Search Engine Conferences

Public Speaking in the Internet Marketing Industry

My Experience

Historically, I’ve always been absolutely terrified of public speaking. Even if it was as minuscule as getting up in front of a dozen peers in school to showcase a project. I would make any excuse possible, or outright leave, in order to avoid having to do so. Most of us have heard the statistic about most people sharing that same fear, but my situation always seemed much more heightened. I’ve always been a quiet and reserved person, mostly due to a battle of social anxiety throughout the years, but I can now proudly say I’ve overcome a lot of my fears.

The goal of this post is to give a bit of encouragement to anyone thinking about public speaking that has avoided it due to fear, and to share some tips that I’ve learned that I think have helped me become a better speaker.

The first time I spoke in the Internet Marketing industry was at SMX Local/Mobile 2008. I spoke on a Mobile & Local SEO panel at the very last session of the conference. I was pretty nervous about doing so but I had practiced so much that I felt quite comfortable with what I had to say. However, when it came within an hour of my session, I started having a pretty heavy anxiety attack. My initial thought was to just leave early and skip it since my flight left in a few hours anyway. However, I knew that this was a great opportunity and that I needed to take full advantage of it and overcome my fears.

Good thing I was prepared… I picked up a Coke from the refreshment table, drank half, and filled the rest with cheap vodka. It’s nothing that I’m proud of but this is how I self-medicated before speaking and it is the only way I got through it. Cindy Krum stuck around to watch me speak even though she had to leave. She told me I did great and seemed sincere so at that point I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I had idolized Cindy since I saw her speak at SMX Local/Mobile the year prior and was honored that I had received a compliment by her.

After that, it slowly got easier. I got more and more comfortable as each time passed. The size of the audience never mattered much and surprisingly, I almost felt more comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd. Nonetheless, I’ve spoken about a dozen times over the past couple of years and finally, after about the tenth time, I was able to do so without self-medicating.  Pure confidence, adrenalin,  and preparation were the various aspects that helped me suppress my anxiety.

Speaking Tips

I came to realize that the more I practiced the less nervous I was. Therefore, I would literally practice over and over at home before I left to the conference,  I would practice to my self on the plane, I would practice the night before, and I would even leave the conference to go practice again before my actual session. A bit overboard? I don’t think so. At least not in my case. Even if you feel comfortable, that’s fine, but I still feel practice is very important as an obligatory duty to the attendees. They pay a lot of money for these Internet Marketing conferences so speakers should give them their best.

There was a class I took in my Master’s program on public speaking that I took right before I did a presentation. I had a chance to present to the class and be critiqued thereafter. This helped a lot. Some of the stuff I was taught didn’t transpire over to what traditionally goes on at conferences, but some did. The rest, however, has just been learned from experience.

  • Be prepared
  • I can’t emphasize this one enough. Have all your materials ready, including additional items you might need. Create a checklist of things you may need such as glasses (if you wear them) in order to see the audience’s reactions, tissues in case you sneeze, water in case you cough or your through gets dry, etc. Be sure to have your presentation in several places. Put a copy on your laptop, keep a copy on a thumb drive, and send a copy to yourself via e-mail. This way you’ll never lose it or have an issue.

  • Practice, Practice, Practice
  • Practice until you think you have it down solid. Memorizing line by line exactly what you’re going to say is good, but be prepared enough that you can talk about it without having to know exactly you’re going to say next. This is important because often times interruptions occur. Such interruptions could alter your train of thought and in turn, keep you from remembering your rehearsed lines. So don’t rely on creating a script for yourself. Also, if you are scripting part of it, don’t sound like a machine-operated robot or like you’re reading from your slides. Speak to the audience not at them.

    Timing is also a critical aspect. Every presentation must beat a time deadline to leave time for Q&A. You don’t want to be too short either so time out your content and presentation to be spot-on.

  • Know Your Environment
  • Scope out the speaking room before hand. Not only will you already know you’re way to the room, so you’re not frantically trying to find it, but you’ll also be more familiarized and comfortable with where you are.

  • Know Your Audience
  • Attend a few sessions before yours and get a feel for who is in the audience. Listen to their questions during Q&A to try to determine their positions in companies, the businesses they represent, technical knowledge, familiarity with the material, etc. It’s good to poll the audience before hand to get a feel for their experience and knowledge. That way, you can tailor the way you speak to them and what exactly you present to them. Most major conferences can provide you great demographic data before hand though.

  • React to the Audience
  • Listen to the body language of the crowd. If they’re getting bored then you’ll need to quickly adjust either the way you’re presenting or the vernacular of your content. If they’re leaving,  note what you said right before that to later analyze what could have triggered them to leave.

  • Pace Yourself
  • This is a major problem I still have. I usually race through my presentations pretty quickly. Slow your pace to allow the audience to take notes and to reflect on and absorb the new information you’re providing them.

