It's no secret that word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best ways to build a business. But how do you spread your message to as many people as possible? Try public speaking! It's not only a great platform for establishing yourself as an expert in your field, but it provides maximum exposure for a minimal investment of time.
For example, a landscape architect could reach a roomful of potential customers by holding an hour-long workshop on garden design. Or in a 15-minute speech at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, an accountant can cultivate a crowd of new clients by sharing her best small business tax tips. And, a keynote speaker will reach a ballroom of fellow entrepreneurs at a national women's business conference, attracting press coverage as well.
Don't worry if the very thought of public speaking leaves you, well, speechless. With a few tricks and tips, you'll be a pro in no time. Here's how to get started.
Polish Your Skills.
If you're not used to speaking in public, brush up on the basics by reading books on the topic or joining a local speaker's group, such as Toastmasters. You'll get advice on content, style, body language, eye contact and relaxation techniques. It's also helpful to master the art of the PowerPoint presentation -- especially if you're planning on offering seminars, where visuals are essential. And always practice your material before you unveil it to the masses. Rehearse for family members and ask them to videotape you so you can critique your own performance. Speak every chance you get. Even nonbusiness settings like a PTA meeting or Little League dinner can help you become an engaging and eloquent speaker.
Teach a Workshop or Class.
Consider giving a seminar. Libraries, hospitals, community centers and continuing education programs often welcome course proposals from local entrepreneurs and professionals. In our neighborhood adult school, a home-based attorney who specializes in estate planning offers a 90-minute workshop on storing essential legal documents and setting up a home record-keeping system. A nutritionist can develop courses for a variety of audiences -- from new moms to senior citizens -- and teach them at the local medical center.
Just remember: Your mission is to brand yourself as an authority. Don't use the workshop time to actively recruit business. It is perfectly acceptable, however, to distribute brochures or business cards along with your handouts. If you're a crafter teaching how-to classes, you might even use your own creations as examples of certain techniques or methods. At the end of the workshop, have a sign-up sheet so participants can be added to your mailing list for announcements about you and your business.
Volunteer at Professional Organizations.
Business groups and other professional organizations often tap their own members to speak at monthly meetings and annual conferences. This is a great chance to cultivate your confidence. Start small by offering to introduce other speakers. From there, you can work up to moderating or participating in panels, and hosting breakout sessions. With time, you might even land keynote speeches, where you talk for half an hour or more on a motivational topic.
Some businesswomen become so adept at public speaking that they decide to pursue it professionally. If you enjoy and excel at speaking, you could eventually market yourself to a variety of companies and other organizations nationwide, and make big bucks in the process.
But no matter what your aspirations, you have a wealth of information to share with your audience. Determine your target market, prepare your words of wisdom and step up to the podium. You'll be glad you did.
Getting Started in Speaking, Training or Seminar Consulting by Robert Bly -- Covers all the basics of public speaking -- from planning your presentation to promoting yourself and your business
Toastmasters International -- This speaker's group has local chapters across the world and is a great place for beginner speakers to hone their skills
Power Pointers.com -- Offers a wealth of resources for creating presentations