Public speaking is a great way to spread the word about who you are and what you do without having to walk around a networking event handing out business cards to would-be clients. Speaking to a group of people in your target market (in my case, small business owners) or those in an industry that is complimentary to yours (in my case, financial services) whose target market is the same as yours is a great way to show your expertise and passion. It can help to garner new business either directly or by referral.

Picture1Here are my tips, based on many public speaking engagements about which I have talked on myriad subjects of interest to small business owners:

  • Speak about something you are passionate about. Accounting isn’t an exciting topic, but when I do speak about it (which I don’t do as often as I speak on other entrepreneurial topics) I do it in a way that business owners can recognize the value and learn something useful.
  • Give value. I had one seminar attendee tell me they learned more from me in 90 minutes than they learned from their CPA in 5 years!
  • Project professionalism in both your attitude and your outfit. I try to wear a “power color” that makes me stand out from the crowd. Your power color is one that makes you feel and look great.
  • Engage with your audience. Speak up. Make eye contact. Get them to participate.  Giving away a book (preferably one that you wrote) to the first person to participant will encourage others to do the same.
  • Arrive early at your speaking engagement so you can walk around the room, get the temperature adjusted or chairs moved if needed, set out any handouts or promotional materials, and settle in before any attendees arrive.
  • Try to meet some of the attendees as they arrive. Get their name and find out what they do. Making that personal connection will make it seem as though you’re not speaking to an entire room of strangers and you can refer to them during your talk. It will make you seem “connected.”
  • Make sure you have a story to tell. People remember stories. I learned through working with a business coach that having a story is as important as having a business. Be able to tell your story and explain the passion that drives you to do what you do in a compelling way. It will make your business stand apart from the competition.
  • PowerPoint is not always your friend. Unless you are really comfortable with it, know that it’s okay to avoid it.
  • Speak with authority. If you are asked to speak on a subject or a topic you are not familiar with, it may be best to say, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Recommend someone else is they are firm on their topic or suggest an alternative topic. The last time I spoke for the Greater Arizona Better Business Bureau they were looking for a topic around being organized for tax time. I suggested “The #1 Most Costly Mistake Business Owners Make and How to Fix It” instead. (That’s my favorite keynote!) They loved the idea and booked it!  Always make sure your topic is one that you’re knowledgeable and passionate about.

How do you prepare for speaking engagements? I’d love to hear!

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