An Interview With Whisky Founder, Lisa Smith

Lisa Smith talks about her experiences as public speaker. In this interview, she also talks about her ideas of how a speaker presents a speech and how long it should be depending on certain factors. For more about Lisa, check out her website at

Three Cocktail Drinks

How can you use social media to build your fan base?

I find that the trick to using social media is to balance personal and business posts and tweets. As a speaker, and as someone on social media, people want to get to know you as a person. You’re not just a logo, or a company, or a book. You are a person. So put yourself out there with some personal tweets mixed in with tweets about your topic, links to blog posts, and marketing messages.

Also, don’t think you can just put your brilliant words out there and people will flock to you. You must interact, build relationships, ask and answer questions and initiate conversations. Social media may be a free marketing tool, but it does cost some of your time. Reply when people speak to you and be generous with who you follow and friend.

Ballantine's Bottle With Two Rock Glasses

What’s a great way to really grab the audience when you first start speaking?

I like to start my presentations with questions to the audience, to get them involved and to let them know right off the bat that they have something of value to contribute. I ask a question that involves nothing more than raising hands at first, though, because I don’t want them to feel intimidated. Audience members are not necessarily ready to speak, just because I am! If I don’t know the audience, because it’s a public or conference presentation, I might ask a couple of questions to find out what they already know or what they’d like to know. If I do know them, I can craft an even better question. And I like my audience to laugh, so I try to insert something silly from time to time.

You can also start with a compelling story, and if you lead them right to the high point of the story, then pause it and start your presentation, you’ll have them waiting with bated breath for when you wrap it up at the end. Some speakers like to start with a “shocking statistic,” but I warn you that if it’s not truly shocking or startling, it makes for a weak opening. Make sure your statistic is something that will make your audience experience shock, anger, laughter or some other emotional response.

Photo of a glass of Negroni Cocktail

How long should your speeches be?

Your presentations should be as long as they need to be for the occasion, the venue and the audience! Each presentation is different and each group is different. If you’re speaking at a service organization’s lunchtime meeting, they will likely give you ten minutes. If you’re speaking at a conference, your presentation could be anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. I suggest having several versions of the same presentation; I have a couple of topics that I can cover in 10, 30 or 60 minutes… or more, if necessary. The two main differences between a short presentation and a long one are 1) more detail and 2) more audience interaction, questions and activities.

How do you get people to take you seriously when you first begin?

People will take you seriously if you’re prepared and if you demonstrate confidence. If you’ve written a book, the audience already considers you an expert, so that’s something you have going for you. But if you aren’t prepared by knowing your audience and your objective, checking out your venue in advance, practicing your presentation out loud, anticipating questions and challenges (and more), people will resent giving you their time (and possibly money).

All this preparation naturally also leads to a greater feeling of confidence, but even if you are still nervous (and most speakers have some degree of stage fright), never apologize and never reveal how nervous you are. It’s none of the audience’s business how you feel — it’s all about them! Make sure that your presentation has value and relevance to the audience, and that you have carefully considered what they need, want and care about, and they will reward you with their attention and energy.