Nothing says “expert” like standing at the front of the room, giving a speech. And it is easier than you may think. Here is how to start building your business with public speaking—even if you think you could never give a speech.
Many people, perhaps including you, are afraid to speak in public. Studies have reported that public speaking is the #1 fear of most people, even ahead of death. (Or, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, at the average funeral more people would rather be in the coffin than delivering the eulogy.) The best way to overcome your fear is to start speaking. It gets easier with experience.
To get practice in a supportive environment, join Toastmasters. Members give prepared and impromptu speeches and receive feedback on their strengths and how to improve their skills. To find a chapter near you, go to www.Toastmasters.org.
Every day, there are meetings of networking groups, professional associations and community organizations all over town. Many of those meetings need speakers. Most won’t pay you, but they will give you exposure, and usually lunch, too. While the Chicken ala King may not be anything special, the opportunity to reach an audience will build your reputation and cause customers to seek you out.
What should your talk be about? This is not the time to deliver a commercial for your business. Give good information to help your audience solve a problem. Show your expertise, so that people who hear you will look to you as the authority on your subject. Most groups will want you to speak for 20 to 30 minutes. Structure your talk around a list of principles or tips, or talk about solving one particular problem. Don’t try to cram everything you know into 20 minutes. For example, if I were going to do a speech about public speaking, it could be about one of many topics. The possibilities include: conquering the fear of speaking, how to use speaking to promote your business and get more customers, writing a how-to speech, how to deliver a great speech, making money with back of the room sales, going from free speeches to being a paid speaker…there are lots more, but you get the idea. Choose one narrow topic and craft a speech around it.
Have promotional materials and business cards available for the audience. Make sure everyone gets a handout to take with them. Your handout can simply be tips and resources copied on an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper, or a small tri-fold brochure. Include lots of useful information (so they keep it), as well as your contact information and a little about you.
You can find groups to speak to by watching for meeting notices in newspapers and newsletters, and asking local chambers of commerce for directories of organizations. Identify the groups that include members of your target market. Then, call the contact for each group. Tell them what your topic is and that you would like to present to an upcoming meeting. It shouldn’t take many calls until you’ve booked a speech or two. (The first time I tried this, I succeeded on my second call.) Program chairs often have a hard time filling speaking slots, so they are happy to hear from someone interested in presenting to their organization. When you get a no, ask if they can suggest another group that might be interested. Many people belong to several organizations and can suggest a more appropriate fit if you aren’t right for their group.
Speaking for free may even open up a brand new profit center for you–speaking for “fee.” You will know you are ready to join the ranks of professional speakers when audience members start asking how much you would charge to speak to their group.
Even before you start charging for your talks, get ideas here on how you can make money with your free speeches.