Boost Your Business's Profile with Public Speaking
by Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
- Created: October 8, 2009, 5:30 pm
- Updated: April 15, 2011, 1:44 pm
Today, becoming known as a trusted resource for your customers is every business owner's number-one goal. One great way to become a trusted expert is through public speaking.
There are many venues for public speaking-you can speak locally, address audiences at industry conferences or even get on the radio. To make public speaking pay off for you, start small by talking to local community groups. Here's how to begin:
- Figure out what target market/s you want to reach. There may be more than one. For instance, suppose you own a fitness studio that also offers personal training. Your target clientele might include young moms trying to get back in shape after giving birth or after their kids start school; seniors trying to stay fit; and business executives looking to boost their energy level. All of these clients are potential audiences for you, but you will need to speak to them via different venues.
- Figure out what venues work best to reach each target market. What types of events do your target customers attend? What types of organizations do they belong to? What radio stations and shows do they listen to? Begin with your local community. For instance, you can reach moms via local preschools or PTAs; seniors at the senior center; and business executives at the chamber of commerce, leads club or Rotary club.
- Come up with topics that will interest your audiences and relate to your products, services and expertise. For instance, you could speak to new moms about the best way to flatten their stomachs fast, to seniors about the latest trends in maintaining flexibility or bone health, and businesspeople about how to fit exercise into a busy day. You'll want to make sure these topics also relate to your company's product and service offerings. If you talk to seniors about tai chi, it would tie in nicely if your fitness center offers tai chi classes or sells tai chi DVDs.
- Have handouts. You may want to create special handouts, fliers or other leave-behind materials that relates to your specific presentation. For instance, you could give the new moms a flier that shows the 5 best exercises to flatten the stomach. At minimum, bring your business's basic marketing materials, such as brochures and business cards.
- Collect customer information. Get names, addresses and e-mails from attendees who'd like to be on your mailing list, and send them your e-mail newsletter or direct mail. Or, hold a drawing for a small prize (like a free personal training session). Put out a fishbowl and have people drop in a business card or a piece of paper with their name, phone number and e-mail on it.
- Promote your speaking engagements with press releases. Let local newspapers and community Web sites know about your upcoming event. This will help attract attendees as well as press attention. Getting known in the community builds your business and leads to bigger speaking engagements like radio shows.
- Make sure your public speaking skills are up to par. Before you start promoting yourself as a speaker, ask a friend or family member to give you some honest feedback. Or videotape yourself speaking, and pay attention to whether you talk too fast, too slow or too quietly. Do you tend to use fillers like 'um' and 'er' with every other word? This can become so annoying that people will tune you out. The rhythm of your speech is important, too: Is your voice lively and interesting, or dull and droning?
Practice improving your speaking ability in front of the mirror, in front of a friend or by videotaping yourself. Toastmasters has chapters nationwide where members attend meetings to work on their public speaking skills. This organization has helped thousands of people overcome nervousness and get comfortable talking to an audience. If you really have problems with your voice even after practicing, it may be worth hiring a voice coach to work with you one-on-one.
Once you've broken into speaking by addressing local groups, consider expanding. For instance, a B-to-B business can benefit by speaking at trade shows, conferences or other industry events. You probably already know the main events that your target clients attend. Contact the event organizers and ask about opportunities to lead or speak at workshops or seminars. If you'd like to start with something easier, ask about being on a panel discussion; this takes some of the pressure off as instead of leading a session, you're just part of a group.
Along with addressing audiences in person, radio is another speaking option to consider. Getting on a traditional radio show can be challenging, so you may want to begin by breaking into Internet radio. Internet radio is broadcast over the computer, and anyone can host their own radio show. This means thousands of radio show hosts are in need of speakers. WsRadio.com and BlogTalkRadio.com are two good sites to start exploring Internet radio. They offer shows on a wide range of consumer and business topics, targeting all types of audiences. Listen to shows on these sites and you'll get an idea of what types of guests they're looking for and who their audience is. Contact the hosts to get an idea of their audience demographics.
For traditional radio, check out your local radio stations to see which ones regularly host talk shows or interview guests. Then contact the stations; they should be able to give you a breakdown of which shows attract what listener demographic. Once you've pinpointed what show you'd like to be on, find out who the contact person is for that show (whether it's the host, a producer or an assistant). You'll need to promote yourself to that person as an expert, much as you would do any type of PR campaign. Contact them by phone (so they can hear what a good speaker you are) and follow up with e-mail press releases about your business and what topics you would be able to talk about. If you can tie your topics in to current events that the show host would be interested in, so much the better.
The added benefit of both Internet and traditional radio is that shows are often archived online for download as podcasts. This means people can hear your message long after the radio show is over. You can also use these podcasts to promote your speaking abilities to other speaking venues.
Being able to speak to an audience will benefit your business in ways you can't even imagine. So what are you waiting for? Start talking!
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