The past few weeks I attended a “Speaking with Confidence” workshop held by Richard Avdoian that works on two facets every small business owner should know how to do:

1. 30 second elevator speech that gets results

2. A 20 minute speech on your area of expertise

Why did I take this class? I’ll be honest, public speaking has always terrified me. But being a small business owner, networking is essential. Most of the networking groups I go to, you have to stand up and give a 30 second speech on what you do and who your ideal client is. While I have tried several versions of my 30 seconds at the various groups, I was curious what makes an intro most effective.

Another reason I took it, I want to start offering webinars and workshops next year. I have attended several this past year and see the many business opportunities that are possible. What a great way to reach potential clients!

And the last reason – I am constantly seeking ways to improve myself, whether it’s tackling something as daunting as a triathlon or speaking in front of a group. I know to grow as a person and business owner, I need to figure out why public speaking makes makes me uncomfortable and what I can do to overcome it.

Below are the major tips I took away from the workshop:

1. Promote yourself as a business owner

I have been guilty of introducing myself as a “logo, web and graphic designer” not as “Rebecca Ritz, owner of Bauerhaus Design.” See how the second way sounds more official? I am in fact a business owner. Plus, since I often partner with programmers or marketing consultants, I should refer to my company as “we” or in the plural and not as a solo designer.

2. Have someone videotape you or able to provide objective feedback

In my class of 6, each of us had our own nervous ticks. I apparently, when nervous say “um” a lot! I didn’t even realize I did that! Likewise one person tended to move her arms back when she talked, making it look like she was swimming backwards. Another tended to speak fast and walk around too much. Did we all know we needed work? Yes, but did we each realize what exactly we were missing? No. Honest feedback is essential. That is the only way you are going to grow as a public speaker.

3. Speak in short sentences

As you can see from my blog, writing is one of one of my strong suits. Public speaking, on the other hand, has always intimidated me. When we had an assignment to create a 20 minute speech, I wrote the whole thing out. Then, I practiced reciting it. In class we presented 5 minutes of this speech and I quickly learned that speeches aren’t about memorizing exact sentences. They are about keeping the audience captivated through short sentences with special emphasis on your key terms. For example, my key term: brand. My business is all about creating a brand for your company, so when speaking I need to emphasize and pause every time I say “brand.”

4. You need a hook to capture the audiences attention right away

Otherwise, they will tune you out and start writing down their grocery list or emailing on their smartphones. This goes for both the elevator speech and the 20 minute speech. Tell a story or make an analogy. Anything that makes the consumer want to come up to ask you more questions.

5. Speak slowly and don’t be afraid of pauses

The first time I stood up and did my 30 second elevator speech I did two things – I talked too fast and then stumbled. It was almost like I was in a hurry to say it and then I turned into a deer in headlights. I learned I need to speak S-L-O-W-L-Y. Plus, when you want to emphasize a key term, pause after you say it. If you have problems remembering this like I do, say the word then silently say 1,2 and then continue.

6. Research

Watch other speakers online and pay attention. How do they emphasize certain words or phrases? What do they do with their hands? Which presentations capture your attention? Why? Two great sources to research are: YouTube an TED.

7. Practice

Before I gave my final speech I practiced it about 7 times, but still didn’t feel completely prepared. So how much practice is enough? Richard, who is a professional speaker, said when he gives speeches he typically will practice 20- 30 times. Holy Smokes! The first 10 or so times are for memorization purposes. The other half are so he can practice emphasizing key words and inserting pauses. And where should you practice? In front of a mirror, videotape yourself, or have someone provide honest feedback.

Does public speaking intimidate you? I highly recommend Richard Avdoian’s “Speaking with Confidence” 3 day workshop to help you improve your elevator speech and 20 minute speeches.

Also, next year I plan to start offering webinars workshops on 3 topics: Why your small business needs a brand, How to use social media in your small business and How to use WordPress. Contact me if you would like me to speak to your group.