  • Make Eye Contact
  • Be sure to make eye contact with almost everyone if you can. Constantly scan the room and make sure you are speaking to each section of the room equally. Don’t just stare forward and present or look at your slides the whole time. People are more in-tune with what you’re saying if they feel connected to you.

  • Have a Great Slide Deck
  • Part of connecting with people is making sure not all of their focus is on your PowerPoint slides. To do this keep the text in your slide decks brief, organized, and bulleted. Using pictures to represent and visualize data and concept is important since it’ll help convey your message while keeping them tuned in to what you’re saying. Keeping a general theme throughout your slides can be good if it’s relevant. Also, make sure the contrast of the colors you use for your text and background are readable not only on your computer monitor but on the projection screen since the screens tend to dull down the colors. Black text on white backgrounds can never steer you wrong.

  • Open and Close with a Bang
  • Just like linkbait, you want to hook people’s attention at the very beginning and leave them loving your presentation. Brainstorm some clever ways to do this. Only use jokes if they’re relevant and not extremely cheesy.

  • Have a Good Time
  • The audience will feel how you feel. Period. If you’re happy and smiling, they will feel uplifted. So be personal, emotional, and most importantly…be yourself.

A Chance to Speak

Like our previous events, IM Spring Break and Scary SEO, Search & Social believes in providing an opportunity for new faces in the speaking scene. I encourage anyone interested in speaking to submit speaking pitches for the conference on May 3rd and 4th, 2010.

Further Reading

The Pros and Cons of Public Speaking by Rebecca Kelley

d0a118778733be4e050ed3e4a29dcdb8 64 Public Speaking in the Internet Marketing Industry
Digital Marketing Strategist at Vizion Interactive. Author of A to Z: Social Media Marketing. International conference speaker. Industry columnist. Involved with SEO since 2001. Former Online Marketing Strategist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Senior SEO at Overstock.com. Co-Founder of BlueGlass and Search & Social.

You Might Also Like

Comments are closed.

13 thoughts on “Public Speaking in the Internet Marketing Industry

  1. Thanks for the article… I grabbed it off twitter from Tomsebastiani. The tips within the article are great for any public speaker. Personally, I volunteer with many HIV/AIDS non-profits and even just giving comment, sometimes is a presentation in and of it-self. The tips above apple to both sides. I hope you don’t mind me sharing it with others.

    Thanks again,
    Leland

  2. An article worth a 10/10! I’m still new to this business and i’m looking for all the help i can get. I read the whole thing and it really helped me alot in understanding more about internet marketing and the works. Specially the different tips that you mentioned here. Thanks alot !!

    James

  3. Great post! Love all the great advice you are giving. I especially believe in practice, practice, practice – can never be done enough!
    You motivated me to go right over to the conference page and submit my speaking pitch!

  4. Hey, thanks so much for the posting.
    Years ago, when I worked in another market, we were introduced to Toastmasters. This is a great course, meeting twice a week, covering a range of topics in which we were passionate about.
    Although I didn’t have an alcoholic beverage before hand, I think practicing and knowing your topic were two of the strongest tips the program taught.

    I’ve also noticed if I don’t stay on top of speaking in public some of those initial fears come back, but go away as soon as I practice infront of a mirror.

    Oh, and one more tip. Use your camera phone, or another video recording piece of equipment. I was able to see myself and work through awkward moments.

  5. Great tips, Jordan! Using all these ideas must really take away the need for that drop of liquid courage.

    I’d add that also that the audience really wants you to succeed, so that they’ll be able to learn from you. The audience might laugh along with you if you make a mistake, but if you look out and make eye contact, you’ll probably find quite a few who will encourage you.

  6. I have been searching for a site like this in the field I am interested in. I am a great fan. I also like all things about do it yourself suggestions that help you to save.

  7. As someone who has had the good fortune to both be in the audience and participate with Jordan on several panels (though we both vow the last hosting one) and now having invited him to lead a Social Media panel at an upcoming conference, all I can say is Jordan is being way too humble, though the part about self-medicating is true. I think we both have been a tad guilty of this (Ok! A lot!).

    Whenever I have spoken about Social Media, I always mention that everything I know I have learned from Jordan then quickly point out when he is speaking later if you really want the juicy stuff. He is one of my favs in the speaking world and I am always disappointed when he is not speaking at any event I am at.

    So absolutely do listen to what he says here BUT more importantly, do get out and hear him speak.

  8. As someone who has had the good fortune to both be in the audience and participate with Jordan on several panels (though we both vow the last hosting one) and now having invited him to lead a Social Media panel at an upcoming conference, all I can say is Jordan is being way too humble, though the part about self-medicating is true. I think we both have been a tad guilty of this (Ok! A lot!).

    Whenever I have spoken about Social Media, I always mention that everything I know I have learned from Jordan then quickly point out when he is speaking later if you really want the juicy stuff. He is one of my favs in the speaking world and I am always disappointed when he is not speaking at any event I am at.

    So absolutely do listen to what he says here BUT more importantly, do get out and hear him speak.