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Freelance Consultants! Here’s How to Master the Art of Public Speaking

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Published:
June 9, 2022
Reading Time:
10 minutes
Leo
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

You want to be a better public speaker. In fact, there are many professions in which one has to be a great public speaker in order to climb the ladder. And, as you may already know, consulting is one of those professions.

Now, there are many articles on the internet about how to improve your public speaking skills. But hardly any of them are tailored toward freelance consultants.

The problem is that generic advice doesn’t always work in a consulting environment. “Just be confident” isn’t really helpful when a client who has paid you $20,000 is eager to know your recommendations during an important presentation.

In this article, you’ll learn the right tips to get better at public speaking as a freelance consultant. So, let’s dive into it.

Why Freelance Consultants Must Hone Their Public Speaking Skills

Before we discuss how successful consultants can hone their oral communication skills, let’s first discuss how public speaking skills and freelance consulting are interrelated. As a consultant, you’ll surely come across many occasions in which you’ll have to take the stage and have a conversation with a group of people. Good oral communication skills are a prerequisite to becoming a successful consultant. Without it, it’s highly unlikely that a high-paying client will ever hire you. Let’s talk about some other reasons why public speaking skills are important in freelance consulting.

1. People with extraordinary public speaking skills come off as natural leaders

What do all leaders, both good and bad ones, have in common? They have exceptional oral communication skills. We still recite speeches of great leaders who have passed away decades and even centuries ago. As a freelance consultant, your clients will hire you to make very important and costly decisions. If you don’t have leadership traits, like public speaking skills, then your chances of getting hired may be grim.

2. You’ve got to be a good public speaker in order to deliver successful presentations

All those weeks and months of data collection, analysis, and creating recommendations will only be fruitful if you’re able to deliver key insights and a plan of action to clients during your final presentation. Clients don’t care about how hard you have worked, they just want the right advice, and you have to be a good communicator in order to be able to deliver it.

3. As a freelancer, your personal brand will depend on your oral communication skills

If you work for a big consulting firm, big projects will come to you automatically. However, as a freelance consultant, you have to build a personal brand through social media, networking, and potentially doing public speaking at events. Projects won’t be handed to you on a platter, you’ll have to work for them. And when you have a strong personal brand, it’s likely that clients will approach you and hire you. So, if you’re good at public speaking and have experience giving advice to people on stage, you’ll have a competitive edge over a freelancer who doesn’t have great oral communication skills.

4. As a consultant, you’ll come across people who’d expect you to be good at public speaking

You wouldn’t even realize it, but those C-suite executives, who listen to you, judge your public speaking skills. Most of these people are well-trained in public speaking and leadership, and, whether you know it or not, will judge your skills silently. They’ll likely read your body language, pay attention to your tonality and inflection, and check how many eye contacts you make.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Consultants must be good at public speaking to come off as problem solvers and to communicate with clients effectively.
  • A freelance consultant with great oral communication skills is more likely to have a successful personal brand.
  • As a consultant, you should practice top-down communication while giving public speeches.
  • You should film yourself while speaking to detect any mistakes you may be making.
  • Watching other successful consultants speaking in public may teach you many valuable public speaking skills.

5 Ways Freelance Consultants Can Improve Their Public Speaking Skills

Now that you know how crucial public speaking skills are for successful consultants, it’s time to discuss how to take your oral communication skills to the next level. But first, just remember that you’re a consultant, not a professional motivational speaker. So, the tips that apply to other types of public speakers may not necessarily apply to you.

For example, a generic article on the internet that’s written for a general audience may say, “Tell a joke to build rapport with the audience.” Well, it’s probably not a good idea to tell jokes to a busy CEO client who is overworked and short-tempered. It’s probably best to keep it short and to the point.

Do you see where this is going? Generic public speaking tips may not work in a consulting setting. So, let’s understand different ways in which you, as a freelance consultant, can become a better public speaker.

1. Use the top-down communication method

The top-down communication method (or the Pyramid Principle) is a specific way in which consultants talk to their clients. Within this concept, the main idea is stated first, then key sights from the main idea are stated, and lastly the details of those insights are discussed. It’s pretty much the industry standard, and consultants are expected to talk like this. To become a successful freelance consultant who is also a great public speaker, make a habit of using the Pyramid Principle every time you give a speech in public.

To learn more about top-down communication, check out this article: How to Nail Top-Down Communication.

2. Be in control of your body language

There are several ways in which you could mess up your body language while speaking in public. For instance, your anxiety could make you fidget or be contractive. If you do this, you may not come off as a confident problem solver, but more like an imposter who has something to hide. Another common mistake is not matching and mirroring the body language of the audience. If you’re speaking to a group of people who seem reserved, then having an overly loud and energetic persona will probably alienate them.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are way more things you need to know about body language. Feel free to check them out here: 5 Body Language Skills That Will Guarantee Success in Business.

3. Become a speaker at events that your potential clients attend

This may as well be the best tip to hone your public speaking skills. You could learn all the theories on how to improve your oral communication skills, but if you don’t practice them, you may stay stuck exactly where you are. So, you should start attending events in which your target audience is interested. For example, if you offer digital transformation services to SaaS companies, you should give speeches at events that are related to it. Remember, the events you attend must be relevant to consulting or your services.

4. Start a YouTube channel

How can a YouTube channel help you become a better public speaker? Well, you’ll probably have more audience on YouTube than in any public speaking event. Also, filming yourself while speaking will help you keep track of your progress. For instance, you may find that in your older videos, you use a lot of filler words like “um”, “ah”, “uh”, “you know”, “like”, etc. With more and more videos, the use of these words will gradually drop, you will speak more precisely and make changes in your speaking patterns. And most importantly, feedback from anonymous people on YouTube will teach you what mistakes you’re making. Your friends and family may only say good things about your speech, but those unknown people on YouTube will likely give honest feedback.

5. Watch and learn from the best public speakers in your niche

There are many online videos of consultants and ex-consultants speaking in public. You can find talks of many consulting industry stars, like Meg Whitman, ex-senior vice president of Bain & Company; Bob Sternfels, the global managing partner of McKinsey & Company; or Punit Renjen, the CEO of Deloitte. When you watch these videos, you’ll learn how successful consultants speak in public, how they change their body language, which words they use (or don’t use), and how they stay calm despite having dozens of people watching them.

Final Thoughts

At a junior level, you may not have to worry about public speaking at all. But as you advance in your consulting career, you’ll have to pay more and more attention to your public speaking skills. Just find out the names of some of the most successful consultants in this world and check out their profiles. You’ll find that they all have one thing in common—exceptional oral communication skills. In order to reach their level, you must meet their standards of public speaking skills as well. So, why wait? Start now.

Public speaking, Freelance Consultants! Here’s How to Master the Art of Public Speaking

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