There is an old saying about knowledge: “The jack of all trades is the master of none.” This is true in life, especially when it comes to speaking.
You don’t want to identify yourself as someone who can speak on every topic.
One of the best ways to become a better public speaker is to narrow down a topic to speak on. You want to be considered an expert on one topic, not 10. This means you need to research your topic. And just for the record, an expert is technically someone who knows a little bit more than anyone else. So don’t stress out about needing to know everything immediately -- instead, work to learn just a little bit more than everyone else, then work to build your knowledge until you’ve learned all you can.
The more you’ve researched your topic, the more material you will have for a variety of speeches. Also, researching your topic is especially helpful when you are able to find facts and figures that you can use as part of your content.
When giving presentations, try not to memorize everything.
Instead, have a deep understanding of the topic you're speaking about, and know your facts. If you have this as a foundation, then all you have to do is tell stories about your experience, pepper in facts and figures, and you will create compelling speeches.
Saying that you should research your topic might not be enough to get you motivated, or might be a daunting task, so I have compiled a list of things that I do for researching my favorite topics.
Audio Books Are Your Friend
Dive into books, ebooks or audio books. There are likely to be a ton of titles that focus on the topic that you want to learn about. I can’t always find the time to read physical books, but whenever I drive I listen to audio books, it makes traffic productive. I use Audible and I love it. It is a good idea to know of books and other resources to share with your audience if they want to learn more about the topic that you are an expert on. Having researched your topic will also help you to facilitate question-and-answer sessions at the end of your talk. If you don’t know the answer to a question, you can answer it with reference to a book, article, or blog from another expert that you’ve studied from.
Blogs are your Friend
Find blogs of experts you like and get on their mailing lists. Blogs are great short chunks of information to learn from. Often times, I’ll read a blog and consider which elements in it would make a great speech. It helps to get your brain going, especially on niche topics within your expertise.
Podcasts are Perfect
Podcasts can be downloaded on iTunes, a ton of other podcast sites, or you can download them as mp3s. What is unique about podcasts is that they are usually interview based and are usually very timely and deliver industry news from experts as it is available. Think of it as a hyper-focused broadcast. There are so many podcasts that you are sure to find a handful for your topic. Research the topics you are interested in and listen to a few. Find the ones that you like, then listen and learn.
White Papers are Gold
White papers are long blogs, but shorter than books, and are usually research focused. Other experts or academia have spent months researching in detail on a specific topic, and you can read it for free! Facts, statistics, case studies and proven examples are great fodder for some ideas and substance for your speeches.
There are conferences for just about everything. From martial arts to children's toys, and all the way to dating. Once you find out what your niche is, research the internet for conferences. If you find one but it is in another state, see if they have virtual passes. Often times you can get access to the speakers and workshops from your computer screen. Conferences have tons of experts. If you go, you can listen and often times even meet the experts. Your goal should be one day to be the expert that the conferences want. Learn enough and practice enough, and someday soon, you will be the one on stage.
Hyper research YouTube for your topic. There are videos on everything! Now, if you search and find that there are a ton of self-proclaimed “experts” talking about what you want to talk about, realize that this is okay! Focus on your niche, and learn and practice. If you are a visual learner, this is a great way to understand your topic. Having a YouTube channel and regularly delivering content is also a great way to practice your live presentation skills.
Practice What You Preach
I am a believer in practicing what you are doing. If you want to be an expert in fitness, then get to the gym! You can have all the book knowledge in the world, but most of the real learning comes from doing. People will judge your expertise by your experience. So get a ton of experience, because experiences give you real life stories to share with your audience about your expertise.
What are you waiting for? Get out there and start digging into the topic that you will be an expert on. Find that niche, learn, practice, and your speaking skills will skyrocket!
Ryan Foland is Managing Partner at InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Ryan and his team teach you how to build your (personal or business) brand, get featured in publications and growth hack your social media following.