Top Public Speaking Trainer Shares Tips

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Many of our clients have developed a great deal of expertise in a particular area and now want to use that knowledge to expand their brand as a professional public speaker.

Getting publicity is a great step toward building the credibility necessary to do that. But if they haven’t yet done a lot of speaking, I encourage them to get out there now and start – even if it’s free presentations to small groups. For many of us, connecting with an audience takes practice!

David Cooper would also tell you it takes some coaching.

I met David during a recent business meeting in Nashville. He’s a professional speaker and speaking coach/mentor ( whose credentials blew me away: He was featured on ABC’s 20/20 as one of the nation’s top three speakers, and has won the praise of other speakers I admire, from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking) to the late Zig Ziglar.

I asked David if he would share some tips with you and he graciously agreed. Whether you’re a veteran or just starting out, his insights will help you take your presentations to the next level.

David says there are four zones, or development stages, in the evolution of a speaker. Here they are, along with his advice for how to progress through each.

Zone 1: The focus is on yourself – because you’re terrified! You’re worried about how you look, whether you’re dressed OK, and whether the audience likes you. “If you’re in Zone 1, there’s no shame in that,” David says. “You’re in there trying to overcome your fears, so good for you!” David’s tip: Think about groups you may have already addressed, even if it was in an informal setting. Maybe you spoke at a family reunion. Did you teach Sunday school? Train colleagues at work? Start your speaking engagements with audiences of a similar size so you’re in the most comfortable situation possible as you build confidence.

Zone 2: The focus is on your content. You’re self-confident about how you look and your ability to talk to a group, and you know that content is king, so you’re simply going to tell the audience what you know. In Zone 2, the speaker knows his or her material and delivers it through sentences and statements, usually while standing behind a podium. There’s no effort to engage the audience or to tell them how and why the content is valuable to them. David’s tip: In normal conversation, we communicate through our movements, facial expressions, even eye contact. This body language will also enhance your presentations, so work on adding it to your delivery. It will also help communicate your desire to share something of value – people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

Zone 3: The focus is on providing something of value. The speaker is fully confident and knows his or her content inside out. He or she frames it as something the audience will enjoy having for future reference. “People will often leave a Zone 3 talk saying, ‘I really enjoyed that!'” David says. “But they don’t leave with inspiration or knowledge that they can put to use right now.” David’s tip: Engage the audience by asking questions about what they hope to leave with. Do they want to learn how to boost their sales figures 25 percent? Do they want to be inspired? By understanding their goals, you can create a journey in your presentation that helps them achieve what they really came for.

Zone 4: The focus is on developing rapport with the audience. These speakers know that they must do something in the first 90 to 120 seconds to engage the audience. Asking questions is one tool; telling humorous or emotion-filled stories is another. They can read the audience and know what takeaways will most satisfy them. “People in Zone 4 have arrived, usually through coaching,” David says. “They know the do’s and don’ts. They don’t talk at the audience, they talk with them. They understand the audience’s heart and they take a multi-dimensional approach to addressing it.”

Public speaking, like anything else, is a “progression of expertise,” David says. So no matter which zone you fall into, with practice and help from speakers you admire, you can improve.

And while you’re developing as a speaker, pursue opportunities to be featured in the media, as an expert source for journalists and a guest for talk show hosts. That credibility will help you in your efforts to land more impressive engagements which, in turn, will help you grow as a speaker.

Thank you, David!

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