Audience watching public speaker.

Five Suggestions for Panelists and Public Speakers

Here are five suggestions for panelists and public speakers.

Thanks to the pandemic, we have endured too much time without live trade show events. Many industries have persevered with virtual or hybrid events, and we see an increasing number of live events. The desire to rekindle professional relationships is strong, and as we return to live events, the sense of renewal at these events is palpable.

In the past few months, I have attended several trade gatherings, both live and virtually, and I’ve had the privilege to address a few groups as well. More typically, I am an audience member attempting to be where my clients cannot. As we emerge from the pandemic, I have a few suggestions for anyone speaking to an industry group, either as a panelist or speaker. Most of my tips are pretty easy to incorporate; a couple requires some effort on the speaker’s part.

Yes, the best and most effective public speakers practice before they speak. Click To Tweet

Have you seen any of these behaviors? To improve the forthcoming experiences for all participants, I offer this handful of tips as a public service…

1. Look the part. If in a virtual setting, take a look around at your virtual stage. The audience expects professional dress. While the norms of business dress are constantly evolving, make sure you look the part. If a live event, what fit you pre-COVID might not fit post-COVID. There used to be a saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Up your game; the audience (presumably professional colleagues, clients, and prospects) will notice it favorably.

2. Think about your message. Put yourself in the position of the audience members, those who are likely paying to listen to your message. It’s ok to adapt your message from what an event organizer may have suggested. Make it relevant and thoughtful. Don’t just dust off your old notes.

3. Don’t mail it in. If you have given a particular “pitch” multiple times in your career or position, it might not improve with age. Please review it and rehearse it. Road test it with a trusted colleague or two. Yes, the best and most effective public speakers practice before they speak.

4. Don’t present your material. You read that correctly. Many poor speakers make presentations and fail to engage the audience. I observe many military and post-military speakers exhibiting this fatal flaw. They are incredibly comfortable in front of an audience yet forget to move the audience because they talk at the audience. Tell stories, use humor, bring a new perspective, ask questions, move around, and smile.

5. Bring the energy. Your audience will respond to the energy you give off. If you are flat, the audience will be flat. Most speakers could increase their power by 50 to 100 percent and still barely approach what it needs to be. If the speaker has not practiced, applying this kind of energy can make the speaker feel uncomfortable. Get comfortable bringing the energy. The audience is counting on it.

On September 15th, I released my second book, Make Your Move – Charting Your Post-Military Career. This book shares the story of my career to date, and is written to support military professionals who are facing a career transition. All proceeds from the book will go to the Freedom Fighter Outdoors, a charitable organization supporting injured veterans. You can read more and order your copy of Make Your Move – Charting Your Post-Military Career here.

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