Public speaking is a bit like maths – you either hate it or you love it. The truth is, however, it’s a great way to prove your expertise, increase brand awareness and even generate new leads! But exactly how do you grow your small business with public speaking? Let’s find out!
Why public speaking?
One of the best things about using public speaking to generate new business is that it’s free. Networking organisations are often looking for speakers, so it’s perfect for small businesses on a budget.
Speaking at conferences, trade shows or networking events, you can showcase your expertise and raise your profile. When you share your knowledge, give advice and help people, you can generate useful contacts for your small business.
Being a speaker simply gives you and your small business more visibility. And nothing gives you more credibility than being asked by the event organisers to speak about your area of expertise.
But, as with all things business, the outcome of your talk depends on your delivery. So I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to capture an audience and grow your small business with public speaking.
How to speak with confidence
1. Loud & clear
When speaking in front of a group, make sure everybody in the room can hear you. The best way to do that is by speaking loud and clear.
If, like me, you start speaking faster when you’re nervous, breathe in deeply and take your time. Also, reduce background noises and distractions if possible – and keep your cool if you can’t. Your audience will thank you for it.
To grow your small business with public speaking, it’s very important that your posture is open and inviting. Stand up straight, keep your shoulders back and don’t slouch.
Also, avoid crossing your arms or mumbling into your hand. You don’t need to stand still, you can move around, use your arms and hands to make your point – but make sure to not wave your hands about too much.
3. Make eye contact
People hate it, but it’s crucial: Look at your audience. Even if the spotlights are blinding you and you can’t make out any faces, look into the audience.
But don’t stare at the same people the whole time. Look around from left to right and front to back. Involve everyone in your talk.
You don’t need to be a stand-up comic, but it’s good to liven up your presentation to grow your small business with public speaking. Avoid droning on about facts and stats.
And tell stories. People usually remember little anecdotes better than the latest survey results. Convey your message in an entertaining way and paint a picture for your audience. Share your own experiences and use visuals if you can.
This will get easier the more often you do it. You’ll start to notice what sort of anecdotes you feel confident telling and which ones the audience respond to. So don’t panic if the first couple of times feel nerve-wracking – practice makes perfect!
It’s a no-brainer, but people often forget about it: Your talk needs to be relevant to your listeners. Don’t just prepare one talk and repeat it over and over again. Adapt it to the event, your audience and the occasion.
Keep your goals in mind and adjust accordingly, and avoid rambling to keep it short and simple. It’s fine to go off on a tangent if you have an important example or anecdote to tell. But lose sight of your initial train of thought and you’ll lose your audience.
You’ll feel more secure and confident if you use your normal language. Speak like you’re talking to a friend or colleague and don’t try to sound too high-brow or like the Bronte sisters.
Avoid using expert lingo that nobody outside of your industry understands. It might make you sound professional, but it’ll also make you sound like a show-off. Generally, it’s best to assume your audience has zero prior knowledge of the topic and to give a quick introduction at the beginning.
To grow your small business with public speaking, emphasise the major points of your talk. Repetition is a good way to ensure everyone takes the important things home with them.
For example, at the beginning of your talk, say what you’re going to talk about. Then refer back to that structure and to topics you mentioned earlier so people can make links and see the bigger picture.
8. Don’t be nervous
Easier said than done, I know. Even after years of guiding tours through Scotland I still have to fight that initial nervousness. But there are ways to fight it. It usually works for me to tell myself that I’m not nervous but excited (same feeling, different outlook).
It also helps to greet as many audience members as possible to turn strangers into acquaintances. Or at least try to find out who will be attending. Learn as much about your audience’s background as possible beforehand, so you can customise your talk and have relevant examples handy.
9. Be prepared
Last but not least: I get the most security from my preparation. If I know what to expect, what people want to hear about and what setting the event is in, I’m much more confident.
It’s a huge plus to know what to talk about and have examples, slides or handouts ready. Additionally, having practised the speech at home or in front of friends can be a big help when growing your small business with public speaking
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
How to Make Your Local Business Event a Success
7 Lessons I’ve Learned in Business Networking
6 Tips for Exhibiting at a Conference or Trade Show
How to Make Word of Mouth a Powerful Marketing Tool for your Business