One way to raise the profile of your business is to raise your own profile. Public speaking can be a means to do just that. A speech is one of the best ways to deliver your message directly, and uninterrupted, to an audience you want to influence.
Giving a speech gives you a chance to tell your story and the story of your business. It also allows you to establish yourself as an expert and go-to thought leader in your field. If there is an issue in your field that you care about or if you have developed a new, innovative way of doing business there’s an opportunity for you to speak about it.
Think about the types of people who you want as your customers or business partners and find the events they would likely be attending. That may mean speaking to a Chamber of Commerce, a local interest group, or a local event audience.
Start small. Many community colleges are looking for local businesspeople to present to their students. There are likely classes focused on your industry, on entrepreneurship, or small business ownership that would be interested in learning from your experience.
Speaking on a panel can offer similar benefits and can feel like a lower-pressure situation because you are sharing the stage with others.
If you’re already involved in local groups, be on the lookout for opportunities to present to the rest of the membership or to the crowds at other events they are hosting.
Once you feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, you can start pitching yourself as a speaker to local conferences and events. Or Forbes points out, "Become a sponsor for local conferences. Often, the reward for your sponsorship is a brief speaking session about your business."
Even the idea of speaking in public can set pulses racing, but if you follow five simple steps you can convey confidence and comfort in front of any audience.
- Put one foot in front of the other. Standing with your feet parallel means that when you shift your weight (an unavoidable reaction to standing up for more than a few minutes) you’ll move from side to side. This can distract the audience. By putting one foot slightly more forward then the other, when you shift your weight you will be leaning in towards the audience. That movement is engaging, not distracting.
- Speak to the exit signs. It can be tempting to speak to the front rows of the audience because you’ll be able to see their reactions and feed off of their energy. Doing that blocks out everyone behind them, and often means you are looking down and the crowd sees the top of your head more than your face. If you deliver your speech to the back of the room (exit signs are a good place to look) you’ll not only keep your head up, you’ll include the whole audience.
- Don’t lean on the podium. Leaning on the podium makes you look nervous or unhappy to be speaking. It drains the energy from your presence. Take half a step back from the podium and only rest your hands on the top if you need to. Many speakers find that avoiding touching the podium at all improves their onstage presence.
- Use open hand gestures. Since you aren’t using your hands to lean on the podium, you’ll want an alternative. The best thing to do is use open hand gestures that include your audience. Avoid using fists and pointing which can come across as angry or aggressive.
- Practice, practice, practice. The best way to prepare for a speaking engagement is to practice your speech. Out loud. Hearing yourself say the words you’ve prepared will help ensure you are comfortable saying them in front of the audience.
If you would like additional information or assistance on this topic, please contact us at www.BuddinghAssociates.com.
David S. Buddingh is founder and partner in Buddingh & Associates, Inc., an award-winning strategic marketing consulting firm in Naperville, IL. Contact him at (630) 961-4504 or visit www.BuddinghAssociates.com.