We all know that a great gift of gab is essential to building and sustaining profitable relationships. From business brunches and conferences calls, texts to emails, you’re in constant communication with clients, vendors and suppliers.
But if you’re looking for a novel way to supercharge sales without busting your marketing budget, there is one unspoken resource you probably haven’t considered: Public Speaking. Giving a talk to a group of business folks is a creative and cost-effective ways to develop new leads, according to Steve Rohr, M.A, and Dr. Shirley Impellizzeri.
The duo are the coauthors of “Scared Speechless: 9 Ways to Conquer Your Fears and Captivate Your Audience” from the Career Press. He was the Show Publicist for the 2016 Oscars, a media coach and has taught public speaking to students and business executives for more than a decade.
For starters, Rohr says, you have a captive audience when you’re giving a speech. Second, a dynamic and interesting speaker is automatically positioned as a leader in their respective field. Finally, when you take your show on the road, it gives you a good reason to get in front of new faces and grow your network.
So how do you get started? Here are some tips.
• What’s Your Story? Effective speakers don’t just talk; they say something. And keep in mind; you’re not giving sales pitch. It’s really a chance to share more about you both personally and professionally. Great stories make great speeches and if you have a compelling story about how your business was born or how you overcame a tough childhood, start there. Personal narratives can be inspiring, interesting, and very often hilarious. Your speech shouldn’t be more than 20 minutes and make sure that it can be edited down to half that time without losing the fundamental message. Additionally, make sure your topic is adaptable to a few different kinds of audiences (college students vs. Boomers for example) and occasions (commencement ceremony vs. breakfast meeting for suits). Above all, avoid any topics or references that you wouldn’t bring up in polite conversation at the dinner table (e.g. religion, politics).
• Practice, Practice, Practice. When you’ve got your story straight, you’ll need to practice it. A lot. In fact, you can’t over practice a speech. It’s impossible. If you don’t believe that, think back to the last time you gave a public presentation. Even if it felt successful at the time, on the car ride home you probably said to yourself, “I could have done better” or “I should have practiced more.” Find a willing audience to hear you out. If you’re able, stand up and deliver for your family, kids, buddies, or even the dog. That’s right, get on your feet and do it “as if” there was a big audience. Ask your family for constructive feedback, and not just the nice stuff. Remember, they love you and want you to do well. While you’re busy practicing at home, search out low-pressure opportunities to speak in public.
• Start Small. There’s no need to go too big, too fast. In other words, don’t book yourself to keynote at the next presidential convention. Public speakers aren’t born; they’re made. In order to find your voice (and confidence) you should ease into it. Volunteer at your place of worship to read a scripture or make an announcement to the congregation. Moderate a book club discussion. Serve on a panel. Present someone with an award at work. Give a workshop. Visit a college classroom on career day. There are great public speaking gigs all around. Additionally, if you can invest the time, join an organization like Toastmasters, which helps people improve their public speaking in a safe and supportive environment. Or enroll in a college extension or adult education course in public speaking. Whatever you do, get talking!
• Increase Your Volume. You’re at-home practicing has paid off and your speech sounds pretty good. At least the dog seems to like it. Now it’s time to take it on the road. Business and service networking organizations are always looking for great speakers at their meetings. Seek out speaking opportunities at your Local Merchants Association, Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Rotary Club, Kiwanis, Optimists, and Women in Business clubs. Stay and chat and work the room. Business will literally walk up to you.