Q: How can I publicize my business and position myself as an expert when I can't always get my press releases published?

A: Public speaking is another form of effective PR. You probably don't think of yourself as a speaker, but it's easier than you think-and the results will prove it's well worth the effort.

If a prospect wanted to meet with you today to discuss buying something from you, you would gladly meet and talk. You could probably talk as long as that interested prospect wanted to talk. See, you can talk. You are a speaker. Now imagine making this same presentation, holding this same discussion with a room full of prospects.

Speaking to increase your public awareness is not quite the same as delivering your sales pitch at the podium. You need to deliver something of value to your targeted audience, and you want to educate and inform. This type of speaking does a number of things for you:

  • It establishes you as an expert in whatever subject you are talking about. You become the resource. People like to buy from experts.
  • You are in a giving mode. You are giving information, tips, techniques, methods and ideas. You may even be sharing some stories that your audience will relate to and learn from. Your audience will appreciate this value.
  • You are being efficient. Delivering your message once for many to hear is much more efficient than delivering it many times to every single prospect.
  • You start and continue a relationship. Many people will want to talk to you after you speak or follow up with you in one form or another.
  • You develop a prospect list of highly targeted people to market to after your presentation. These targeted and interested audience members are more likely to buy from you than someone who has not heard you or who you don't have a relationship with.

There are a number of places where you can speak. Many service organizations feature speakers and meet weekly, such as Rotary, Lions and Kiwanis. Toastmasters is a group that will help you with your speaking. Church groups and Universities also have guest speakers on particular subjects. Some chambers of commerce invite guests to speak at their functions. You can even develop your own seminar or workshop if you have the right subject and the right audience.

Always use handouts and always follow up. This is something you can't do with a press release. This form of PR is more attentive to your target markets.

Can't develop a good speech? Try this technique: Find out what some "pain points" are for your target audiences, and then ask questions that are related. Answer the questions in an informational, value-oriented manner, and you have the basis for a presentation.

For example, for a marketing presentation, ask:

  • Are you challenged with increasing your sales?
  • Is your message getting to the right prospects?
  • Are customers returning after they buy the first time?

Answering these kinds of questions will attract a group of small-business owners or professionals trying to grow their businesses. And that's likely the perfect target market for one who chooses to speak on marketing topics.

Last but not least, publicize the fact that you will be speaking. Send a press release to targeted media as well as your current customer base announcing your speaking engagement. PR can feed upon PR, and speaking is one way to do that.

Al Lautenslager is the president and owner of The Ink Well, a commercial printing and mailing company in Wheaton, Illinois, and the principal of Market For Profits, a Naperville, Illinois-based marketing consulting and coaching firm. He can be reached at al@market-for-profits.comor through his Web site, Market for Profits".


The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.