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You can’t dodge it – don’t even try. Everyone, at some point in his or her career, will be asked to step up to the mic. Here's how to hit your stride into the spotlight.

You can’t dodge it – don’t even try. Everyone, at some point in his or her career, will be asked to step up to the mic. If you’re among the hordes who live in fear of their inevitable public speaking debut, consider this: Talking in front of a crowd is a learned skill and acing it will lead to more chances to address larger audiences, which raises your profile in the business community, which adds to your credibility, which helps land the big clients… Nailing a few minutes on the podium could do more for your business than schmoozing your way through 10 networking events. Here’s how: How to do a 10-minute presentation Whenever you’re talking to a crowd, speak from the heart. Yes, the jazzy power-point presentations with high-tech graphics draw people’s attention, but if a message is going to stick, it has to be genuine. If nerves are a problem, close your eyes before you go up and try deep breathing (from the diaphragm, never the chest). If you’re still in knots, rather than succumbing to the torture of overzealous nerves, Gaze says exploit them: “People recognize vulnerability and it endears you to the crowd.” How to make a toast An intimate version of the intro, a toast must be sincere, direct and loving without gushing for the sake of it. The message has to come from the heart – there should be tears in the audience when you take your seat. (Never cry yourself, though. It’s hard to talk and choke back tears – and even harder to watch.) Explain how you know the person and why they are being honoured. Keep it personal, but above board (not to be confused with a roast). Please welcome…How to do an introduction “Brevity is the soul of wit,” quoth Christopher Gaze, when asked how best to introduce a keynote speaker. “It’s a sin to bore people,” adds the creative director for Bard on the Beach. The best strategy is to dig up something fascinating or funny about the person, offer a few lines about what makes them stand out and then exit, pronto. If you get a bio tracing their background, never read it word for word – summarize the person’s achievements in a few sentences. Like most people, Gaze says he’s much better “off-book” but if you need the extra help, use bullet-point notes written in your own words. Always make sure the information is accurate. Fumbling facts will make you look disorganized and unprepared – and could scramble the speaker. How to handle a last-minute interview The call comes: A reporter wants the details on your company’s China strategy. And not next week, now. Horror-stricken, you remind yourself any publicity will boost the firm’s profile. The only hitch: You don’t trust the media and have no idea how to make your company look good in front of the camera – and that’s not going to change in the next hour. Or, maybe it will:

  • Find out everything you can about the questions you’ll be asked.
  • Write out your ‘key messages.’ Avoid industry jargon – use plain English.
  • Speak clearly and briefly, don’t get bogged down in detail and never over-promise.
Sources: Christopher Gaze, founder and artistic director of Bard on the Beach; Marilyn Kehrig, president of Vancouver’s Positive Expressions coastmasters Club; Ian Noble, consultant with the Wilcox Group.