others in person, which eventually led me to become a stronger public speaker.

#3 – Practice through the internet.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing, now’s as good a time as ever to practice speaking through online live events. Maybe start even smaller by gathering a few friends in a groupcall to discuss something specific. Then you can transition to something like a livestream, where it’s only you talking. Try to interact with viewers’ messages to get practice generating live responses and engaging with an audience.

#4 – Start with small audiences.

If you have housemates or in-person coworkers right now, practice speaking in front of them. Having a friendlier audience you’re close with is often a more comfortable stepping stone as you work your way up to bigger crowds. You can even expand that audience a little at a time by adding one or two friends to the group each time.

#5 – Have your practice audience question you.

When I presented research in college, I’d present in front of friends first and have them grill me about the material. This helped me make sure I actually comprehended the material well enough to present it competently, and it also gave me practice answering questions the audience might really have. Having a more challenging practice round will help you feel more prepared and more confident when it’s time for the real thing.

Best Tips for Improving Public Speaking

Here are seven extra hacks and tips you can use to strengthen your public speaking skills.

  1. Outline instead of planning word-for-word. Oftentimes, it’s better to have a bulleted list of topics to cover rather than memorizing a speech script. With a script, forgetting a word or a line can throw off the entire rhythm and you might forget what you were saying. If you practice speaking with your main points, you can make it up as you go, speaking from a place of studied authority instead of spouting a memorized speech phonetically. Even if you don’t stumble over a line, a memorized speech can also sound mechanical and less engaging to listen to.
  2. Use audience-first language and present information with the mindset that the presentation is about THEM. It’s not a performance about you–you’re educating or sharing tools to help the people listening. Make sure you don’t turn a speech into one-sided speed dating. If you make the presentation about you, it’s less interesting to listen to and easier to get into your own head. It might make you feel more open to judgment if it’s about YOU, so keep in the headspace that it’s about your AUDIENCE and remember that you’re there to help them.
  3. Make eye contact with your audience. Picking a spot on the wall or ceiling or floor to watch during a speech probably feels more comfortable, but if you can make eye contact with a different audience member every few seconds, you’ll keep the crowd much more engaged and help keep yourself on track of the conversation. Remember that you’re talking to people by looking at the people you’re talking to.
  4. Talk to your audience before the presentation. If you can, mingle with audience members before your speech. If it’s an event, this is a great networking exercise, but it will also help to humanize the audience to you, and you to the audience. It’ll be more like a continued conversation by the time you’re ready to speak if you’ve already made a few introductions.
  5. Be interactive during your speech. Ask questions to the audience, react to their reactions, call out to specific people you know in the audience and share related anecdotes involving them. If you make it an interaction instead of a one-sided information dump, you’ll be more relaxed and the audience will be more engaged to receive your message.
  6. Gain confidence and authority on your subject matter through a book. Publishing a nonfiction book in your area of expertise will instantly increase your credibility with an audience, as well as help to relax your nerves because you know that you know your stuff. You literally wrote the book on it. Like I said earlier, layering multiple elements like a book, a course, and live seminars gives you a strong, authoritative position for your platform.
  7. Remember that no one wants you to fail. This tip was absolutely pivotal for me as I was building my foundation in public speaking. The audience wants you to do well. They don’t want to see someone crash and burn–they’re there to hear a compelling, interesting, entertaining speech. Everyone is supporting your success, so don’t feel intimidated!

And here’s an image to help memorize that:

The best tips to improve public speaking skills

These tips and exercises helped me ENORMOUSLY. If I can public speak with ease today after growing up crushingly shy and borderline nonverbal, so can you!

Don’t be afraid to volunteer to speak if the opportunity presents itself, let yourself be nervous, and know that practice will make it better.

If you need to, use the at-home tips to gain a little confidence before you try out an audience, but don’t be afraid to take chances and mess up a little! All speaking experiences, even the ones that don’t go so well, will help you grow as a presenter.

become speaker at event

How to Become a Speaker at Events: By a Speaker of 40+ Events (Templates)

When it comes to your career, your business, and even your author goals, learning how to become a speaker at events might be on your mind.

