There are three lessons that form the foundation for professional-grade speaking, in my view. I’m pleased to share them with you and confident they’ll improve your public image, presentation skills and business results.

Step One: The show must go on. 

This is the “show-biz” ethic. If Carol Channing (who starred in 1,000 performances of “Hello Dolly” on Broadway) was personally bored out of her mind, the audience never knew it. If she didn’t feel well, the audience never knew it. The show must go on.

Step Two: It doesn’t matter how big the audience is.

The professional always delivers. After all, you never know who is in the audience. Of the three people who might show up for your seminar, one of them could be the client of a lifetime

Step Three: Ninety-five percent of success in public speaking is 100% mastery of the material.

“Public speaking” is not a very extensive subject to study, but most courses teach you how to stand and gesture, and miss the entire point. The only reason a normally expressive individual would have trouble in front of a group is this: The speaker does not know his or her materials 100%.

Other Issues

It’s natural to have some fear of speaking in front of a group, of course, when you don’t know what you are talking about. When I personally train someone to give a seminar, my method is brutal and highly effective—rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. People that I train are allowed to have all the notes they can put on one side of a 3×5 card. That’s it.

Some years ago, I flew to Denver. A client of mine was getting outstanding results from his seminar. I wanted to know why.

I spent a few hours with him in his office, and at about 3:30 p.m. he excused himself and said he had to go rehearse for an hour. (I was a bit surprised, since he had given this particular seminar dozens of times.)

That evening when he presented his seminar, I understood why he rehearsed. He knew his material so well that he never once even looked at a single slide. When time came to change a slide, he just clicked on the remote in his hand. 

The effect was, quite frankly, electric. 

He obviously knew what he was talking about. The slides were obviously a visual aid. It obviously never occurred to him that he should, like so many other FAs, stand to one side and read bullet point slides. 

In that model, the slides become the show and the presenter becomes a facilitator. And then you wonder why only 15% of your attendees sign up for an appointment: They have to be thinking, “We want more of this?”

Master your materials to the point you can give your presentation without looking at your slides.