Why (and how) marketers should embrace public speaking

man holding a microphone


PHOTO: Medy Siregar | unpack

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the role and importance of marketing operations within the marketing department. My article last month, “CMOs: Your Marketing Operations Team is a Secret Weapon,” clearly hit a nerve. Thanks to everyone who commented, reached out, and shared the article. Your comments have sparked some interesting and ongoing conversations.

Why presentation is a marketing requirement

One of those ongoing conversations has been about the skills required in marketing operations and, in particular, soft skills. I was struck by a recent LinkedIn post about preparing for a career in marketing by David Lewis of BDO Digital, in part because he had just had a conversation with a marketing professor at a prestigious university who was completely unaware of the role that marketing plays. technology in marketing. . The post and its 200+ comments make for excellent read, but the only recommendation that caught my eye was: “Take a drama class and learn how to perform and the art of storytelling.”

The ability to present yourself well is extremely important in today’s environment – it’s the only way to communicate great ideas and strategies. Some might suggest that you can write and share your ideas as an alternative, to which I would reply: how many times has it become clear that the recipient of one of your emails a) just scanned it, b) read only the first paragraph, c) didn’t look at your attachment or d) never read it?

Like it or not, we have to be good oral communicators. That’s just the baseline. In our noisy world, having a public persona is really helpful for professional growth. A part of developing a public persona is speaking through webinars, conferences, and podcasts. So easy, right? Speak well and frequently, both internally and publicly.

Turns out, it’s not that easy.

Glossophobia is common, but surmountable

Last week I was talking to Frans Riemersma from MarTech Tribe about this. You asked me if I thought that most marketing operations professionals were introverts, and if so, did you think that presenting myself internally and speaking in public was a challenge for this community? My feeling is that yes, we are a mostly introverted community, so public speaking is not easy. But I’m less sure about the introvert connection and public speaking. It is possible to be introverted and comfortable speaking in public, I have first-hand knowledge of that. However, the fear of public speaking is incredibly common and, depending on where you look at it, affects 40% to 75% of the population. It even has a name, Glossophobia. Given that, telling marketers to speak up, present, and speak publicly will only create anxiety for a large chunk of our marketing operations community.

I am an introvert and I am comfortable speaking in public. In fact, my co-founder often says that I’ve never seen a microphone that I didn’t want to talk to.

It was not always like this. In high school, I would write a 10-page article to avoid a five-minute oral presentation. I even refused to be the top student in my class because it meant making a public presentation. In my senior year of college, my professor, who was on the board of the Virginia Psychological Association, asked me to consider presenting my senior project on self-hypnosis at their annual meeting, along with others presenting their master’s projects. and doctorate. I was one of two college students who would present. I agreed and then spent the next nine months filled with anxiety over the presentation of the presentation. In the end, the presentation went well, but that’s when I knew that the phrase “they hit my knees” is something real (thank God I had a podium to support me). Introductory adventures and misadventures followed, even as I performed to over a thousand people in Beijing in the 1990s with the media present. My translator literally ran out of the room in the middle of my presentation. Of course, I did what any western presenter would do: I just spoke louder in ENGLISH. Turns out, her nose was bleeding, but at the time it felt like a bad anxiety dream; I still wonder what was on the news that night.

For many years, even though I accepted that public speaking was a key part of my job, the night before any performance I felt distraught and nervous until I started speaking on stage. Today, I am no longer anxious and most of the time I don’t have the nerve to speak. In fact, most of the time, I hope I can speak.

Related Article: Public Speaking Without a Sweat: A Speaker’s Guide

Tips to overcome the fear of public speaking

My journey to enjoy public speaking began with Peggy Noonan’s book “On Speaking Well.” Noonan was President Reagan’s speechwriter and is a frequent guest on Sunday political shows. He was also afraid to speak in public. His book is so easy to identify and full of helpful tips, which I still use today.

Some other things that have served me well along the way:

  • Start talking when you approach the podium to avoid that “ta dah” moment, which can be scary.
  • Be at peace with confusing words. If you mess up a sentence or a word or even a paragraph, just acknowledge it and move on. By telling the audience that you have trouble stringing together words on that particular day, you give everyone permission to move on. I recently joined Rich Hein and Dom Nicastro on the decoded CX podcast and couldn’t for the life of me say the word “proliferation.” The more I tried, the worse it got and we all ended up laughing. I don’t know if they edited it, but it was a perfect example of what we just can’t control.
    I had a colleague who once delivered his 40 minute presentation at a conference call with a client in less than 10 minutes. It was something to behold. I’ve never seen anyone speak so fast before or after. There was nothing he could do to fix that session, but at the next lecture he took the stage with a banjo and began his talk with a song. Guess what everyone remembers the most?
  • If you are really stressed about a particular presentation, write it down. Once it’s written, read it out loud twice a day, beginning the week before the presentation and just before going to sleep the night before the presentation. You will not need the script that day and you will feel calm when it is introduced.
  • NEVER go on stage without drinking, it’s a great accessory. Reaching for a drink is an acceptable way to take a break and calm down in a presentation. It will seem completely natural to your audience.
  • Internalize that the majority of the audience is impressed that you are on stage or in front of the room. They are supporting you. Find someone who is nodding or smiling to focus on while giving your presentation.
  • If you are presenting in a small group, engage your audience with simple questions like “Does this make sense?” “Don’t they resonate with you?” “What has been your experience?” Just because you are the presenter, you don’t have to be the only one speaking. In a larger audience setting, you can always ask a question and ask them to raise their hands to engage your audience.
  • Keep your presentation simple. If you are a nervous presenter, don’t increase your anxiety by adding animations to your deck.
  • If you’re doing a question and answer session and you don’t know an answer, saying you don’t know is perfectly acceptable. If it’s a question you should know the answer to, you can respond with “I need to see that, let’s connect after the session.”
  • Frequency is the most powerful element to overcome the fear of public speaking. The more you do, the easier it will be.

For the Reluctant: Ease Your Path to Public Speaking

If you’ve read this far and are still thinking “no chance I’m public speaking yet” or “none of this is helpful; I hate introducing myself” then my suggestions are as follows:

  • Take a course or hire a presentation coach or join something like Toastmasters (a friend took this to great advantage).
  • Try to design your internal presentations whenever possible so that you can collaborate with someone and present side by side. It’s always easier to share the load.
  • If you want to develop a public persona and don’t want to talk, start by commenting on the LinkedIn tweets and posts of your industry peers, or share your posts and tweets with colleagues and your network. Once you’re comfortable with that, you can expand to produce your own original content.
  • If you think you might want to give public speaking a chance, start by moderating or participating in a panel discussion. The advantage of being the moderator is that you can prepare your questions, have them handy, and your role is simply to ask questions. The downside is that you are the panel’s focal point and “always on”. If you’re just starting out, being a panelist is the way to go. It’s okay to insist that your panel moderator share the questions they’ll ask you ahead of time so you can prepare. In these environments, your total talk time is likely to be only 10-15 minutes.

Like it or not, we all need to have some basic presentation skills to be successful in marketing and marketing operations. You decide how far you want to take those skills. If you’d like to give public speaking a chance, please contact me, I’ll work with you on a panel!

Anita Brearton is Founder / CEO and Co-CMO of CabinetM, a marketing technology discovery and management platform that helps marketing teams manage the technology they have and find the technology they need. Anita is a longtime technology start-up marketer and has had the great fortune of driving marketing programs through the early stages of a start-up through IPO and acquisition.

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