Did you know that public speaking is the Number 1 Fear in the US? Seems difficult to imagine given that I’m a natural-born extrovert and I’ve been presenting and speaking most of my professional career. We could consider the conversation of nature vs. nurture, but the fact is, when you’re in business for yourself, you’re constantly working to market your wares to create sales and speaking is one of the best ways to get seen and recognized for your expertise.
Public speaking has been in my bones for a long, long time. As a singer and performer from a young age, and a born extroverted youngest child of five, getting out to speak has always been a thrill for me, and it’s a real sweet spot for my marketing efforts. I know that stepping out in front of others takes a certain chemical mix… but for those of you who’ve been holding back or stopped by fear, I want to dedicate this post to you! Because speaking has always been, and continues to be one of the highest payoff marketing activities for my business since I started.
Courage is defined as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. ( https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage)
No one is perfect. In fact, I happen to think that ‘perfect’ is a made up word that keeps us stuck, uncomfortable and afraid. Instead, consider that each person you’ve ever seen in front of a group (large or small) has gone through their own fear barriers and demons. Fear of the unknown will always kick up, but it doesn’t have to consume you. Two things can be true at one time: You can be afraid, and do it any way.
Some of the best tips to help you muster your courage for a public speaking event include:
- Outlining your talk back to front
- Knowing your content
- Structuring your talk around your audience and their needs
- Creating clever hooks to enhance engagement
- Offering something for people to remember you and your topic
- Creating a strong close and call to action to motivate your audience
How To Structure Your Talk
There are many ways to structure your talk. I typically begin with the end in mind. I encourage my clients to ‘reverse engineer’ their talk from the outcome they desire, backward to the beginning. Then follow a logical and easy flow. Some common structures include:
- Before, Transformation, After;
- Problem, Suggestions, Resolution
- Beginning, Conflict, Overcoming Conflict, Tips for Success.
When I’m asked to speak or keynote an event, I typically begin with a Powerpoint deck. Why? The software is easy to use and helps me consolidate and structure my content. It also provides loads of opportunities to present visuals, pictures, products and share suggestions. And, depending on the group size and format I am partial to using flip charts and white boards, especially when capturing audience ideas and tracking group discussions. When the group is small, I often choose no display at all.
Too Personal Or Just Right?
If you’re presenting to a group of ideal clients, it’s totally acceptable to add your past experiences (good and bad) with other clients. Sharing stories is a great way to help those in the room connect to you and instantly recognize your expertise. Sharing your experience with past clients, helps potential clients in the room consider their potential to work with you.
Remember with public speaking, less content is more. Too often people try to cram too much into their talk and end up overwhelming their audience. Instead, stick to 3-5 topic points and keep it there. (We all have a tendency to over-deliver and most audiences will tune out.) Be sure to tie your ideas together logically and take steps to ensure you keep the audience’s attention.
When was the last time you ran a newspaper or online ad? How much did it cost? Before you turn away an opportunity to speak for free, figure out what it actually does cost to market your business? Then remember that presenting to groups for no cost is one of the best opportunities for people to get to know you, like you and trust you… at NO COST to you (other than time and travel). But the key here is that presenting is ALWAYS an opportunity for marketing – so it’s important to have a call to action of some kind. Many organizations/associations won’t allow you to actually ‘sell’ but – you can always come up with a free offer that is compelling for the audience and that they will be happy to exchange their emails for. In my experience, a takeaway that is compelling creates at least a 75% uptake when I offer it to the room and pass around a clipboard for emails and contact info. If you do this, remember to tell them that not only will they get your handout or offer, but you’ll add them to your newsletter list. This allows you to avoid ‘spam’ and, a free offer is not ‘technically’ selling.
In my experience, a takeaway that is compelling creates at least a 75% uptake when I offer it to the room and pass around a clipboard for emails and contact info. If you do this, remember to tell them that not only will they get your handout or offer, but you’ll add them to your newsletter/ezine and deliver tips and ideas regularly. (This way you can avoid the ‘spam’ alerts) And, a free offer is not ‘technically’ selling.
How To Engage Your Audience
One of the best ways to engage your audience is to begin with a great title that gets the right people in the room! Try to title your talk with a compelling, funny or catchy title that piques interest and hits a major pain point of the people who will attend. I sometimes refer to blog title generating tools like these to generate speaking topics too:
Although the links above are designed to help you generate blog headlines, they work really well to get your brain buzzing with potential public speaking titles as well.
Use Demos & Samples
Another way to engage your audience is with demonstrations. If you have a way to demonstrate something about your topic, audience or solution that displays your expertise in action, do it! It’s so helpful to see something ‘change before your eyes’ and it offers instant believability. So, if there is some small thing you can actually demonstrate either through an image or audio or video, try to build that into your public speaking event.
Finally, people love to touch and feel products if you have them – I actually used to carry around a tub of products for some of my presentations that allowed people to see the real thing. (Hint – most products I was an affiliate for, so if they purchased them I’d get a little bit back. CAUTION – avoid overbuying and betting on people purchasing. This can be an endless cycle of loss and an angle that if it doesn’t work for you can cause pain!)
Should You Offer A Handout?
When speaking to small groups it’s nice to create some type of leave-behind. I’ve offered various types of handouts with valuable content, tips and ideas. And, I’ve created rubrics that audience members can fill out as the talk unfolds. This type of leave-behind serves many purposes. First, people are more likely to take it with them if they write personal information on it, and depending on your talk, it can be very helpful! If you are footing the bill for copying – it’s completely acceptable to offer an outline, and not go to the expense of copying all your slides visually. It just depends on the group. Also, this is a point you should discuss with your host. Some people will happily do that for you – and others don’t have a budget for it – so if you’re doing it yourself, consider less is more, and I’d say the majority of people like to have something to follow while you talk.
Creating A Call To Action
The most important marketing step you can take when preparing for a free public speaking event or any presentation is to be sure you have a call to action at the end that allows you to stay connected with those in the room. Everyone is busy, and while they are there, you’re the most important thing on their mind. But, as soon as the presentation ends and your participants slip back into their busy lives, they’ll likely forget you and 95% of what you shared. So, it’s a good practice to offer something of value in exchange for their email.
Don’t worry, those who do not want anything from you won’t give their email, but those who do will be eager for you to stay in touch especially if you offer them something valuable in exchange. For instance, I offer several speaking topics for groups. And over time, I’ve created something of value for each one. This helps me gather emails of potential leads and people who are interested in building their business. And, they may desire to work with me in the future.
I’m embarrassed to say that it took me about three years of presenting before I even started generating an email list… BIG MISS on my end. I’m talking hundreds of people over the course of three years. WHY? Because I didn’t want to ‘bother them’. Now I realize that this was all a sticky mindset issue that I needed to grow through. Cutting to the chase here: People WANT what you have to offer, and often NEED what you have to offer – so my suggestion is to think of it as a win-win-win opportunity – and make your offer at the close of each public speaking event. Those who need you will come forward and others will just not give you the email.
To sum it all up, if you’re on a freelance budget, consider public speaking to be one of the best ways to market your business and build interest in your expertise. Public speaking allows you to connect with ideal clients, share your expertise and build your lead pool inexpensively. Although you’ll need the courage to pull a public speaking event off, you will be successful if you take the time to outline and structure your talk around the audience, consistently engage them with stories, hooks and handouts, and creating a strong close with a call to action for a free valuable offer. When you follow these steps, courage will show up and your public speaking topic will be a great success.
If you’d like assistance creating your signature talk, or with setting your marketing up for more business success, schedule a complimentary call with me. We’ll discuss your needs and see if I can help.