You may be surprised to discover how many advantages public speaking offers to anyone who has something to sell.
Your business, and your expertise, might be investing, fitness, motivating employees, fine art… or even video gaming. Whatever it is, people with an interest in that subject regularly assemble. They want to hear you.
Here are just a few of the many benefits you can realize by speaking about your specialty:
- You become a recognized expert, an authority in your field or niche. The value of having a solid reputation in a specific topic can be incalculable.
- The fan base or following you develop is a prime market for your products or services. You might generate sales immediately after your presentation. Or they might come later, especially if you have a way to capture attendees’ names and contact information.
- This kind of exposure can be superior to paid advertising. It’s more credible and less expensive.
- Program directors expect the speakers they book for their events to promote themselves and their businesses, so they don’t always pay. But many times speakers are paid – sometimes quite handsomely. You may also discover that you enjoy sharing your knowledge, as well as the applause, acclaim, and celebrity treatment popular speakers are routinely accorded.
- Finally, speaking offers you numerous ancillary and spin-off possibilities. You might, for example, be able to recycle your presentation into an article, book, course, or audio or video program.
Where can you speak? Opportunities abound.
Consider the corporate and business world. Every industry and profession has conferences, conventions, seminars, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. All need speakers.
To prospect for bookings, begin with your own network. If you don’t have direct contacts with groups that sponsor relevant events, an Internet search will turn up dozens or hundreds, including some you might never guess existed. Ask your local Chamber of Commerce for referrals to groups that welcome new speakers. Directories of associations are also good resources.
While researching my e-book, The Versatile Freelancer, I interviewed numerous successful speakers. One is Mardy Grothe, a consultant who speaks to business and professional associations on leadership, conflict resolution, and related topics. The 8,000 members of Vistage, an international business-networking group, consistently rate him as one of the organization’s best speakers.
“It’s tough to get booked by national associations,” Mardy says. “There’s a lot of competition and it’s a long shot. But here’s a tip that worked for me. Many of them have state chapters – so you have 50 additional chances.
“Moreover, it’s easier for a beginner on the state level, so start there. They pay little or no money, but it gets your foot in the door. They may recommend you to other chapters. Then one day, you have the clout to get the gig at the annual conference of the parent group, and that pays well.
“Your opportunities are in your own backyard,” Mardy advises. “Look around in your area. Speak at local groups and companies. If you have services to sell, your clientele is probably local, so that exposure makes sense.”
Regarding your presentation itself, here are a few tips that have served me well in my own speaking appearances:
- Tell audiences things they’ll find new, different, surprising, and immediately useful. Experienced attendees ask themselves, “What’s my takeaway value here?” The last reaction you want is “I’ve heard all that before!”
- Consider lots of potential content, but trim it all down to three or so key points. Attention spans are limited. No one ever said, “That talk was way too short.”
- If you use visuals, the same principle of simplicity applies. Put one point on each slide, not 10. Avoid “PowerPoint Overload,” a mistake speakers frequently make.
- Contrary to what you may have heard, never start a presentation with a joke. But a relevant story or anecdote can be a great way to establish rapport with your audience.
- Prepare a handout. Like your talk, it should be useful and “content rich.” It shouldn’t duplicate your presentation but rather complement or expand on it. Be sure to include your website address and other contact information.
When I suggest to friends that they consider public speaking to promote their businesses, I sometimes get the response, “I could never do that! I’d be terrified to stand up in front of an audience.” People afflicted with stage fright don’t realize that it’s not that difficult to overcome. If you can talk to an audience of one person, you can talk to an audience of one thousand. And you don’t have to dazzle your listeners. You merely need to communicate information they find valuable.
So what’s stopping you from reaping the rewards of public speaking?[Ed. Note: The above article was adapted from Don Hauptman’s e-book The Versatile Freelancer: How Writers and Other Creative Professionals Can Generate More Income by Seizing New Opportunities in Critiquing, Consulting, Training, and Presenting. It contains step-by-step advice on how to prepare a presentation, cure stage fright, avoid mistakes and problems, obtain bookings, negotiate compensation, leverage and exploit a presentation into new sources of profits, and more. The book comes with a free bonus report and a 100 percent money-back guarantee of satisfaction. Order your copy without risk here.]