When most professionals think of marketing, what typically comes to mind is social media, print, email marketing, etc. However, one of the most important marketing efforts a small business owner can make is public speaking. Every small business owner can benefit from becoming a better speaker. Getting your message heard and acted upon is essential.  Public speaking accomplishes just that. Here are a few tips on how to get started and how to excel at speaking in public.

Speak about a subject you’re an expert in

People listen to public speakers for one of three reasons:  to be informed, to be entertained, or to be inspired.  The only way you, as a public speaker are going to effectively market your small business, is to know what you’re talking about and provide valuable information for your audience. Before you pursue speaking engagements, consider what it is that your small business brings to the table. What are you good at?  What’s your expertise?  What’s your unique value proposition?  Ideally, you’ve created a small business marketing strategy that has already identified these points; now is the time to go back and read that strategy, and put those ideas to use. Decide what you will present to your potential audience that will inform or inspire them (and yes, you can be entertaining while you speak!). Now is not the time to test out a new product or service you’re unfamiliar with.  Stay with what you know.

Get in front of an audience you can connect with 

The age-old adage is true:  people don’t buy from companies, they buy from people. You want to be sure that when you’re in front of an audience, you not only can provide them with valuable information but information that can help them solve a problem.  You want to get an emotional connection with the audience by speaking directly to their problems or challenges, and then share your expertise on how to solve those problems.  This isn’t a sales pitch (remember:  inform, educate or entertain). However, you do want people to visualize how the information you’re providing them will help them in their own business. Great speeches rely on emotional appeal. Public speaking and marketing work in the same way. Connect with your audience.

Look for ways to get in front of different audiences to showcase your expertise

It’s easy to fall into the mindset as a small business owner that the only audience you’re going to be able to get in front of are those at industry events.  And then you ask, “Why bother talking to people who do the same thing I do?” However, this is a short-sighted view of speaking opportunities.  There are many ways a small business owner can speak in front of groups, and the diversity of opportunities can be a powerful marketing tool.  Here are just a few, courtesy of Forbes Magazine:

  1. Speaking to a group of potential investors
  2. Speaking on a panel of industry experts
  3. Customer or prospect seminars
  4. Speaker at industry association events

Don’t limit yourself on who you can get up and speak in front of.  Every opportunity to speak to a group is an opportunity to showcase your company’s expertise.  That’s powerful marketing.

Don’t turn your speech into a sales pitch

Inform. Educate. Entertain.  Not sell.  Everyone understands that when someone is sharing their knowledge, they do so not just for the greater good, but to showcase their company’s expertise, and present themselves as a subject matter expert.  It’s perfectly acceptable to provide your company name and contact information in your slides and mention your company a time or two in the presentation, but this is not a time to sell. This is a time to inform. It’s the opportunity to show people who you are and what your company can do. Want to ensure your company name is memorable in the speech? Include some entertaining anecdotes about the topic from your business experiences. You can illustrate a point and mention your company at the same time, and make it memorable.

Don’t’ forget why you’re doing public speaking in the first place

Public speaking is a lot of work. You have to find the right audience, pitch your idea for a presentation, prepare your presentation, practice your presentation, DO your presentation, and then follow -up with any interest afterward.  It’s a lot of work, so keep in mind the marketing value of public speaking:

  1. You present yourself as an expert
  2. You’re making connections with potential customers
  3. You’re making your company more visible
  4. You’re making yourself more visible to other industry experts

Public speaking is critical to the small business owner. Start small, get comfortable with the process, and watch how your company’s business can grow over time.

Patty Hughes
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