Thursday, March 6, 2014

Becoming a Public Speaker—Go For It!

By: Bernetta Reese, Web and Project Manager, Office of Communications, U.S. Department of Agriculture, March 2014

Is it really as hard as it looks? I asked myself this question many times when I decided to apply to become a speaker at the Next Generation of Government Summit in Washington, DC. After 15 years of public service, I knew exactly what topic I wanted to speak about — How to Love Your Government Career. And I knew that an audience filled with hundreds of young aspiring leaders who had an interest in the federal government could benefit from my story. Although it was not my first time speaking publicly, I dared to take the stage among experienced keynote speakers which included high-ranking government officials and leaders from the public sector. I was truly inspired by the opportunity and chose to seize the moment rather than let it slip by as so many do who have a fear of public speaking.

So how do you prepare for your venture into public speaking and how do you make the most out of it? With planning, effort, and perhaps some training you’ll realize that it’s no different than anything else you try for the first time. You’re not the first person to feel nervous holding a microphone or standing up in a crowded room with all eyes on you.

Here are a Few Tips for Becoming a Public Speaker

  • Study other speakers around the world to discover what makes them great.
  • Watch TEDTalks, online videos, and lots of news — reporters are sometimes great to observe   because they often improvise.
  • Read books, magazines, and web articles to learn what it takes to be a confident communicator.
  • Sign up for training events and attend public events to see how it’s done in person.
  •  Join a Toastmasters Club to practice developing and giving your speech and to get helpful feedback in return.
I’ve given presentations for meetings at work, hosted events, and even stood in front of a classroom full of elementary students. But a professional speech has a different feel altogether, because your audience doesn’t know you yet and is expecting something useful and provocative in exchange for their time. You have to really think about what your audience wants to hear. As a speaker, you must provide the greatest value to your audience by delivering something meaningful that will positively impact their views or lives. Of course you know that anything of value will take time to perfect, so you must practice, practice, practice! Put any doubt aside and just do it. You’ll find that it’s not as hard as it looks

You can follow Bernetta on Twitter and find her page on LinkedIn. This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. FCN members are government employees managing U.S. government communications.

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