Customer service and customer experience are hot topics right now in the business world because almost every company now has an online presence. Because of this, the customer service team plays such a pivotal role in ensuring the long term viability of the organization.
With all of the new trends emerging from this field, many people are looking to industry leaders to share their valuable insights so they can glean from them. This is why so many new conferences have been popping up all over the place. The only problem is that many of the customer success experts have little to no public speaking experience. Due to this, some of the best people are not making it to the stage. If you are serious about your career and want to excel, then you are going to need to learn how to give a live presentation.
No public speaker ever started out with a keynote. And not everyone wants to be a keynote speaker as this comes with a great deal of pressure. Still, there are many other settings in which public speaking skills are valuable – from status updates to managers and teams, to moderating a meeting, to being a guest speaker at a business event.
So if you have been avoiding the stage, here are some simple tips you can use to improve your speaking skills:
Practice in Private
“The key to a successful public presentation is practice” says Emily Thompson, a guest speaker on customer service. “Small steps, increasing the size of your audience with each one, are the best way to gain confidence.”
The first time you try out your speech, you will likely not want to do so in front of an audience. This is why most professional speakers like to record themselves in the privacy of their home so that they can work out the kinks and flaws in their speech before they get on stage.
Start with the Mirror
It’s tempting to simply speak into an empty room. If you practice while watching yourself, you will be able to immediately correct mannerisms, such as clenched hands. And it’s the most economical way to see how you look while actually presenting.
Move on to Video. Just as many people are surprised at the sound of their voice on a recording, watching yourself on video has the same effect. While you don’t need to show the video to anyone else, being able to deal with nerves prior to hitting “record” means you also have a jump on handling nerves in front of a live audience. Plus, video is the best way to see yourself and correct areas that go beyond what you see in the mirror, including eye contact and voice volume. It doesn’t have to cost much, there are many economical methods to capturing yourself on video, from webcams, to digital cameras with a video function, to economical video cameras.
Once you are comfortable rehearsing your speech on your own, it’s time to branch out. According to the website Motivation Ping, the key to progress and staying motivated is the ability to chunk your goals. Here are two things you can do to take your speaking to the next level:
- Find a Friend. If you practice your presentation in front of one or more friends, you will get the experience of speaking in front of a live audience, without the intimidation factor that can come with speaking in front of colleagues or strangers.
- Join Toastmasters. The key to improving is not to perfect just one speech, but to get regular practice. Toastmasters clubs typically meet weekly, giving you the opportunity to continue practicing and improving your presentation skills. The members are very supportive, and provide evaluations emphasizing both the positive points, as well as suggestions for improvement. Comments will address both the content of your speech, as well as your presentation style. In addition to gaining new skills and confidence, you will also meet many Toastmasters, expanding your network.
If you now have the taste for public speaking, keep getting out there! Find the forums that best match your background and development interests.
- Approach service organizations. Many non-profit organizations look for speakers for their meetings, such as Rotary and Kiwanis, or more focused organizations such as Lions Clubs, just to name a few.
- Target special interest groups. Most communities have special interest groups, including business networking organizations that focus on a particular industry; a specific business function such as finance or human resource professionals; or a particular demographic segment such as women in business, or language- and culture-specific groups. Reach out to them to obtain further speaking opportunities.
Know Your Topic
If you want to build confidence quickly as a speaker, then you need to know your subject matter inside and out. This will make it feel much more natural when you are on stage discussing the topic. For example, if you want to share insights on customer value or customer incentives, then it’s critical that you have researched these topics thoroughly so you don’t feel the need to memorize your speech.
Remember that you never stop learning – each public speaking opportunity will help you improve your presentations, a skill that you can leverage at work and in your personal life.