After all, thousands of people go to events to hear from authorities on topics they’re interested in learning more about. In order to place yourself as that authority, speaking at these events is important.

Over the past couple years, I’ve spoken at over 40 events on the topic of writing and publishing a book successfully.

This had brought in over 7-figures for my business, not to mention all the people who are now aware of me, what I do, and Self-Publishing School as a whole.

We recently launched a new product here called PR & Speaking for Authors on this very topic, with even more information. But in this post, I’m going to unveil our own process for becoming a speaker at events.

Here’s how to become a speaker at events:

  1. Finding events to speak at through networking
  2. Finding events to speak at cold research
  3. Reaching out to networked events
  4. Cold event outreach – with templates
  5. Follow Up
  6. Your first call with event coordinators
  7. Call recap email
  8. Confirming the event!

How to Get Paid to Speak at Events

This might be a hard pill to swallow but the truth is that if you want to get paid to speak at events, you have to have experience, a message worth the price tag, and authority.

Usually, people pay to speak at events when they first start. Sometimes you pay to “sponsor” the event, which you then get to speak at.

Until you become someone who has a platform and can bring more people to the event. In most cases, being able to show extreme authority in your field can also benefit getting paid to speak at events.

And for authority, we always recommend at a minimum, publishing a book. Being a published author is like having an immediate “authority” stamp on your forehead.

Here are other ways you can get paid to speak at events:

  • Publish that book 😉
  • Grow your platform
  • Build a resumé of high-quality events you’ve spoken at
  • Network with people who can vouche for you

How to Become a Speaker at Events: Our Foolproof Methods

I’m basically handing you our playbook for booking stages and becoming a speaker at events. Most of this was formulated by my Head of Business Development, Pedro Mattos.

He’s been largely responsible for this process and booking speaking events that have generated over $1.5 Million in sales for our business.

You’ll see a couple different types of steps for becoming a speaker at stages. These are separated by “networked” steps as well as “cold”.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar, networked steps involve getting speaking gigs from people you’ve met and connected you to the right people whereas cold research and outreach are the opposite, where you find the information and reach out without having any prior connection to the event or coordinator.

Both are really important, though networking will usually get you the most bang for your buck down the road. When you’re starting out, cold outreach will be your most lucrative, since you likely don’t know many people in the event business…yet 🙂

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#1 – Finding events to speak at through networking

Say you’re in a position where you’ve been able to connect with people who are in the event business. By that, I mean they either work at events, throw them, or speak at them regularly.

These people can also be a past or current client, colleague, or strategic partner or someone’s event you’ve already spoken at.

Here are some people you can get in touch with in the “event business”:

  • Think customers
  • donors
  • subscribers
  • raving fans
  • mastermind groups
  • past stages
  • social networks
  • board members
  • associations you’re a part of
  • professional clubs
  • online groups or forums
  • bloggers
  • podcasters
  • authors
  • experts you know

We recommend listing some names you can think of and putting those all in one place where you can track the progress of this before actually reaching out.

Organization is KEY for becoming a speaker at events. You’d be surprised how many opportunities can fall by the wayside without organized outreach and follow up, which we’ll cover.

For Self-Publishing School, we use Asana’s “Board” structure, as you can see below:

This way, it’s super organized. You know exactly who is in what stage so you know which steps you need to take next to become a speaker at their event.

You can also create something similar in a spreadsheet if you don’t want to use other software. Either way, make your list, label each step, and keep track!

#2 – Finding events via cold research

This is where the majority of you will likely fall if you’re just getting into the speaking world. You’ll do “cold” work when you don’t have any prior connections to people who work at the event, the event itself, or speakers.

Most of this requires good, old-fashioned online research, and we have a few tips for that.

