Want to Be a Great Speaker? Public Speaking Advice from an Expert

Have you ever stepped up to the podium to give a presentation or make a speech? You might have felt a bit shaky, sweaty, or even considered bailing at the last minute. But there are people who are actual professional public speakers and do it on a regular basis. We’ve got some great tips and inside information for you today. Check out this interview and learn how to nail your next speaking engagement. 

Public Speaking Agents

Zach Nadler is the CEO of Vayner Speakers. He’s been in the public speaking industry for almost 15 years but prior to that he used to represent Olympians. Zach explained that when you're an Olympic athlete you're not making a lot of money from actually competing. The money comes from outside opportunities, such as speaking engagements and endorsements. And that’s how Zach became involved in the world of speaking. 

Over time Zach started working with a number of individual authors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, athletes, actors, musicians, chefs — the list goes on!

public speaking

Zach has been working with Gary Vaynerchuk for close to 11 years and they both agree that the industry hasn’t changed much in about 40 years, but Zach and Gary are known to disrupt things. (In a good way!) Vayner Speakers is less than two years old, but their goal is to help other speakers have their voices heard, and help events really figure out what they need and how they can best take advantage of the opportunities in front of them. 

“If there's a story to tell, we did our job to get them on stages. And as an agent, it's our job to get them paid to do that.”

What Great Speakers Are Made Of

If you’re a great speaker, you’re probably asked over and over to come to make a talk for a group of people. But what qualities does that person have? And what does Zach see in them? Here at Smart Hustle, Ramon produces events and it’s always a goal to find people who can share their insight and keep our audience engaged. But finding these speakers can be hard! So we asked Zach for his thoughts on what makes a great speaker and how to find one.

“What an event is looking for, and what a speaker needs to do to get better, are the same things, right?”

Public Speaking Needs Practice

To start, from a speaking perspective, you need repetition. Zach explains that any public speaker who is trying to make a career needs to get out there. It takes time to learn what the audience reacts to. If you tell a story and people don't laugh at it, but you think it's funny, maybe you just need to reframe the story. Ultimately, the best speakers are storytellers.

public speaker

Now, this doesn't mean you have to tell the same story over and over, but you should tell stories in the same way that someone else successful has done it. Storytelling has been how people have communicated a message for thousands of years.

Figure Out Your Message

If you're looking to be a great speaker, it's about figuring out what your message is and then figuring out what the story is that can communicate the message. People are much more interested in hearing a story than just being spoken to and lectured at. 

Zach commented:

“I think the key to any great speaker is differentiating yourself. There are now more events and more virtual events than ever before. Every day in every city around the country, events are popping up. Companies all over the place are bringing people in to motivate, to inspire, to teach. And the complicated part here is that there's a lot of overlap. There's a lot of people saying the same thing. And you have to figure out what you can do that's different from what anyone else in the world can do.”

What Events + Audiences Want

Many people struggle with finding their unique position and message because bragging about yourself is hard. It feels unnatural and even rude. Plus, it’s possible that an audience won’t react in a positive way, so there is fear too.  

You've got to figure out what that message is that makes you special.

But on the flip side, that's what events are looking for. They want to bring in an individual who is going to create an emotional response from the audience and also leaves them with something special. Zach feels that the best speakers can make you laugh and cry all in one sitting. And there should always be a takeaway at the end. “That it's not just a good story, but it's a story that kind of has an impact at the end of it.”

Content vs. Public Speaking Style

There are great speakers who are 100% good at content or style and 0% skilled with the other. And then there are speakers who have a solid mix of both. 

“I think a lot of times, you can have amazing content, but your delivery just isn't great. But if the content is good enough, it's powerful. And vice versa. If you are all style, all sizzle, no steak. That can still be good. But ultimately there's probably a shorter shelf life.”

Think about Captain Sully — he landed a plane on the Hudson and he can tell that story at a dinner party or on a stage in front of ten thousand people. That story happened to him and turned him into a speak. Then let’s take Gary Vaynerchuk (mentioned above) who is a very different kind of speaker. He never tells the same speech twice. He’s someone who knows the message and owns it. And he knows how to get people to understand what they want to hear. But he does it a different way each time which is a communication style.

Advice for Event Planners

If your planning an event, make sure to really think through how long you’ll need the speaker. This includes time before and after the actual public speaking event. Zach said it’s asking a lot of someone's time to see if they can stay longer than planned. Most speakers want to be accommodating but have other obligations.

So make sure to also consider timing before booking someone. “It's really tough to put someone on the spot. Then you make them look like a jerk if they can't show up when they want to go to their kid's baseball game or their dance recital. Or they have a work meeting. And you don't want to put them in a position where they have to be a jerk and say no because they have something more important because their understanding was that they were going to be out of there at noon.”


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