Give a Great Talk, Part 3

With my previous article for ETR, I thought I had covered everything you need to know to be a really terrific speaker. But when I showed it to Terry Smith, my ex-boss at Westinghouse and author of the classic book Making Successful Presentations, he suggested a few more tips for me to pass on to you.

1. Have something worthwhile for the audience.

In other words, show them how they will benefit from the advice or content in your talk. For instance, if your talk is announcing a new treatment for varicose veins, tell the audience some things they can do to prevent or relieve the symptoms of the condition – like mild exercise or wearing special stockings.

2. Rehearse.

Your presentation will never be great the first time you give it. So you want to give it many times before you’re actually in front of your audience. That means rehearsing.

You can rehearse by yourself … or in front of your staff or family. Or you can accept speaking gigs in venues that aren’t critical to you (e.g., the local library or YMCA) before unveiling your talk to the people whose response really matters to you (your target market).

3. Be yourself.

Avoid the well-meaning but misguided advice of speaking coaches and trainers who teach you theatrical techniques or tell you to change your manner, voice, and posture. Just be yourself. Audiences respond much more positively to real people than to mannequins and phonies.

4. Keep telling yourself, “I’m glad that I’m here, and I like what I’m doing” – even if it’s a lie.

My experience is that even if you don’t like giving talks and don’t look forward to doing them, once you step up to the lectern and open your mouth, your distaste will vanish and you’ll gain enthusiasm.

Okay. So now you have a complete mini-course on how to give a great talk. Terry’s advice – combined with what I already told you in Part 1 and Part 2 of this article – is everything you need to know about public speaking. And, as you can see, it is not rocket science.

NOW … how can you use this skill to promote your business? I have a few suggestions.

The most obvious is to find local business meetings where the attendees are your potential clients, and offer to speak to them for free.

There are thousands of meetings, luncheons, and dinners held each year throughout the country that routinely feature speakers. Since small local groups don’t have the budget to hire professional speakers, but want to deliver valuable content to their members, they are always on the lookout for volunteers.

It’s not difficult to get on their schedule. Just send a letter to the person in charge of arranging for speakers. Tell her your qualifications, the topic of your talk, and the key points you will cover. If your topic is relevant to the interests of the group, you’ll get your opportunity to talk to them.

Don’t use this opportunity to deliver a speech that’s a thinly disguised commercial or pitch for your services. Your audiences will hate it … and dislike you for giving it. Which won’t produce the leads you want.

The best way to get potential customers in the audience to want to do business with you is to give a great talk that’s packed with valuable how-to tips they can use. The only mention of you and what you do should be in a brief introduction about you that’s given by a member of the group. (Type it out on a card so the person can read it, word for word.)

Want to bring your speech to a broader audience? Arrange to professionally record your presentation. Then duplicate the presentation on a CD or audiocassette with a nice label. Send an e-mail or postcard to your mailing list, tell them the title and content of the talk, and offer it to them free.

You could also post your talk as a downloadable MP3 on your website and offer to send a link to it. Or you can make a transcription, which you could send to prospects as a downloadable PDF file.

I recently gave a talk on software marketing to a group of software publishers. I then mentioned the talk … and offered a free tape recording of it … in my monthly e-newsletter. Within 24 hours, I received more than 200 requests for the tape … many from software companies interested in hiring me to write copy for them.

From this one-paragraph mention in my e-newsletter, I landed an immediate $12,000 in copywriting business.

“Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly; for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.”- William Penn

(Ed. Note: Bob Bly is a popular Early to Rise columnist, self-made multi-millionaire, and the author of more than 60 books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing and The Copywriter’s Handbook .

He is also the editor of ETR’s Direct Marketing Masters Edition – a program to help you start your own successful direct-mail business.)