In a list of “top 5 phobias,” public speaking takes the top slot, followed by death. That’s right, more people are scared of speaking in front of others than they are their own death. And that’s a shame, because what many people don’t realize, particularly business owners, is that public speaking is a tremendous tool for growth and success.
Brand benefits of public speaking
Public speaking is one of the most effective ways to showcase your products and services to a larger audience. Think about how business owners usually extend brand reach. They either pay for expensive advertising or they take part in what seems like an endless series of one-on-one meetings.
Public speaking helps build brand awareness for your business. As a bonus, it will generally pay YOU to speak to a hungry crowd, so it’s easy on your ad spend budget. And, instead of winning people over one by one, you can impress hundreds of people in a single presentation, encouraging them to give your brand a try.
No other endeavor can build your reputation as an expert quite as quickly or efficiently as public speaking. This is invaluable as more consumers are apt to engage with a new brand that has proven its expertise.
And finally, public speaking can greatly enhance your confidence and sales skills. Selling is an integral part of growing a customer base and monthly revenue. If you generally aren’t thrilled selling to others, public speaking can help you feel more comfortable talking to just about anyone.
9 Public speaking tips to get started
Now that you know public speaking can be one of the best things you can do to grow your business, let’s look at some practical tips to get started:
1. Develop a relevant presentation
What will you speak about? In order to offer the most valuable information, you’ve got to do a little research on your audience. What are their biggest pain points? What kinds of questions do they ask on social media and online forums? How can you genuinely help?
If you focus on what people need to hear instead of what you want to tell, you will develop relevant messaging that resonates with the audience. That’s powerful.
If you’re new to public speaking, it’s a good idea to practice before booking your first gig. You can start by presenting your speech out loud to yourself, perhaps in front of your mirror. Once you’re comfortable speaking your ideas out loud, ask a few friends, family members or associates to listen to your presentation and offer feedback. Take this feedback to heart. Don’t get offended by any criticism, instead use it to get better and better.
You may also want to record yourself speaking so you can see for yourself how you are coming across. Are you stiff and robotic, or do you move and act naturally? Is your voice monotone or expressive? Are you talking very fast or taking your time and using effective pauses? These are some of the things to look for and improve upon.
3. Set your business objectives
How do you specifically want to use public speaking? Do you want to connect with potential investors? Network with other business owners in your industry to form alliances? Introduce consumers to your new product or service? Get specific with your business goals so you can then identify the right prospective event organizers to target.
For example, if you want to network with other business owners, speaking at a chamber of commerce event makes sense, whereas if you want to get in front of consumers looking for your product, a chamber of commerce event could be a big waste of time.
4. Actively seek speaking engagements
“If you develop a great presentation, they will come.” This sentiment does not apply to public speaking. In the beginning, you’ll want to set time aside each month to actively seek speaking opportunities.
Consider adding an email signature that advertises for you. Have a speaker’s bio available to pass out at trade shows and chamber of commerce events. Add a speaking page to your website and actively reach out to event organizers to offer to speak.
Once you get a few engagements under your belt, you will become known as a subject matter expert and will eventually be invited to speak at events. It will take a little bit of time to get there, but don’t get discouraged. A bit of work up front will really pay off.
5. Come with marketing materials
Once you start booking speaking engagements, remember to bring with you enough marketing materials to hand out to prospects. This can include brochures, business cards, coupons and free giveaways (pens, magnets, etc.).
6. Think quality not quantity
While public speaking is a great way to get your brand message in front of large audiences, don’t focus on the size of the crowd. The goal is to make sure your time is well-invested. It is much better to speak in front of a totally engaged audience of 80 people than waste your time speaking to a disinterested audience of 500.
7. Don’t get lazy
Once you get comfortable with your presentation, it’s easy to get lazy and just give the same old presentation over and over for years. It’s important to keep your presentation fresh and engaging, so find updates or new examples to add to it.
8. Stay on top of trends
Stay on top of industry trends and share innovations. By doing this, you will be considered not only an engaging speaker, but one who can be depended on to keep the audience informed.
9. Be helpful – not perfect
Do you know why so many people are terrified of public speaking? Because they are afraid they will make a mistake and look like a fool in front of others. But that is entirely the wrong attitude to take.
Don’t try to be perfect and memorize every word and hand gesture. Be real and honest and most of all, be genuine in your desire to help the people in your audience solve a problem. If you focus on helping instead of being perfect, you can’t go wrong.
Public speaking is one of the absolute best ways to grow your business while being seen as an expert in your industry. Don’t be afraid to speak in front of groups. Instead, follow these tips so you can become comfortable and skilled with public speaking.
Guest author: Ashish Arora is the Co-Founder of SketchBubble.com, a leading provider of result-driven, professionally built presentation templates. Travelling the world to gather new creative ideas, he has been working in the digital marketing space since 2007 and has a passion for designing presentations. You can also find him on Twitter or LinkedIn