Last week I gave the keynote address for the Center for Resource Development annual conference.
During my speech, I spoke about the importance of not being boring – online or off.
You see, people always want to know what it’s like on the speaking circuit.
I’m here to tell you, it’s not that glamorous. In a given week, you could be on 10 different flights, run (literally run) through airports so as not to miss your connecting flight, get stopped by TSA for lipgloss in your purse that has gotten through every other security in the country, forget which rental car is yours, and have hotel room numbers written on your hand so you don’t go to last night’s room and try to use your key.
But when you get on stage, your adrenaline starts to pump, the butterflies flutter, and you turn on the charm. And, for an hour, all of that adrenaline is like a drug and you feel on top of the world.
It’s not easy to do, however, turning on the charm and not being boring. You almost have to act on stage…become a more animated version of yourself.
Following are nine tips for getting yourself ready to speak, present, or even just attend a client or new business meeting.
- Have a positive attitude. We all have problems and issues. It’s been a rough three years so we’re all weighed down at work. But if you don’t know how to compartmentalize those things and maintain a positive attitude, the charm won’t come.
- Exercise. I know, I know. You don’t have time. Baloney. Exercise should be treated like brushing your teeth – you don’t leave the house until it’s done. Daily exercise, especially if you’re on the road, makes you feel less tired and gives you a boost of confidence. Trust me, I know how hard it is to exercise on the road, but push yourself through those first five minutes and you won’t regret it.
- Dress to impress. I’m not a believer in wearing jeans for speaking or for business meetings. I know there are plenty of people who disagree with me on that. So I’ll leave my advice at dressing to impress, be comfortable, and always dress up. As my mom said when we were kids, “It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.”
- Introduce yourself. Before the keynote, I was talking with the executive director and the sponsor, who was to introduce me. A few people wandered up to say hello. I introduced myself to those people instead of waiting to be introduced. This shows confidence, but it also strokes the person’s ego a little bit. People want to know you recognize that they’re standing there.
- This is about them, not you. We have an internal joke about Type OO (output only). You know who that is…the person who only talks about themselves and never asks about you. When you’re “on,” you should always ask questions, listen, and be engaging.
- Always remember the little guys. When Mr. D and I were dating, one of the things that made me fall in love with him was that he looks everyone in the eye when he speaks to them. It doesn’t matter if you’re the CEO of a Fortune 10 company or the busboy, he treats everyone the same. As Bill Gates famously has said, “Be nice to the nerds. You may end up working for one.” This goes hand-in-hand with introducing yourself. You never know who or how a person can help you or vice versa.
- Manage your reputation. Pay attention to what is being said about you or your company online. A very easy way to do that is to create a Google alert so, anytime you’re mentioned online, you receive an email.
- Admit your mistakes. If you hurt someone’s feelings, say something wrong, or even misrepresent a conversation you had, there are two little words that go a long way: I’m sorry. It’s easy to make a mistake if you spend a lot of time in meetings or speaking. We’re all human. It happens. Just apologize and move on.
- Inflect your voice. Nothing is worse than listening to a speaker who sounds like the Peanuts teacher. Animate yourself, laugh, smile, and inflect your voice.
If you’re an introvert, like me, it’s easy to stay in your shell and not push yourself to speak or present or go to big meetings. But, if you follow these tips, I guarantee you’ll have success and soon be running through airports and arguing with TSA for that hour of adrenaline coursing through your veins.
A portion of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.