I recently had the pleasure of speaking at two Grow with HubSpot events which took place in Amsterdam and Helsinki over the space of three action packed days. Grow with HubSpot events are a fantastic way for people to come and learn about inbound marketing and for our sales reps to meet prospective clients and close deals.
This was the first time I’ve spoken at a HubSpot event and my talk focussed on the importance of sales and marketing alignment, or “smarketing” as we call it. Having had some time to reflect, I’ve discovered that I relish the challenge of refining and practising a talk, as well as the excitement of delivering it on stage.
Beyond the buzz of giving a talk, speaking opportunities like this are a great opportunity to build my personal brand, both within and outside of HubSpot. And in terms of career development, being able to effectively communicate the value of an idea through powerful public speaking is a key component of leadership. Delivered well, a talk is infinitely more powerful than the written word. It’s something I’m continually trying to get better at.
I learnt a great deal before, during and after my talk, but here’s five public speaking lessons that stood out:
1. Practice, practice, and then practice some more
There’s no secret ingredient here. If you want to deliver a talk that shares an idea, stirs excitement or unlocks empathy, you must invest time preparing for it and practising. It’s the one activity that will have the biggest impact and deliver the best results - you can always tell when someone has put the hard yards in. I spent a lot of time familiarising myself with the slides and talktrack, and then worked on delivery. In any field, practice is what separates the good from the great, and public speaking is no different.
2. Start with a bang to grab attention
My talk started with a statement that was both outlandish and amusing. This generated differing levels of laughter from the audiences in Amsterdam and Helsinki and helped get the talk off to a good start. You obviously want to keep in mind the audience and setting, but beginning a talk with a provocative or humorous statement is an effective device to gain people’s attention early on. It’s worth considering a “hook” for your next talk.
3. Consider cultural differences
While the Netherlands and Finland are both geographically part of Europe, it would be foolish to think they are culturally similar, and that both audiences would respond in the same way. A week before the event I spent some time with HubSpot’s Dutch and Finnish sales reps to try and gain an insight into the respective audiences. Although I used the same slides for both talks, there were some nuanced differences in how I presented based on this insight, which was appreciated by the audiences.
4. Seek inspiration from experts
Preparing to give a talk is one thing, but learning how to deliver it in an engaging style is quite another. I sought out inspiration by looking at famed TED Talks by Sir Ken Robinson, Simon Sinek and Alexander Betts. Studying the talks I noted how these gifted orators use tone, pauses, humour, repetition, alliteration and the number three to connect with an audience. I incorporated many of these techniques within my talk.
5. Understand your surroundings
It’s important to consider how space affects your talk. For instance, at the Bimhuis in Amsterdam we had an auditorium with a large stage and lots of natural light. There were 50 people sitting either side of the stage and 200 directly in front. In contrast, the Kulturfabriken Korjaamo in Helsinki stage was half the size with powerful, bright lights fixed on the centre and the audience seated directly in front. The lesson here is be cognisant of small details and understand how they can influence things like where you walk, look and gesticulate.
I’m pleased that HubSpot gave me this opportunity and I look forward to participating in many more company events. Seizing opportunities such as this is the best way to develop my public speaking and presentation skills. After all, there’s always room for improvement.