The Do’s and Don’ts of Public Speaking

Three steps can help you feel prepared and calm, which are key to effective public speaking.

By Emma Dougherty, NAA Content Developer

Sure, auction professionals are comfortable behind a microphone when it comes time to call bids, and maybe even entertain. But, how about when you are simply asked to speak? Do you find yourself in a blind panic before a speaking engagement in front of an audience?

You’re not the only one.

Here are a few tips to ensure a smooth and successful presentation experience.

“When you’re in a comfortable environment, you’re going to be more confident in your presentation,” says NAA member Bill Menish, CAI, AARE, BAS. To become more prepared and calm, there are three basic steps you can follow: Show up prepared; rehearse your materials; and, find some peace and quiet before you come out on stage.
“Call it a moment of meditation before you get out there,” says Menish, a 15-time Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist turned Auctioneer. “I do the stretches. I do the vocal exercise. But, one of the best things to do right before you walk out on that stage is bring all that energy in so that when you get on stage you can hit them with it.”

The audience members’ energy and engagement mirror yours from the stage, so it is important to keep up the liveliness throughout, even if “throughout” isn’t all that long.

The average attention span of an adult is about 20 minutes, so it becomes imperative to lead the audience in energy and keep things efficiently paced. It is more effective to get the audience excited and leave them asking questions and wanting more than it is to drag a presentation out longer than their attention span.

So, how do you do that?

Public speaking: Get their attention

Pacing and eye contact are magnets for catching the audience’s attention. Menish recommends getting rid of the script and memorizing the key points so that you can exert all your focus on the audience.
Sometimes, engaging the audience’s attention can be an even bigger challenge for natural introverts, but that doesn’t make it impossible. A few of the following tips can help you focus throughout your presentation and keep audiences engaged:

-Accentuate the positives

-Know that the audience wants you to succeed

-Focus on the things you are good at

-Don’t try to be something you are not

-Know that your audience wants to listen to you

-Give them a reason to listen

-Let others do the talking, you don’t have to carry the whole load

Public speaking: More than stage presence

There is more to a great presentation than just stage presence. What you are actually talking about is also a crucial part. When it comes time to write your speech, remember that great writing is rewriting.

“Rewriting is crucial. You’ll get through that first [draft] nice and quick. Then, go back and make it better. And then, go back and make it better, and then go back and make it better again. That’s how you get a great presentation that wows people,” says Menish.

None of that includes just stating facts and figures. Tell a story that relates to what you are presenting. This will keep audiences intrigued by what you are saying.

Breaking down the do’s and don’ts of public speaking can help Auctioneers hone in on their strengths and what to focus on when speaking to an audience.

Actual words aside, your first impression is the most valuable mark you can make on a presentation. Take all things into consideration such as clothing, voice, passion, and confidence.

“Don’t be fake but be strong” in your voice, Menish says. “Own your story, [because] we all suck at being insincere.”

Learning how to become a better public speaker also improves general communication skills. It creates better one-on-one speaking abilities as well and increasing confidence in conversation. These skills can be extremely valuable in many aspects of your professional career, and mastering these will increase your ability to not only speak publicly but communicate in general with ease.

DO’S of Public Speaking

-Have fun

-Make it fun for your audience

-Gauge your audience’s attention and interest and adapt accordingly

-Have great visuals

-Make sure to have a beginning, middle, and end

-Make the beginning great and attention-grabbing

-The middle should be full of good takeaways

-Tie it all up with a bookend

DON’TS of Public Speaking

-Make the process miserable

-Say uh, um, etc.

-Be boring

-Talk over your crowd, make eye contact

-Make it all about you

-Although it is easier said than done, don’t be nervous

-Miss an opportunity to speak to a crowd
This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2016 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips regarding this topic? NAA members can access the full audio of this presentation and many others in the NAA Knowledge Center.