Speak Up!

Public speaking techniques for promoting your business

When you're starting out in business, the most effective and least expensive way to market yourself is by word of mouth--your mouth.

"Even if you can't afford to do any marketing," says Pamela Truax, co-author of Market Smarter, Not Harder (Kendall/Hunt Publishing, $29.95, 800-228-0810), "you can promote your business by getting out and talking to people."

For Truax, the most important speaking opportunity is the "elevator speech"--what you say at mixers and networking opportunities when people ask what you do. Like any good speech, it requires preparation.

A successful self-introduction follows these steps:

  • Let the other person talk first. If you express interest in others, they'll be more receptive to what you say. You can then tailor your comments to their concerns.
  • Cite the benefits--to the listener--of your product or service. The most appealing benefits are saving time, money or effort.
  • Hand out your business card.
  • Prove your claim with statistics or a testimonial. "My product saved ABC Co. $25,000 in six months." "The director of sales at XYZ Co. credits my training program with improving her department's performance by 10 percent over a two-year period." Be specific, concrete and honest.

From start to finish, your self-introduction should last no more than a minute. Your goal is to inform and arouse interest, not to give an exhaustive (and exhausting) infomercial. Be prepared to say more if someone expresses interest.

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Speak Up!.

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