5 Public Speaking Tips for Entrepreneurs

by Rabih El Khodr, February 10, 2013

As founder of communication training company STANDUP!, I've always been fascinated by pitching, and the ability to convey ideas with both persuasion and poise.  

Yet I've seen numerous bright individuals struggle with the delivery of their ideas, due to lack of knowledge or practice. We've worked to help these participants at various workshops and trainings, most recently at the Beirut Social Innovation Camp competition, where we helped entrepreneurs prepare for their pitches.
 
Especially when working with startup founders, I often see an intrinsic link between being a successful public speaker and a thriving entrepreneur. Here are some tips for becoming better at speaking in public (and convincing potential investors and partners of your ideas):
  1. Think Positive. 

    You cannot go on stage feeling sluggish or worn down: high levels of positive energy must radiate from you. Otherwise, how will you fire up your audience, or at least leave an impression? Likewise, successful entrepreneurs demonstrate constant optimism with their endeavors. That doesn't mean they are not grounded in reality: they just force themselves to see the full half of the glass. That can be part of what makes or breaks a successful entrepreneurial venture.
     
  2. Tell a Story.

    How many times did you roll your eyes at a speaker reciting his knowledge like a Soviet villain from an old Bond movie? Getting up on stage and speaking to an attentive audience is a privilege, so use it wisely, and inspire those listening souls yearning for something worthwhile to remember. And as an entrepreneur, inspiration is a major facet of your craft and person: with so many competitors around you, how will you impress colleagues and investors alike without a little bit of magic?
     
  3. Maintain Eye Contact. 

    This is not a call to stare at the guy in the third row, who looks surprisingly like your archenemy from fifth grade... But they say the eyes are the mirrors of the soul, no? Keep your audience engaged by spreading your eyesight across the room. In the broader picture, keeping your eye on the prize is also essential to your success as an entrepreneur. Visualizing your end goal is a very powerful technique to keep you focused, and dust away timely problems that aren't worth too much anxiety.
     
  4. Stay Alert. 

    Always keep an eye out for reactions coming from the audience while on stage: are they paying attention to your chain of thoughts? Did you lose some of them along the way? Are several audience members yawning? Keeping track of body language cues will help you assess how well you're doing as a speaker. The same applies for your entrepreneurial career, because adjusting to changing circumstances is the name of the game. Your designer might not show up for that big meeting. The power might go off before you save your ten-page document. Take it in stride and be creative in troubleshooting life's problems.
     
  5. Enjoy It! 

    At the end of the day, public speaking should be a fun experience for whomever is lucky enough to address a crowd. Think of it as a conversation between you and your best buddy. And keep the flow a two-way street; don't just recite your lines like a parrot! Keep breathing, smile your worries away, and enjoy it. Just like your entrepreneurial adventure.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite pitches, the one that made me realize my love for communication and passion for public speaking:

May you find your inner Levi Roots.

 
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