Perfect Your Presentation Skills — Practice with Live Audiences

You feel you are ready as a speaker. To truly practice your skills, you still need to find live audiences to present to. In this article I suggest some alternatives.

Contact groups that have weekly and monthly meetings and are in need of speakers. There are Kiwanis Clubs, Jaycees, Chambers of Commerce, and a plethora of organizations and associations who are looking for good speakers who will speak for free (or for dinner). Once you have picked an interesting topic and presented it well at a meeting of one of these groups, you will start getting calls from others who have heard about you. They are not expecting an incredible speaker, so when you do an excellent job, they will be delighted.

Make sure you find out how much time will be allotted for your presentation because most of these groups have a special timeline for their meetings. Oftentimes, these engagements can lead to paid speaking in the future, but don’t present for that reason. You are there to give them a powerful presentation that serves them in some way.

Becoming a member of the local Chamber of Commerce’s Speakers’ Bureau, I was given lots of chances to speak. When we asked Clevelanders to vote for a “sin tax” to help finance our new baseball stadium I spoke on the benefits. After the tax passed, I realized that a lot of groups would be interested in hearing more details of what would be taking place in the future with the stadium, so created my own presentation with blessings from the stadium group. I learned how to deal with hostile audiences (there were those who had voted against the tax), question and answer sessions, and how to create meaningful visual aids.

Look into Continuing Education opportunities. Many school systems, recreation centers and community colleges offer Continuing Education classes. Most are willing to try a new offering in their brochure. I have found this to be a perfect way to test the popularity of a topic and to also put together a winning workshop. One two-night workshop that I still give on a regular basis and one that always fills up is called “Discover Your Core Passion.”

I feel that the way you write up the description can make or break the signups. For example: “What is your Personal Mission? We are all familiar with goal setting, but how do you set goals if you don’t know what it is you want? In this class you will learn techniques, principles and exercises to uncover your core passion, to define your personal mission and devise a workable plan for accomplishing it.” I have met some of the most wonderful people in these classes, been hired by many of them for presentations, and have discovered my core passion!

There are more opportunities than you can imagine. And I am sure you can think of many more than I have mentioned.

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