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3 Tips for Giving Great Speeches

Our PR expert shows you how to overcome your stage fright and jump into the spotlight.

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Q: You've mentioned public speaking as a great way for small-business people to let others know about your business. I'm a small-business marketer and graphic designer. So how do I determine which groups to speak to? What should I talk about? Should I speak for free? How do I overcome stage fright?

A: Congratulations for recognizing this valuable marketing tool that can boost your profits. Here are tips on how to get in front of an audience, make the butterflies fly in formation, and encourage people to buy from you:

Identify your audience. If small-business owners are your ideal customers, they're also your ideal audience. Target chambers of commerce, small-business networking groups, trade associations for small businesses, and homebased business groups. Now identify the audience's pain. What are the top three problems you can help your customers solve? Those are the topics you should discuss. Here are some ideas: "Nine ways to trim your printing costs," "Why many small-business marketing plans fail," "11 mistakes you don't want to make when designing a brochure."

Check your local newspaper to find out when these groups meet. Then call the contact number and ask the program chair to consider you as a speaker. Don't expect to be paid. Even though you might receive a small honorarium, you're not speaking to make money. You're speaking to get free publicity and to receive valuable exposure and to position yourself as an expert in your field.

Plan your presentation. Plan a presentation of 45 minutes to an hour. Give away lots of free advice. Don't write a speech and then read it. Instead, write a few notes and present your material in a conversational style. Practice, practice, practice until you're comfortable with it.

During your speech, avoid sales pitches about your products and services. Your sole purpose is to be so helpful and knowledgeable about your topic that audience members feel they must call you later when they need your help.

People love freebies. At the end of your presentation, give away a door prize that relates to your business. And don't forget to leave behind something that audience members can take with them-even if it's just your business card.

Tips for stage fright. Being nervous is normal. If you have dry mouth, push the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth to create saliva. Cold liquids constrict your vocal chords, so drink only warm water or tea before your speech. While you're being introduced, take a deep breath, smile and remember that everyone in the audience wants you to succeed. The more presentations you make, the easier they get.

An excellent source of free articles on how to make business presentations is professional speaker Tom Antion's website. Sign up for his free e-zine Great Speaking, which offers tips on public speaking, business presentations, speaker marketing, speaker humor and more.

Make your presentation fun, and your audiences will remember you the next time they need what you're selling.

Joan Stewart, a media relations consultant and professional speaker and trainer, works with companies that want to use the media to establish their expertise, enhance their credibility and position themselves as the employer of choice. She also publishes The Publicity Hound, a bimonthly print newsletter featuring "tips, tricks and tools for free (or really cheap) publicity," as well as tips booklets on how to find and keep valuable employees. Visit

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of 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.