Here are the top places to look:

  • National Organization Document (See Gold Mining Folder of the Google Drive)
  • Google:  Determine our Search Criteria 
    • Topic 
    • Types and Names of Stages 
    • Niches & Industries 
    • Geography 
    • Example: |Chiropractic| conferences| in San Diego|
  • Market Place Lists   
  • Social media
    • You can use some of these hashtags to find posts: conference, event, keynotes, speakers, motivationalspeaker, meetingplanners, associationevents, eventplanner, organization
  • Associations: you can find some here
  • Online conference directories:
    • Allconferences.com
    • Eventsinamerica.com 
    • Lanyrd.com 
    • Conferensum.com
    • Conferize.com
  • Google alerts: set up a Google alert for certain keywords that pipe right into your email inbox

This will take some work. It’s not an instant result. That said, it’s worth it and you’ll likely make some connections within your niche that allows for other opportunities as well.

Keep track of these events and contact information in a spreadsheet or task organization software like Asana.

#3 – Outreach for networked events

You should have two lists at this point, one for people you know/of and another for cold outreaches. Once you’ve got that research down, start with the people know you, since these are usually the best chances of becoming a speaker at events.

When getting in touch with these people, there are certain methods that work better than others.

Reach out via channels in this particular order until you get a response: 

  1. Text (ideally voice memo) 
  2. In-person meeting 
  3. Facebook messenger 
  4. Email 
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Direct mail via a hand-written letter 

Here’s an example of a message Pedro sent out about an event.

We like to follow a specific formula for outreaches that we’ve figured out gets the most responses.

Here are a few things to remember for this:

  • Mention how you know them 
  • Don’t ask for a referral, instead ask where they are going (and give a reason for your ask)!
  • BONUS: End by asking for their address and sending a gift 

#4 – Cold outreach to speak at events

Your cold outreach will be a little different than messaging those you already know. While a little more of an uphill battle, there are a few ways you can put yourself ahead of others.

Knowing event planners main problems can help you craft your outreach to get attention.

Here are their 3 main problems:

  • They need to fill their event (aka sell tickets) 
  • They need to provide amazing content that solves a problem for their audience
  • They need to cover their overhead / make revenue from the event through means other than ticket sales (sponsorship revenue, back-end sales revenue, etc)

With that stuff in mind, you need to at least mention and cover one of those needs in your first outreach, specifically how you can solve that problem.

Remember that with an initial outreach, you are not selling the event planner on having you on their stage. You’re selling them on getting on the phone with you for a 15-minute call. 

Here are all of the components I would cover in the initial email: 

  1.  Direct subject line that talks about the opportunity of you and them working together. Ex: Partnership Opportunity  
  2. In the first line two lines, explain who you are and why they should care (hit on one of the 3 pain points above)
  3. In the next line, explain why you believe that would be a good fit for their stage, and what your ideal scenario would look like. 
  4. End with a CTA to book a short 15-minute call or an opened ended question asking if they have completely filled their speaking slots (this really works)
  5. Add a PS. with a link to something that proves your credibility (if you have a book, this should always be linked in your signature to begin with)

#5 Following up with initial outreaches

Follow-ups are arguably even more important than anything else. If you don’t bake this into your system, you’ll lose out on a lot of opportunity.

Our philosophy is “the money is in the follow up”. 

If you are not getting a response, it’s probably one of three reasons: 

  • Your message is not relevant for them right now 
  • You are not talking to the right person 
  • You are not using the right medium (Facebook vs. email vs. text)

With that said, it is important to address all three of those points in your follow up – which means: 

  • Reach out to different people in the organization and ask to be directed to the correct person
  • Change your ask, subject line, etc
  • Try multiple mediums until someone replies (but don’t annoy them, spread out your contacts over some time to give them a chance to look at your messages)

#6 – Navigating your first call with event coordinators

We’ll cover two things in this point: how to schedule your first call and how to execute it to book the event.

How to Schedule Your First Call

If and when someone replies to your initial outreach positively, you’ll want to get on an actual phone (or video chat) call with them as soon as you can to close the deal while you’re fresh in their mind.

