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12 Public Speaking Tips for CPAs

When was the last time you gave a presentation that was a raging success? Did you feel like you connected with your audience or did it fall flat?

If public speaking was as easy as doing math, we’d be set, right? Too bad, it’s not.

alt As accountants, we are branded as being numbers geeks and introverted. If this describes you, then there might also be a deep fear of speaking in public lurking in your mind (like SO many non-accountants, too!). Whether it’s an auditorium full of professionals or a small room of top executives, nerves can get the best of us.

But unfortunately, speaking to groups of people and clients is part of our job at times, especially as we move up in the firm and acquire bigger clients. Being able to speak to a group of people without a shot of bourbon beforehand is a valuable asset to you as well as the company you represent. We’re giving you some tips to not only gain confidence going into a presentation, but practical knowledge that will elevate your speech and capture your audience’s attention...and hold it.

  • Know your audience. Will your audience be open to humor? Consider the people you’re speaking to and their personality when developing your presentation.

  • Open with a story. Make the presentation personal to your audience, and add some entertainment value.

  • Practice. Test out your main points on someone that can give you helpful feedback.

  • Burn off some cortisol. Cortisol is secreted by your adrenal glands when you're anxious, nervous, or stressed. High levels limit your creativity and make it almost impossible to read and react to the room. Exercise is the easiest way to burn off cortisol. Work out in the morning, take a walk at lunch, or hit the gym before a presentation.

  • Wait a few seconds before you start speaking. Waiting gives the audience the impression of confidence, so use this to your advantage.

  • Speak slowly, your audience will hang on your every word. Our tendency is to speed up when we get nervous. Make a conscience effort to speak slowly.

  • Engage with your audience. Make eye contact and hold the contact for an entire sentence if you can. Continue to make eye contact through the whole presentation with different audience members.

  • Focus on the audience members that are engaged, not the ones furrowing. There’s always the one or two people in the room with arms crossed and scowls on their faces. Ignore them. Focus on the engaged audience members and absorb confidence to keep going strong!

  • Turn nerves into excitement. Smile, use hand gestures, and inject energy into your presentation.

  • Benefit your audience instead of selling to them. Be a giver not a taker. Although selling is a part of life, try not to “sell” to your audience. Give valuable information. Lead them through a story where the end result is a better relationship with the client so that they will look to you when the time comes.

  • Say “Thank you.” Simple gratitude goes a long way. End your presentation with genuine thanks.

  • Always run short. No one likes a long-winded presentation, especially if they are being forced to listen in the first place. If you are given 30 minutes to speak, take 25. The audience will thank you and admire you for your restraint!

Public speaking is not easy. Even meeting with a client one-on-one can be intimidating when the stakes are high. Use our tips to make those conversations more effective and to boost your confidence in front of a crowd.

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