For almost a decade, even though I was a professional speaker, my presentations were not great. They were not game changers for an audience. While I appreciated that people would tell me, “Alexia, you are so motivational... Alexia, you are such a great speaker. No word you use is ever out of place,” audience members rarely signed up to coach with me. My existing speaking clients rarely recommended me to their colleagues for future speaking gigs. It was equally frustrating and heart breaking.
I couldn’t understand what was wrong. After all, I worked so hard to teach the people I spoke to really valuable information. They kept telling me I was a good speaker, so why was I so miserable at creating raving fans and securing new clients?
Fortunately, I now know the answer. More importantly, I now understand and teach that the strategies that make us successful in our businesses are the exact same strategies that will make us successful on stage and in the spotlight.
It all comes down to translating our business brand into our speaking brand.
In order to get out of our own way and become a successful business speaker, we just need to avoid the following pitfalls:
Mistake One: Tooting our own horn
While hearing somebody’s media hits or sexy testimonials can happen in a speaker’s bio, there is nothing that gets in the way of an audience connecting with a speaker more than when these so-called credibility enhancers happen within a talk or presentation. Just like nobody wants to hear too much of our company’s history, people need not hear too much about our backgrounds, or about our rich, celebrity friends. Speaking on stage positions an entrepreneur as an industry expert just like having a beautiful, well branded website does. When we speak, audience members are hungry for us to show that we understand their struggles and can help them surmount them. The most effective way to make yourself credible is to speak about where you know your audience is scared or stuck. By providing solutions that are specific and easy to apply, your audience will believe not only that you are the real deal, but more importantly, that you are the right real deal for them in which to invest their time, belief, and money.
Mistake Two: Teaching rather than illuminating
While being substantive is important, we don’t want our speeches to sound like regurgitations of our blog posts or newsletter articles. (You won’t ever hear me spouting off tip after tip on stage.) Our speaking voice should not be a carbon copy of our writing voice. In other words, no “the top 5 reasons why _____” or “10 ways to _____.” A live audience wants to be entertained and transformed. Pick one key idea that everything you say is forwarding, and then get into telling stories, asking questions, and giving examples that facilitate ‘aha.’ Make your audience laugh, make them cry, and most importantly… make them feel. Think about what makes your brand sticky and demonstrate these features not only in what you say but also in how you say it. Tie everything back to one central idea so that it’s easy for you to call your audience to take a specific action in your conclusion. It’s okay to share how they can work with you. Just be polite and graceful with your offer. People should NEVER feel badly about themselves for saying “no.”
Mistake Three: Being too cool and as a result, not relatable
For years, I would never show that I was a bit of a “hot mess” once-upon-a-time as a speaker, as a business owner, as a person. After all, if I was the “expert,” I needed to show I had my stuff together. In my having-it-togetherness, I failed to facilitate trust with my audience by showing I had been where they were. Once I started revealing the stuff I had been through—the really painful stuff like losing family members after speaking up about my sexual abuse, as well as the embarrassing but less high-stakes stuff, like showing up to a plum speaking gig with baby spit-up on my dress—not only did audiences laugh and cry with me, they could transform alongside of me in the stories I shared. They saw that I was uniquely poised to help them close the gap from where they were to where they aspired to be.
If you know that what you do in your business is awesome, that you provide awesome programs, awesome products, awesome services, well then heck, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to grab a mic and get on stage and into the spotlight. There is no more effective way to shift someone’s behavior or inspire them to work with you than by connecting with them live and face-to-face. For them to see you, the real you, and for you to be 100 percent present for them.
By focusing on the remedies for each of the three preceding mistakes, you will ensure that you are of maximum impact for an audience and, just as importantly, that you build a successful and sustainable speaking platform and business identity.
Branded a "Moxie Maven" by the White House Office of Public Engagement for her unique approach to leadership development, through her Step Into Your Moxie platform Alexia has become the go-to expert for helping entrepreneurs, executives, online experts, and other thought leaders create, pitch, and perform their spotlight talks and interactive trainings. Alexia not only cultivates the voices of thought leaders, she is one. She has scored face time with hundreds of corporate, conference, and college audiences with her keynote speeches and interactive trainings, and she has contributed to media ranging from CNN and NBC to Women’s Health Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Alexia has just released a free video training program for entrepreneurs who want to overcome their fear of public speaking, identify exactly what they were born to speak about, and unearth the people and stages who can benefit from their message. Grab Alexia’s FREE video training, Go from Hot Mess to Hotshot Speaker, here! You can also gab with Alexia on Facebook and on Twitter.
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