Grow Your Influence with Public Speaking
February 10th 2022
Public speaking is one of the most effective and least expensive marketing tools available. If you have more time than money right now to grow your business, think about doing some public speaking.
As the person in the front of the room sharing information, you’re the de facto authority on your topic. You’re the expert. This positioning can help raise your visibility and credibility as a businessperson.
That’s true whether you’re speaking to a high school classroom, where students may go home and tell their parents about you; to undergrad or graduate students; to members of a civic organization like Rotary or Kiwanis; to employees of a corporation or nonprofit; to colleagues and peers in an industry organization; or to attendees at a trade show.
The more you speak to groups, the faster your name and brand will spread, through word-of-mouth. Even if they don’t know exactly what you do, people will begin to recognize your name, or the type of business you run. You may start to receive referrals or recommendations from people who have sat in your audiences.
By speaking to multiple people at once, public speaking is also a very efficient marketing method. Instead of meeting one-on-one with prospects, you can educate and inform an audience of many, without having to convince them of your knowledge and expertise. After all, an organization asked you to speak to their employees, members, students, or industry professionals. That means, you probably know more than everyone else in the room.
Learning the Art of Public Speaking
If you like the idea of being perceived as an expert, but aren’t thrilled about the prospect of standing up to speak to a group, there are ways to learn the art of public speaking and get chances to practice.
Toastmasters is a terrific resource for people who want to get better at any kind of public speaking. The organization’s mission is to build public speaking and leadership skills. There are local Toastmasters groups that meet regularly, to help their members get practice and receive regular feedback to help them improve.
Dale Carnegie and other training organizations offer public speaking classes, where you can learn basic do’s and don’ts and have the chance to practice in front of people. Your local community center or community college may also offer public speaking courses. The more you can get in front of people and get feedback on your performance, the faster you’ll improve and get comfortable with your role as a speaker.
LinkedIn has an online course (which is free), to help develop public speaking skills, as do paid platforms like Udemy and MasterClass.
If you’re already confident of your speaking skills and are ready to explore where you might get in front of an audience, here are some strategies for connecting with people in a position to ask you to speak.
Craft a List of Potential Talk Topics
Once you’re confident in your ability to entertain and educate an audience, you’ll want to prepare a speaker one sheet, or speaker sheet, which contains information about you, your qualifications and experience, and the topics you’re qualified to speak on.
That’s your speaker marketing tool, so you’ll want to put some time into polishing it.
Thinking about topics you could speak on that would also position you as an expert and help promote your company is an important step in this process. Sure, you might be able to talk for an hour about quilting or ADHD or extreme couponing, but if your business provides personal training services, you’re not helping to promote your company if you talk about those other interests. Your target audience is likely more interested in learning from you about good stretching exercises, the best in-home gym equipment to buy, or training for a 5k run in 30 days.
Brainstorm topics that will present your business in a positive light, give you a chance to demonstrate your expertise, and be of interest to your target customer.
Finding Speaking Opportunities
Before you start looking for opportunities to speak, which can quickly eat up a lot of your time, get clear about your target client or customer. Who is it you want to connect with?
For example, if you’re a retailer, it might be worth your while to make local residents know more about your store. Speaking to local groups would be a good start. If you’re a pet groomer, finding organizations and groups in your region dedicated to pets and pet owners would be smart. If you manufacture a product, connecting with potential wholesalers or retailers might be your approach. And if you’re a management consultant or coach, finding groups that bring together professionals potentially in need of your services would be your best bet.
Think about who is most likely to buy from you or hire you, and then look for events, groups, and conferences where you can get in front of them.
Add a speaker/speaking tab to your company website. When you decide that you want to pursue speaking opportunities, let people who visit your website know that you offer speaking services. That’s as easy as converting your speaker sheet into a page on your business site. That way, your name is more likely to come up when event organizers go looking for likely speakers.
Blog regularly. Another way to attract attention to yourself, which can result in speaking offers, blog at least weekly on topics of interest to your customer base. Not only will this improve your Google rank in search, but it will support your new position as industry expert.
Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups for speakers. Get your name out there among people who speak regularly, or hire speakers as part of their jobs. There are many online groups that bring such people together.
Reach out to conference organizers. Conferences that bring together industry participants are always in need of speakers, though sometimes they turn to their membership for candidates first. Or you may need to be an exhibitor to qualify. Find out what the requirements are for being considered at various conferences your target customer might attend, and then submit some proposed topics from your one-sheet.
Register on SpeakerHub. Creating a free speaker profile and receiving “a few free” speaking opportunities in the SpeakerHub Marketplace can quickly elevate your game. However, to be able to scour the free and paid speaking opportunities and be positioned as an expert on the site, you may want to consider paying the annual $260 fee. Whether that makes sense depends on how serious you want to be about public speaking, really.
Join the National Speakers Association. If you decide that you want to make speaking an income stream for your business, look into joining the National Speakers Association, which is the organization for professional speakers.
Because a large percentage of the population view public speaking as scarier than dying, you have an advantage if you’re willing to take the stage, or even just stand at the front of the room. But develop your speaking skills before taking that step, to be sure you’re presenting yourself and your business in the best possible light.