I have always wanted to be a public speaker yet I’m very anxious about crowds and my public speaking is rudimentary at best. What should I do? — Lwazi
I was a terrible public speaker. I sometimes still am terrible. But I’m much better than I used to be. The way I got better was twofold. First, I’ve done hundreds of speeches, many of which were very embarrassing. The result is that I’ve overcome my fear of embarrassment (I’m still alive, turns out public humiliation is not fatal), and I developed confidence in speaking to crowds. Second, I read lots of books on speaking, including Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs.
My main takeaways from books are as follows:
- Tell a story. People love a story.
- Don’t read it. The easiest way to lose the crowd is to read your speech.
- Keep slides to a minimum.
- Have a memorable start and end. The middle is not so important.
- Dress the part. Act the part. Don’t sabotage your speech by dressing sloppily. Put your shoulders back. Look confident.
- Have a rational argument. Appeal to the logic of a situation.
- Give background on yourself to establish your credibility. The medium is the message (read Marshall McLuhan)
- Pull on the heart strings. Appeal to the audience’s emotions. Make folks laugh. They may forget what you said; they’ll never forget how you made them feel.
Public speaking is like swimming. Knowing the theory won’t stop you from drowning. You have to practice, practice, practice. You have to embarrass yourself regularly so you can overcome the fear of embarrassment. I’m told that Toastmasters is a brilliant organisation for practising in a safe environment.
On a side note, all of the above tips are important for entrepreneurs and sales people as well: After all, selling your business as a start-up is selling yourself, and the best way to do that is with a great story.
How do I convince someone to invest in my business? — Anonymous
The first thing an investor wants to know is how you’re going to make money. Theories are not really useful. Ideally, you need to show a proven revenue model that can believably be scaled to ensure that you generate more money than you spend.
The second thing most investors want is to know that you’re on a rising tide. Photo shops are not on a rising tide. No matter how well you run your photo shop, you are doomed to be taken out to sea where you will drown and/or be eaten by sharks along with everyone else.
The third thing that most investors want to know is that you’ve already made mistakes with other people’s money. Better you earn your school fees on someone else’s dime. Don’t shy away from the setbacks you’ve had. Admit to mistakes, elaborate on lessons learnt. You can be forgiven for almost any business failure, as long as your integrity is not questioned.
How do I find sponsors for an event? — Stephanie
Before you approach sponsors, first define your event’s audience. Make a list of potential sponsors who share that audience. For example, if you are hosting an entrepreneur event, think of companies that target entrepreneurs.
Once you have written down all the company names, start mining your personal network for anyone who works in one of those companies. You need to get to the CEO.
Sometimes a marketing director or executive is sufficient, but most times, especially if speed is essential, the CEO is the only person that won’t waste your time.
Be sure to use LinkedIn to explore relationships that people you know have in the companies. Maybe a friend of yours knows the CEO. The quality of an introduction via a mutually trusted friend is not far removed from a personal direct relationship.
Create a simple pitch deck. Be sure to include in the deck the benefits for the sponsor. No one really cares about the benefits for the audience, or for you, the organiser. Think about who is writing the cheque, that’s who you’re selling to.
Always give potential customers three options. People want options. Not too many to confuse, three is the magic number. The middle option should be the package you prefer the sponsor to choose. Most people choose the middle option.
Once that’s all done, start pitching. Do whatever it takes to get in front of the CEO. Then sell your dream. Don’t stress if you’re rejected. ‘No’ is better than ‘maybe.’ It saves you wasted time. Keep moving until someone bites, then stop moving and close the deal.
Listen to this
Alan’s audible book Be a Hero: Make Life an Adventure is now available on amazon.com and Audible.com
Read by Alan himself, Be a Hero is a collection of stories on how to make your life an adventure by changing your mindset and tackling adversity.
Go to amazon.com or audible.com to download your copy. Be a Hero is also available in Kindle and paperback through Amazon.com.