Your initial outreach should have included something about hopping on a quick call to chat details (since that was the purpose of it). Now when they respond, try to make that call happen in the next 48 hours to increase your chances of booking the event.

From here, you’ll include a link to a calendar where they can book, or you’ll confirm the time and send out a detailed calendar invite.

You’ll see an example of a Google invite below:

What to do While on Your First Call

The goal of this call is to familiarize yourself with the meeting planners and get a better understanding of their goals, challenges, and really anything you could help solve.

The second purpose is to get some logistics around stages and offer a solution that includes you speaking at or “sponsoring” their event.

Here’s an “outline” of what you should be shooting for during this conversion:

Step 1 – Introduction and rapport

  • Ask where they’re from
  • Introduce everyone on the call and provide:
    • Context for who you are and what you’re doing
    • How what you do relates to them and their event

Step 2 – Give context and figure out their goals

  • “It’s so great to connect, and I really appreciate you taking the time to hop on this call. I know we don’t have a ton of time scheduled and I want to be respectful of yours, so to give you some context…”[give context around the call, sample below]
    • Provide them with some more details about your mission, passion, and overall purpose, as well as why you want to grow our event connections and speaking resumé
  • End this bit with: “So with that said, I’d love it if you could give a quick overview of the top projects / goals you’re working towards over the next few months, and we can see if there’s a way we can help.”

Step 3 – Let them know what you’re working on and why you’re building partnerships

  • Give an overview of a few projects we have in the works that lend themselves to partnership opportunities
  • Your goals
  • Start off with a content sponsorship pitch “I think one easy win to start this relationship off is to start with a sponsorship. I’m sure you’re always looking for new sponsors, we’d love to see what would make sense”
    • Go with an assumptive / “this-is-a-no-brainer-and-the-obvious-next-step” tone and you’ll pretty much get a 100% conversion on this
  • Then ask them what it would look like to have you do a 45-60 minute presentation on your speech topic
  • Finally, if it’s a fit and they have a decent-sized list (10k+ for bigger platforms, smaller if you’re just starting out), pitch an affiliate webinar:
    • “Last thing that I think could be really cool for your audience and this relationship, is I’d love to do a live training around [your niche topic/speech]. We’ll set it all up, your audience gets access to some great content, and the best part to you is you get $x for any person you send to the training who becomes a student. Is that something we could get on the calendar in the next couple of months?”

The idea with these steps is to move through the conversation seamlessly and in a way that makes sense to them.

As with any professional call, don’t interrupt or ignore questions, etc. You want to have a cordial conversation that’s upbeat, fun, and makes them want to be around you, which will help with their decision to include you in their speaker lineup.

#7 – First call recap email

Yes, even your call needs a recap email. This helps to clear up any confusion and have a physical reference for both of you for what needs to happen next.

Ideally, this recap email should be sent to ALL relevant parties less than 3 hours after the call takes place.

It should recap EVERYTHING that was discussed, and specifically note dates, percentages (for discounts), specific next steps, and the names of people responsible for those steps.

If additional intros need to be made (content teams, for example), include everyone on the recap email, and indicate that the introductions will be made in a separate thread.

Be hyper-specific here. It might feel unnecessary or OCD. It almost certainly won’t come across that way.

Here’s an example of a solid recap email:

#8 – Confirming the event!

Now, don’t just go taking any event you can. It’s tempting but remember, you’re also vetting the event owners, their mission, and ensuring it aligns with what you’re doing.

BUT, if the event checks all of your boxes and meets all the requirements you set up for yourself, here’s what you’ll do next:

  1. Email the meeting planner confirming that you will be attending the stage
  2. Send an email to connecting anyone within your business (if there’s more than you) to the event planner
  3. Add the event to your personal calendar so you don’t forget 
  4. Move this event over in your planning / tracking software or spreadsheet
  5. Transfer all known information, contracts, etc into the task you have in order to have all the info in a single place. 

That’s how you become a speaker at events! It seems complicated, but this process isn’t as simple as sending one email.

We’ve nailed down this process and our Head of Business Development swears by it. Let us know how it works for you!