Many business owners can identify with feeling anxious and apprehensive before speaking publicly, as the stage is leagues away from the comfort zone of the back office or jobsite.
Addressing a crowd of contemporaries is vastly different from delivering a presentation to a small group, but speeches are one of the premiere channels for brand construction—and public speaking prowess is a rubber stamp to your status as a thought leader in your field.
There’s an inaccurate belief in business that only professional speakers should address a crowd publicly. The truth is that only a small number of people who present at local events, conferences and meetings are professional speakers.
Businesspeople who speak do it for product and service promotion or expanded visibility for themselves or their brands. The following five fundamentals can help you develop as a public speaker and market yourself successfully.
1. Assess your skills and knowledge
Are there any topics on which you’re an expert? Let’s say you’re passionate about healthy eating and fitness. You might use your knowledge to help people understand the importance of good nutrition. Write engaging speeches about organic food and its benefits, or talk about the role of physical activity in disease prevention. You could show people how they can lose weight without starving or spending a fortune on supplements. The topic options are endless.
As a construction business professional, you can talk about effective marketing or project management techniques. Discuss how to start or grow a business, the best ways to attract more customers and ways to promote your team’s success to gain more projects. If you’re Web-savvy, host a webinar to teach your audience about Internet marketing.
Regardless of your field, you can use your particular skills to educate and inform people.
2. Create your statement and share your story
The primary goal when delivering a speech is to engage the audience with a dynamic message that creates value and resonates in their minds.
Create a clear statement of what you do, its relevance in the industry, and how you can help your customers apply this information to their own situations.
If you want to grow your business, focus on shaping a successful brand that tells your story and inspires people to take action. Deliver a presentation that imparts your values and ideals to your audience.
The most influential speakers have something special to say; they speak from personal experience and share real-life stories that engage and motivate people. Personal stories are easy to relate to and have the greatest impact.
If you want to become a good speaker, come up with something new—make the mundane interesting. Encourage your audience to see things from a new perspective.
3. Rehearse, practice and scrutinize
As the old adage goes, “practice makes perfect,” and this is especially true when building your business and reputation through public speaking.
Researching the topic you are speaking on, scrutinizing each and every aspect of your speech, committing it to memory and rehearsing often will instill confidence in your ability to engage on the topic.
If possible, do at least one run-through in front of a small group of people to help alleviate any pre-performance anxieties.
Public speaking can be a risky business. Drawing a blank, failing to engage the audience or forgetting a line is entirely possible while onstage, but with consistent practice, you diminish the risk of all of them. It is important to understand that effective public speaking requires hard work and commitment.
4. Contact local and national associations
When all of the legwork of crafting an insightful, engaging speech is complete, you need to find your audience.
Many neophytes in the speaking world are confounded regarding the ins and outs of securing engagements, but it can be as simple as gaining exposure for both yourself and your presentation within your target market.
As a business owner, you need to contact local and national organizations in your area of expertise and tell them you’re looking for speaking engagements. Search for business events and trade shows where you can talk about your products and services.
Reach out to schools, colleges, libraries and social clubs regarding informational sessions. Find a way to tie your message to many different available audiences to maximize your opportunities.
5. Involve the audience
Inviting your audience to be active participants is one of the best ways to ensure engagement and connection.
Encourage questions and sharing of ideas—create a dialogue. Ask people to stand up, group themselves and share one or two things they found useful in your presentation. Tell them why you enjoy speaking about this topic and how your speech can help them.
Public speaking is a skill that can be learned by nearly anyone, but getting comfortable front of an audience takes dedication and a lot of work. For business owners willing to put in the time, however, there are very few avenues as effective for boosting business, increasing name recognition and enhancing visibility.