Establishing your credibility is a very big deal. If you’re perceived as an expert in your market, you’ve got a huge advantage when it comes to marketing and customer retention.

One especially powerful way to build your credibility is through public speaking. Speaking to an audience is intimidating to many people, so if your first response to the idea is “no way”, you aren’t alone. But the benefits of regular speaking are significant, and I highly recommend that you give it a shot. It’s made a huge difference for my business, as well as for many of my clients. Today, I’d like to share with you seven tips to help you overcome your nerves and approach public speaking with confidence.

  1. Understand that your audience is looking for reasons to like you. Whether you’re speaking at a small networking event, a huge convention, or something in between, understand that your audience wants you to do well. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. They’re looking for reasons to like you!

  2. Do your research. It’s important that you’re doing more than just reading from a sheet of paper, or reciting from memory. You need to have a firm grasp of your subject material so that you can respond to questions or adjust your speech as necessary. A thorough understanding of your subject gives you the ability to speak with confidence. I generally find that if you know at least five times as much about the subject as your audience does, you are entering safe ground.

  3. Visualize success. Picture yourself in front of your audience, delivering a captivating speech. Visualize your audience applauding. Visualization is a great way to build confidence and to “program” your mind and body for success.

  4. Focus on the audience, not on yourself. Don’t worry about your delivery. Don’t over-analyze every word you speak. Instead, focus on your audience. Are you communicating your message effectively? Are they getting it?

  5. Get familiar with the venue. Whether you’re speaking at a small local restaurant or a large convention center, arrive early and get a feel for the environment. It’s much less nerve-racking when you’re speaking in a place that feels familiar.

  6. Join a speaking group. If you’re not ready to go in front of a “live” audience, practicing with a group of aspiring speakers may be the solution. Organizations such as Toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org) provide the opportunity to gain experience in a safe, constructive environment.

  7. Practice. Last, and most importantly, understand that the more you practice your speech, the more comfortable you become. Know your speech inside and out– don’t put it off until the last minute.

Delivering speeches is a fantastic way to build your credibility within your industry. Don’t let your nerves keep you from this pursuit!