How to Speak (Before You Speak)

Whether you realise it or not, you are speaking long before you stand up in front of a room full of people to speak.

We are a globally connected society with easier access to information than ever before so there’s a lot people can learn about you before you even walk through the door.

When you find yourself looking out into a room full of strangers, there’s a chance they know more about you than you think.

The big question is…what are you saying? And how do you intentionally take control of the narrative to ensure people are hearing the right message?

Here are six key moments every leader and speaker can leverage to speak to your audience BEFORE you stand up to speak.

1. TALKING 

People are talking. In board rooms and around BBQ’s. People might not know you personally, but they will likely know someone who does. Be aware that your reputation speaks before you open your mouth. 

The question to ask is “what are they saying?”. What does the conversation sound like when your name comes up?

So think network. To influence a conversation you are not part of you need to tap into the power of your network and create advocates. Those who will speak well on your behalf when you aren’t present.

2. SEARCHING

People are searching for you online. They use what they find to build a picture of who you are and what you are about. 

The question to ask is “what are they finding?”. When they view your LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram or website, what will they learn about you?

So think visibility. How can you show up in the places people will look for you? Be intentional about creating presence online. Actively engage in the places where people are looking. Write regularly on topics you want to be known for and align your social media pages with your message. If you’re speaking externally, show up in the conference hashtag, write guest articles for the event and put yourself in front of the delegates any way you can.

3. FOLLOWING

People are following you online. They read your content and they see your status updates, so what do those say about you?

The question to ask is “what are they getting” by following you? Why would a person want to join your mailing list, read your articles or retweet your thoughts? 

So think investment then find opportunities to create value for the people who follow you before they ever meet you. Give them a reason to keep following. Be generous with ideas and resources and continue to help solve real problems. 

4. ENGAGING 

People are engaging with you online before they hear you speak.

The question to ask is “what are they experiencing” when they do? When they ask a question, send you an email or share one of your articles, what is your response?

So think service. How can you create moments that are memorable for people when they engage with you? Something they won’t quickly forget when they finally see you in person. 

5. WATCHING 

When you show up to speak, know that people are watching from across the room or in the elevator. You might not know or see them, but they see you.

The question to ask is “what are they seeing?”

So think posture when you enter a room. Do you come across arrogant, disconnected and closed off or approachable, friendly and honoured to be there? Do all you can to create accessibility for people to connect with you. Utilise your preparation time privately, so you can maximise your connection time publicly. Make the most of those valuable moments you have before you speak to connect with people, not just to go through your notes. When you’re in the room, you’re on. 

6. MEETING

People are meeting you before the event or meeting. They are looking for opportunities to connect.

The question to ask is “what are they feeling” when they meet you? Are they feeling valued and important or do they feel like they are being an inconvenience to you? 

So think connection and look for opportunities to create rapport with your audience before you stand up to speak.

Every moment you leverage is a valuable opportunity to position yourself. They are helping you speak before you speak. Make sure you’re saying something valuable.