So you’ve decided to add public speaking to your arsenal of tools to grow your business. This is a good choice as speaking can be a great way to grow your business. For more on that see my recent post Three Ways Speaking Can Grow Your Business.
Learn the Art of Public Speaking
But how do you get started with public speaking when you don’t have any experience? If the only speaking you’ve ever done was that monologue in the fifth-grade play, you may want to get a little practice before marketing yourself as a speaker. One of the best resources for learning the art (and yes, it is an art) of public speaking is Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an international organization with clubs just about everywhere and is a very affordable option. You could also find a speaking workshop near you or take a class at your local college or university. And then, practice, practice, practice.
Once you are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd (by the way, comfortable doesn’t mean you won’t get nervous—a little nervousness is good. I tell my kids that being nervous means you actually care about what you’re doing), it’s time to start looking for opportunities. I recommend you start small and give yourself time to get comfortable with groups and with how your presentations might go. Also, the small speaking opportunities are what will give you the experience and the background to move on to larger events. It’s called “paying your dues.”
Once you are a well-established speaker and able to market yourself for conferences and workshops, you can begin charging for your services. In the beginning, though, and really throughout your speaking career, be sure you aren’t overlooking the smaller local groups that may not directly bring in income but allow you to build your standing as a speaker, establish yourself as an authority and market your business locally.
Webinars and Teleseminars
One way to get some practice, alleviate some of the nerves and build your business is to start out offering free or low-cost webinars and teleseminars. A free introductory webinar is a great way to test out new material and, if you make it interactive and allow listeners to ask questions, it is a great way to learn what your market really wants and needs to hear.
You can also use snippets of webinars to make YouTube videos, to use as opt-ins or blog posts on your site and to market your in-person speaking skills. Having a brief video of you talking about topics in your niche can give event organizers an opportunity to see how wonderful you are and what they will be getting if they invite you to speak at their event.
How Do I Find an Audience?
There are many opportunities to speak. Which groups you target will depend on your niche. Start with your local Chamber of Commerce, local service groups such as Kiwanis or Rotary Club, leads and networking groups like BNI. In addition, if it fits with your niche, you might consider offering yourself as a guest speaker at the local high school or college. Many schools have career day events and are often hard-pressed for professionals to come and speak. This may not directly lead to new business, but it is an excellent opportunity to practice your skills, build your speaking resume and give back to your community.
To present yourself as a speaker to these groups, you need to put together a press kit. Find out who is in charge of securing speakers for the organization. Whether you approach that person by email or snail mail, make it easy for them to see that you are qualified to speak. Provide a brief resume, a synopsis of your speaking topic(s) and how the organization’s members will benefit from what you have to say. Whenever possible, include a short video, either a snippet from a previous engagement or even a YouTube video with you speaking so they can see how you present yourself.
After you have gotten a few engagements under your belt, it will be easier to try and begin hosting paid events, and to market yourself to larger businesses for training seminars or as a platform or breakout speaker at conference and conventions.
It is important to be patient and to seek out feedback and possibly even coaching as you begin. Once you develop your public speaking skills, you will see how fun and rewarding it can be to build your business through public speaking.
What has your experience been? What advice would you give to a public speaker?