Communicate like it matters, because it matters! – Jennifer Bechtel

Jennifer Bechtel from Innovation Living-Learning Community shares her advice on public-speaking and pitching. Jennifer has a background in theater, film directing, and coaching young entrepreneurs in all aspects of professional growth. 

  • Go early and get an awareness of the space.
    • Does it have poor acoustics? If so, breathe nice and deep from your diaphragm and fill your belly with air. Project your voice to where you feel like you are yelling. More important than being loud is enunciating your words – hit your consonants hard, chew on your words. Speak clearly!
    •  Where can you move? Understand the space. See if you can move around the audience and connect with them through proximity. If you don’t have much space or are at a podium, then move around with your eyes.
  • Be natural. – Be passionate when you speak; people will be interested in what you have to say. Why are you here and why should the audience care? Connect with the audience. Don’t just speak at them. You’re just talking about something you love to do, so convey excitement. If you can’t do this, maybe you’re doing the wrong thing. Tap into your natural charisma and natural storytelling ability.
  • Practice your pitch 300 times, but once you get to the space, throw it away. Once you’re there, you know the story, and just be natural and tell it.
  • Emphasize the most important words so people can hear them! You can mumble everything else, but let people know your name, what you do, why you’re different. Don’t emphasize (or really include) extraneous words that don’t matter.
  • Stand strong! Own the space you are in. “This is my space now and I’m talking.” Don’t slouch and apologize for what you are talking about. You’re doing something really, really important. You’re entitled to take up space when you’re talking about something that matters. Use what space you have and don’t be afraid to open up your idea.
    • Ground your body position.
    • Don’t have hands behind your back or in your pockets.
  • Use (or don’t use!) your arms. It’s ok to stand with your hands at your sides, but show strength. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up and take some space.
    • Gesturing is OK, but gesture meaningfully. If you’re going to gesture, do it with thought put behind it, and power. Don’t let your arms do random things. Make sure you are controlling your arms.
  • Make sure you open your mouth a lot when you talk. Women get trained to not make too much noise and not talk too much. We have to break this. Don’t be quiet and sweet. Open your mouth and force the sound out until it feels like too much. Have a friend who you trust listen. She will let you know how you sound.
  • Make eye contact. You’ll be able to read into a crowd to understand who really cares about your message.
    • Think about people in the crowd you know and make eye contact with them.
    • If there are important people in the room you want to make an impression on, make eye contact with them.
  • Freestyle, don’t memorize. Don’t worry about memorizing your exact words. If you’re sharing what matters to you, clearly, in a way that makes people want to learn more, that’s all that matters. No one knows your script.
  • Finish Strong. Have a strong closing statement that says you are finished without saying you’re finished. A thank you, perhaps.
    • End downstage center – closest to audience – it’s a strong place to end.