A business conference can play such a vital role in the growth of ones career. Not only are you learning some of the latest trends in your industry, but you are also networking with peers which can lead to more opportunities for you down the road. One great way to get more from a business event is to be a guest speaker.

Speaking at a business conference has many benefits. One of them being that it can instantly position you as an expert in your field of work. For example, let’s say that you have mastered techniques on scaling a business or how to get media attention. By being able to effectively explain these ideas to your peers in your presentation, you will now be seen as the expert on this topic.

Sadly, many people will avoid the chance of speaking on stage because they dread the idea of being in front of a group of people. But rest assured, like any skill you have learned over the years, public speaking can also be learned.

Very often people see professional business conference speakers on stage at events such as TED and wonder how they are able to deliver such great presentations. Many beginners struggle with their public speaking skills because they do not understand all of the preparation and subtle nuances that come with giving such an important talk.

So why does effective public speaking elude so many people? 

Effective public speaking does not start with speaking, as most people would assume. No, it starts with listening. 

Most miscommunication in dysfunctional families and communities has one thing in common; people are not listening. And the same is true for you as a public speaker. 

Your first duty is to listen.

That does not make sense for a lot of speakers; they think they are the center of attention and their audiences are concentrating on them. Your listeners will be looking at you, that is correct. 

What they will be thinking though is ‘what’s in it for me? 

Why did I come here to listen to this?

I sure hope there is something I can take home!’ 

If you want your audience, be it one person or a whole ball room of people, to listen to you, you need to put your audience in the spotlight first and make them the center of your attention.

How do we do that?

By surrounding yourself with your audience and listening to their needs and wants first. How can you listen to your audience if you do not know them? Easy, it is part of your preparation; a very important step in formulating your ideas. 

Way before you even start preparing your speech or presentation, you’d better research or survey your listeners. If you want to be effective in public speaking ask questions as to what it is they want, sometimes you need to know what they do not want. 

The key to being effective and successful in public speaking is to give your audience something they need or want. Something that improves their lives or their earnings, maybe even their health. “People want to be motivated and helped to achieve a certain goal” suggest Sean Adams of Motivation Ping. “They are listening to you speak because they believe you are going to help them in some way.”

If you are asked to speak to employees or customers; ask questions that have to do with your topic and the situation they are facing. 

To speak to teenagers or their parents is a different ball game altogether. Their needs and wants are completely different. Most parents are struggling to connect with their kids whole most teens are struggling to figure out what they are going to do with their lives.

If you want to be successful in any communication, pay attention to whom you are talking to. Make sure you know what they do not want and what their aspirations are.

Surveying your audience before you speak is highly beneficial if you are able to do so. These questions can be asked through the person who is hiring you as a speaker. You can prepare a questionnaire for your future audience. Ask to interview a few of your future listeners and also the person who hires you. 

Make sure you know the outcome they are expecting from your presentation; then deliver. Today you can use social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin to find out about general ideas and social trends. 

Make a survey and use your findings in your presentation. The closer your audience resembles the people, who answered your survey, the more you will connect. 

The opposite is true too. If the group who answered your questions is far from your target audience, your presentation will be ignored. 

That’s it; here you have the starting point for effective public speaking. Once you understand this, you are well on your way to becoming a successful speaker.

There are many more skills you need to learn. Listening and knowing your audience is the first and most basic one of all. Once you begin to practice this on an ongoing basis, you will find over time that you will be able to read audiences much easier making your future presentations that more impactful.