Public speaking: The most underutilized marketing strategy?

The opportunity to talk face-to-face with potential customers about what you do is an incredible advantage

Getting the word out about your business is harder and harder in today’s business climate, especially here in Southwest Washington. We have limited media outlets and advertising venues, and the digital marketplace is so filled with content that it can often be hard to separate the signal from the noise.

But we also have an incredible advantage here in this region, which is often underutilized – the opportunity to talk face-to-face with other human beings about what you do.

That’s right – public speaking. Now, I know that for many people, the idea of standing up in front of a group of people and talking is about as attractive as elective dental surgery. But stay with me here. Public speaking can be as high-stakes as a TED Talk or a commencement speech … And it can also be as friendly and comfortable as a one-minute talk at a Chamber or Rotary event.

As you grow more comfortable, you can do more and more. And the benefits are huge.
From a marketing perspective, public speaking helps:

1 – Position you as an expert in your field. You know what you do and you do it well. Share your experience with others.

2 – Showcase your brand. Especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs, whose brands are themselves, what better way to share your brand than by showing people who you are and what you stand for?

3 – Bring in follow ups and referrals. People are most likely to do business with someone they know. By sharing your stories in a non-sales way that builds connection, you make yourself a trusted, known quantity.

Like pretty much everything else in life, the more you do it, the more comfortable you will become and better you’ll get. Don’t expect to go from rehearsing in front of the mirror straight to a keynote speech. Build your confidence and your skills by practicing in front of small groups, and extend from there. Leads and Needs at the Chamber is a good start, as is introducing yourself at Rotary clubs and other service organizations. From there, seek opportunities to share your knowledge and experience at those same business organizations, or service clubs, or associations.

OK, so I should speak publicly. But how?

Yes, it’s easy to say, “Go out there and talk!” and it can be much harder to actually do it. Here are some basic tips to help you speak publicly with confidence and connection:

1 – Stand up straight, and stand still. Check your posture, and use open body language that communicates confidence. Plant your feet and don’t wander around. If you do move, make it intentional. Finish a thought, then walk a few steps, then stop and talk again. Aimlessly moving around the stage communicates anxiety.

2 – Make eye contact. You’re talking to people, so look at them, too. Pick an individual, look at them like you’re having a real conversation, and talk directly to them. Then, after a sentence or two, pick someone else. Don’t look over the audience’s heads, try to avoid rolling your eyes or looking at the floor. Connect.

3 – Know your audience. You know what you want to talk about, and you also think about how it will be relevant to the people you’re speaking to. Do some research to find out who’s in the room and what they want to know.

4 – Don’t just read your PowerPoint slides. There’s a whole other series of articles to be written about using slide decks effectively, but in short, use slides to illustrate what you’re saying, and provide additional value in your talk. If you’re just going to read your slides, you’re not giving the audience anything they can’t just read in the handout.

5 – Memorize your beginning and your ending. Whether you’re giving a very short talk or a long keynote, know the opener and the closer down cold. That’s where you first connect with your audience, and where you leave them with a lasting impression.

You are the only expert on doing exactly what it is that you do. Sharing your knowledge and specific experience is a great service to the community, and can help build your brand. Adding public speaking to your tool chest is an inexpensive, and high-return, way to get the recognition and results you seek.

Temple Lentz is principal and director of content and communications for High Five Media, as well as business director for The Heather DeFord Group of Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty. Visit High Five online at www.HighFiveMedia.us.

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