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Envision's blog contains a series of posts about how to best run your conferences, business etiquette, tips for keeping your meetings productive, and more.

Public Speaking Tips from the Nashville Chamber

As first appeared in the Nashville Business Journal on September 3, 2014: http://www.bizjournals.com/nashville/feature/help-desk/2014/09/quick-tips-on-public-speaking-from-thenashville.html?page=all.

Does the thought of giving a speech in front of a big crowd make your palms sweat?

Envision Conference Center's Olivia Tomlin asked an expert, Ralph Schulz, president and CEO of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, for advice on how to hold an audience, in case you happen to be the person behind the podium.

What's the ideal length for a luncheon speaker? Should people speak when lunch is being served, or wait until the meal is done?

ralph-schulz-nashville

Schulz: It has been my experience that 20 to 30 minutes is an ideal length for a luncheon address. Of course, this is highly dependent on the speaker and the topic. Lunch meetings can be full of distractions at the table, so keeping the meeting short is to everyone’s benefit. ... More interesting means more time.

Waiting till the lunch is over is the ideal way to go. Distractions at the table can be overwhelming and often people will feel rude if they are trying to listen to a speaker while moving plates and glasses around.

Do you use a script or bulleted note cards? How do you handle eye contact?

Schulz: I prefer methodical preparation and bulleted note cards. If I have practiced what I am going to say, especially with a new topic, I am more likely to rely less on the note cards and be more engaged with the audience. This engagement is very important to me, which is why I don't shy away from eye contact. If people are making eye contact, they are listening.

Are PowerPoint presentations still relevant?

Schulz: A well done visual aid can be critical and can make a presentation the same way a poor one can break it. People absorb information through different paths like visual, verbal or hands-on. If your PowerPoint or visual aid doesn’t help the audience understand your message, leave it at the office.

Steve Jobs was famous for his Apple keynotes, but not every organization's CEO is as comfortable with a microphone (or as charismatic). What are the pros and cons to inviting a keynote speaker from outside your organization?

Schulz: An outside speaker can be the catalyst for your group to start thinking beyond their office walls. An engaging speaker who has been thoroughly prepped on the audience, business and expectations can give insight into the company from a bystander’s perspective and challenge the listeners.

On the flip-side though, an outside-the-industry speaker can seem detached and non-relevant. A truly good speaker will try to avoid this by being sure to tailor their address to the group. This also requires the event planners to do their homework before ever bringing the speaker in and prepping the speaker before the event.

Olivia Tomlin is the vice president of development and operations at Envision Conference Center in Brentwood, Tenn.

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