Public_Speaking_body.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.

For some entrepreneurs, public speaking comes naturally. They’re able to spin their vision into a captivating story or an effective sales pitch. But that’s not the case for every small business owner.


Research from the National Institute of Mental Health, among others, has shown that an estimated three out of four people name public speaking as their top fear. Bill Hoogterp, a public speaking coach, co-founded Own The Room to help professionals overcome their public speaking fear so that they can better present the benefits of their brands and organizations.


Hoogterp says many business owners are skilled at talking about their companies in intimate settings. With practice, they can transfer that ability to a large group. Here are some of his tips for how to do it:


Get the audience involved

The bigger the group, the more likely a speaker is to focus on how people perceive him or her. But Hoogterp says “Will they like me?” is the wrong question. “The secret is to flip it around and focus instead on the audience. “How do you make it interesting and engaging for them?” Hoogterp says.


It often helps to open your remarks with something interactive. Ask your audience to answer a question or rate a product or experience with a show of hands.


Public_Speaking_PQ.jpgBe concise

Hoogterp says many people use four sentences when two would suffice. When you’re telling your story, keep it brief and punchy. Eliminate filler words such as “um,” “very,” and “basically” and reach for strong, emotional language to describe your product or company. 


Tell stories

Statistics touch the head, but stories touch the heart. Share anecdotes that illustrate a problem that your company helped to solve, and it will humanize your brand.


“The more you can articulate that in an emotional frame, the more you connect to people,” Hoogterp says.


Believe in what you’re saying

Most people become more confident speakers when they tap into their passion for a topic.  That’s when they stop feeling like salespeople and start behaving like advocates for their brand or company. “If I believe in my business, and I get someone to try it who hasn’t before, then I feel like I’m doing them a favor,” Hoogterp says.


Learning a few basic techniques for speaking can take anyone’s message from good to great. As Hoogterp likes to tell his clients, “We don’t put talent into people. We let it out.”


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