If you haven’t shared your passion, knowledge, charity cause or business ideas in front of an audience or have done so and felt you flopped, there are many ways you can get more comfortable and prepared. Below are places you can go to hone your skills so you get over that fear of public speaking:
- Join Toastmasters. This is a great international organization that uses workbooks to help you craft different types of speeches and offers weekly opportunities to practice prepared presentations, speak extemporaneously and critique among a friendly small group of people seeking to bring each other along.
- Get on boards. This is particularly useful with business networking organizations as it provides opportunities for brief and easy moments behind the podium or lectern introducing featured speakers, providing updates on events or activities, presenting awards and making general announcements. It will also help you meet more of the membership as attendees are more likely to approach you.
- Approach Rotary, Lions or Kiwanis clubs. These groups need to fill a weekly agenda that includes a brief presentation, generally from an outside speaker. The groups tend to be small and friendly. Choose your topic to align with their interests (usually they’re supporting a number of local charities with activities) and recognize these are generally comprised of business executives (so dress accordingly). Still, it presents a great opportunity to get experience speaking in front of an audience. Topics could include everything from getting kids involved in supporting the local needy or spotlighting a cause you’re passionate about to offering tips on recruitment or better fundraising techniques.
- Support a not-for-profit. Many of these organizations need spokespeople. Often they’ll set up the engagement for you and provide a script or outline for you to follow. It’s often easier talking about a good cause than trying to excite an audience about a business concept. This a great way for you to get used to being in front of an audience that wants to help you.
- If you’re in the United States, SCORE, the SBA and the SBDCs often provide workshops that require outside speakers. Usually all you have to do is ask to be included. If you can talk about something that is useful to small businesses, many will customize a session to accommodate you. These aren’t paying engagements, but can be good prospecting opportunities for the right kind of business (tip – don’t try to sell your wares during your presentation – if you sell yourself, people will approach you later).
- Chambers, consultant organizations, NAWBO, small business advocacy groups (NFIB is the biggest in the US, but there are many others) and community groups are all great places to test your public speaking topics. Many have weekly or monthly meetings that include a featured speaker. Program committees are often challenged filling to docket (ditto for Rotary, etc.). Find out who schedules speakers and contact them directly. Some are working a year in advance, others may have a hole next week. You’ll never know if you don’t ask.
- Join committees. If you don’t feel you have the time or skills to serve on a board, all the organizations cited above have committees to handle specific tasks. By helping out with these small jobs, you’ll not only have ample time to speak in front of committee members, but may also be selected to present to the larger group. Plus, it’s a great way to get to know members on a more personal level so has the added benefit of a super networking opportunity.
- Find clubs in your area. If you’re passionate about gardening, cooking, sailing, hiking, reading or just about any other hobby or skill you can think of, there’s probably a club for that. Often these groups have meetings where you may have an opportunity to present.
- Teach a class through the continuing education department at a community college. Most programs will consider just about any topic if they think people will sign up. Sometimes these are single evening events, or can be extended courses that go on for weeks or months. Everything from horseback riding to quilting can be in the mix. You don’t need to have a degree to be considered as a presenter. If there’s something you enjoy doing and can share your knowledge with others, consider using this for public speaking training. Plus, you’ll get paid for your time (usually based on a percentage of the registration fees).
There are so many ways you can get up in front of a non-threatening audience. Don’t let your fear of public speaking stop you from exploring possibly one of the most powerful ways to spread your message. With countless opportunities to find a friendly audience, why not try?