One of my primary niches is group cruise travel. As such, I often find myself speaking to larger groups of people: potential group leaders at a luncheon, booked group passengers at an informational meeting, or even a networking group audience. When asked about their fears, most people would count public speaking within their top five fears – including me! It took me a while to get over my fear of public speaking in order to use it to my advantage in my business – I could not do what I do without public speaking.
If you realize the need for public speaking in your own travel practice, here are some tips I learned that can help you make the best of it:
Topic: It’s important that you speak about topics you actually know something about – and know well. For me, I know cruises very well. It’s easy for me to speak to a group about what cruises are like, what the onboard experience is like, and to answer questions about that topic. If I were to attempt public speaking on something way out of my knowledge zone like all-inclusive resorts and their differences, I would be insanely nervous – I do not have a good grasp of that topic, and therefore I would have zero confidence. This will manifest itself with a nervous voice, a lot of “uhms” and other filler words, and I would not come across as a speaker worth listening to.
Organization: In addition to knowing your topic, you have to be organized. Have you ever listened to an ill-prepared speaker? I have, once, and it was painful. The poor fellow kept losing his place in his notes (if he knew his topic as well as he should have, his notes wouldn’t have been necessary, but I digress), his PowerPoint presentation wasn’t in the right order for the speech timeline he was giving, and it was difficult to pay attention to him and understand the point he was trying to make. Don’t be that guy.
Practice: It’s said that practice makes perfect for a reason – the more you practice, the better you get at it! This is true with public speaking, too – once you have your presentation written and your slides are made, start delivering your speech to yourself in a mirror. Record yourself on video, if you possibly can, and watch it afterwards. It will be horrible – you might even cry. But, you’ll see where you need to improve, and so you practice again until you’ve got the best possible presentation you can give. You will find, if you practice properly and frequently, your words will become more natural, you will get a better grasp of the material as you’re presenting it, and your entire presentation will be smoother as a result. This will make your audience more receptive to your information, and you will leave a more favorable impression in their minds.
Don’t Worry: The audience is there for a reason – to hear your message. They aren’t waiting with baited breath to give you the big red X as if you were a crap contestant on America’s Got Talent – they generally are interested in what you have to say. Get your message out without worrying about what they are thinking about you. Chances are, they aren’t.
Get help: Hand in hand with practicing, it’s a very good idea to work with others to improve your presentations. Other people can see things you don’t see, or can provide suggestions you may not have thought of. Among the most popular ways to get this help is by joining a Toastmasters group – seek out a local chapter and give it a try. You may be impressed with the results!
Steve Cousino, ACC, CTA, LS is a six-year industry veteran and owner of Exclusive Events At Sea and Journeys By Steve with specializations in group cruising, individual ocean & river cruising, and personalized experiences in Europe, especially the British Isles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.