Article #51, November, 2006
(Almost) Fr'ee Marketing using Public Speaking
Public speaking is a wonderful, inexpensive way to build your business. I believe giving talks is a skill that can be learned, and that everyone has something interesting to share.
Getting started can be very challenging, and entails two distinct efforts: 1. Creating the talk and 2. Marketing the talk!
By the way, the (almost) fr'ee qualification means that you will spend some time preparing, marketing and giving your talks, and you will probably spend a little money on business cards and materials or handouts.
Creating the talk requires quiet time. Brainstorm a list of your areas of expertise or inspirational experiences. While coming up with your list, consider your target market and your product/service. Using public speaking to build your business means this is a marketing strategy and should be treated as such.
The most basic premise of marketing is that your efforts must evoke an emotional reaction in the recipient. So, your talk must do the same. Keeping your target market in mind in this process will make the emotional connection easier because you already understand this group. You already know what 'turns them on'.
General topic areas that are intrinsically emotional include money, overcoming major life obstacles, happiness, secrets and urgency. How can you take these and create a topic that includes your areas of expertise and your target's hot-buttons?
If this is as far as you get before being struck with paralysis from fear, you need help! Check out your local Toastmasters chapter. Each chapter has a different culture, so if you have tried one that didn't click with you, try another one. You need the feedback. The members of Toastmasters want you to succeed and will be there for you to teach you how to be a good speaker. Give it a chance.
If that really doesn't work for you, you can hire a public speaker coach.
Once you feel you have a good topic, the ideas of what to put into your talk should fill your head - write them down! Just list all the ideas you have - don't worry about the order yet. Once you have emptied your head, look at your list and put the ideas in some type of logical order. If you need to do some research, that's perfectly fine, but it's best to talk on a topic with which you are already very familiar.
Everyone's style is different. I like an outline format, so I'll put my ideas into an outline and then flesh out the details. You need to find your own style. Then, begin practicing. Start by yourself, then when you are ready, use your new friends at Toastmasters or your cat or your video camera to help. Avoid the video camera if you tend to be overly critical of yourself. Use a friend instead.
Once you feel you have a decent talk, you need to practice in front of a live audience. Most cities have groups like the Kiwanis, Lyons and Rotary Clubs who are often looking for speakers. If these happen to also be in your target market, you might want to look for a different group so you won't be so nervous. Perhaps you could go to the next town. You never want to try out a new marketing strategy, no matter what it is, with your "A" list of prospects. Go to your "B" list first; then you won't care if you blow it!
After you are confident in your talk, begin looking for places to give your talk where your target market gathers. It is MUCH more difficult to create your own workshop/seminar than it is to speak at someone else's. Filling the room by marketing your talk yourself is extremely time consuming and stressful. (The same can be true for teleclasses.)
For example, if your target market is seniors, call around to senior centers and adult daycare centers and ask if they know where you could give your talk, even if they don't have speakers at their place of business. If your target is professionals, like CPAs and lawyers, call major colleges and universities and ask about their alumni associations. My alma mater is Arizona State University, and they have a Southern California chapter! You can also look for 'annual conferences' where you could be a featured speaker.
Once you get started, you will get more and more speaking gigs just by being public and letting people know you are available - put it on your business card and website and tell people where you currently network. Get out there and talk!