There are lots of blogs and websites online giving you advice on how to be a great public speaker.
This isn’t one of them. 🙂
We are assuming at this stage of your career if you are running a successful business that you know not to tell lewd jokes at the podium, swear, fidget or accompany your remarks with PowerPoints with small type fonts and no pictures.
This blog is instead about how you can use public speaking as a strategy to grow your business.
Let’s also deal with the reality. Most of us are scared to death to get up in front of an audience and speak. I get it. I know that I’m fortunate that I am more comfortable than most, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t get those butterflies in my stomach before every presentation. So, there is the first point. You will probably be nervous each and every time you speak publicly. But, it will get better. However, on the positive side I don’t believe anyone has ever died as a result of public speaking which is good, right? 🙂
Speaking gigs are a growth mechanism that many entrepreneurs ignore, and that is a pity. That is because they are one of the most effective means of getting your brand and products out to a larger audience. Done right, they are astonishingly more effective than an endless series of one-on-one meetings. They are also quite possible the very best tool for establishing you as an expert and thought leader and that always leads to more opportunities.
Rather than winning people over one by one, in a 20 minute to half-hour presentation, you can impress hundreds of people simultaneously and encourage them to want to make use of your services and insight.
The only risk is that by not doing it right, you can also disengage with that same large audience.
However, with a little time invested in advance planning and a little more in preparation, you can significantly reduce that risk and be confident that you will shine at the podium.
Here are 10 effective ways to grow your business with speaking gigs:
Strategy One: Don’t open your mouth until you know your end goal.
There are good goals and better goals to using public speaking for business growth. A good goal is to use your speaking engagement to sell specific products or services such as a book, a CD, a tour, or a package of your specialized services.
A better goal is to look farther down the road. It would be nice if the evening yields some extra sales or work commitments or even follow-up meetings, but as soon as you pique your audience’s interest in you and your business and nurture new relationships, the event can be considered a success.
Ensure that you have some means of gathering the emails of everyone present – perhaps offer to send them an added bonus after the presentation – and when you are not doing your presentation, use your time to mingle and connect with each person and learn as much about their business as possible.
It is human nature that at public events, people feel good about engaging in conversation with the guest speaker. Ride that good-will feeling to learn enough about their business problems that you could casually connect with them a few days later with an “I’ve been thinking about the problem we discussed at …and I believe I have a solution” e-mail.
Two: Identify which of your audience members are most likely customers.
Never mock the low-hanging fruit analogy when you are trying to operate a sustainable business.
While everyone in your audience theoretically has an opportunity to become your customer, some are far more likely to give you their hard-earned money than others.
Know your products and services so well and how they apply to solving different problems for your clients that you are able to quickly pick up which people are most likely to need and appreciate your services or products. This is where your “people reading” skills can really payoff for you.
Three: Don’t agree to speak only to large audiences.
Standing before 1,000 people may sound great and even upwards of 100 makes you feel your time is well-invested. But the numbers involved in making public speaking as a growth strategy aren’t about how many people are in your audience; they are much more about the level of their interest in what you do.
A totally engaged audience of 20, for example, may trump a disinterested audience of 2000.
Take the smaller engagements if they connect you to your customer type.
Four: Do sufficient advance research to understand the problem your audience has.
Not all audiences share similar problems, but generally, if you are addressing an industry function, most of the people in the room are trying to solve the same issues.
If you are not aware of what those issues are, set up a phone call or a meeting with the person who invited you and gain more insight into what will be paramount on your audience’s mind.
Your business has many aspects as do the businesses of your audience, and it is best to do some advance research to figure out which stories and solutions will be the most relevant.
Five: Make sure that you actively pursue speaking engagements.
Growing your business through public speaking only works if you have lots of opportunities to speak. Now that you have some idea how your content will be planned to solve your audience’s problem, what remains is to ensure that you get a chance to share it with them.
Making two speeches a year won’t be nearly enough to serve as a growth strategy. You need to do presentations at least a couple of times a month for a while if you are going to get the momentum needed.
In conversation with colleagues and clients and on your website, make it clear that you are available for keynote addresses. Have a couple of testimonials praising your presentation skills as insightful, uplifting and relevant.
On your website or your Facebook business page create a speaker page you can add to your emails or other correspondence. On it, give a brief description of yourself and your area of expertise. List at least three topic themes you can speak about, and give your contact information. Include a professional photograph and a list of at least five skills or insights your audience can learn from you.
Six: Actively seek engagements with your target audience
Whenever you engage with a person who is part of an industry or even social organization, find out who selects their monthly speakers. Ask if you can mention in your email to that person that you got their name from the mutual friend. Then send them an introductory email and your speaker page.
Whenever you appear at a trade show or such community gatherings as a Chamber of Commerce networking event, have your speaker pages available and pass them out. You are not being too bold to do this; most people who are selecting speakers are volunteered into that role and finding a speaker with a good story who is willing to come to their group is a gift.
Make sure that as you direct people to your website to learn more about you that you have some great content such as insightful White Papers or blogs or even e-books that will illustrate you are a creative thinker and presenter.
Seven: Understand that every presentation has to be different
Before you start to openly seek public speaking engagements, make sure you have rough drafts of key presentations prepared that can be customized to your specific audience’s needs.
Do this because once people hear you, word often gets around that you are a good speaker, and the invitations come fast and furious. Remember that you will destroy your speaking reputation if you give the same presentation or remarks over again.
Have at least four distinctive insights ready if you suddenly get a rush of invitations.
Eight: Don’t make your presentation an infomercial
Never forget that your presence there is sufficient as a means of promoting your business. You cannot take advantage of the time and attention your audience gives graciously to subject them to an infomercial about your company.
Study how some of the most successful business owners captivate their audiences and note that it is with concepts and strategies, not an endless litany of how great your company is.
This is a good strategy not only because it keeps you from boring your audience, but because it establishes your reputation as a thought leader. The products and services you sell over the years may change, but you as an innovator can live on.
If you want a great illustration of an entrepreneur who could inspire his audience with ideas and imagination, not just use his podium as a commercial, check out some of the speeches made by the late Steve Jobs.
His “Crazy Ones Speech” delivered April 21, 2013 remains my all-time favourite example. While it was made clear he was talking about Apple and he represented Apple, he empowered his audience with ideas on how they could grow their own businesses and “Think Different”.
Nine: Update and create new presentations regularly
When you thrill audiences regularly and your business grows as a result, there is a tendency to get lazy. Don’t let that happen or you will go from trendy to old-hat before you realize what happened.
Update your stories, get new examples, and update your statistics relentlessly. Be the first to quote from hot new books, stay on top of each new trend and bring these things into your presentation. If these background stories are trendy and updated, it sets a tone for your audience to believe that what you are telling them is likely the latest innovation and they will be more interested in you.
Ten: Don’t worry that you will run out of things to say
Each day brings new books, new blogs and podcasts, new thoughts and new business experiences.
Because of that, don’t worry that you will run out of ideas and need to deliver the same speech repeatedly.
The more you think, and the more presentations you pull together, the easier it will be for your thoughts to expand to new ideas.
You will never run out of new concepts to delight your audience.
But, the first and most important step is to try it. Take action. Arrange for your first presentation – maybe in front of your local service club – and remember, nobody ever died from public speaking. 🙂
Thank you for reading. Until next time, take care.
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