How to Grow Your Business With Public Speaking
How to use public speaking to grow your business and brand.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Growing your business seems to be a topic that is constantly trending on every social media channel, across blogs and in magazine articles. But as marketers race to give the "golden" answer, one growth hack remains under-utilized: Speaking your way to more clients and customers.
Imagine sitting on a panel in front of hundreds or even thousands of people asking questions about your expertise. The audience easily connects with you as you tell stories about your experience, share case studies about clients and give them valuable insights into the industry.
Then a light bulb goes off in your audience members' heads, and they realize that YOU are an expert.
The next day you receive an email from one of the audience members, and they become a customer for life. And that is just the beginning!
This happens regularly for speakers after appearing on panels, webinars, podcasts and live events. And this is because the absolute best way to showcase your expertise and attract new business is for people to hear you speak.
Related: How to Build Your Business Through Public Speaking
Why traditional client acquisition tactics fall short
When it comes to acquiring new customers, there is a myriad of ways to go about it. But in my (and countless others') experience, most tactics don't offer the same benefits as speaking. Most businesses play the "build a better mousetrap" or the "race you to the lowest price' game. These tactics rely on convincing (or attempting to convince) prospects to give you the time of day, often without first building a connection.
Conversely, when you build relationships and connections through speaking, customers will often choose you over competitors even when you are not the cheapest or most well-known brand.
Think about your own buying behaviors. Who are you more likely to buy from: A website that tells you in a single paragraph how amazing a product is…or a person behind the product speaking about the benefits and giving your examples?
Now that you know how effective speaking can be for growing your business, let's take a look at some of the ways you can get started:
5 steps for getting started
Step 1. Decide on your goals
What business goal(s) do you hope speaking can help you with? Is it to build sales? Build brand awareness? Grow a new social media channel? Or all of the above?
Understanding your overall goals will make it far easier to search for and decide what speaking engagements to take.
Related: Eight Basic Public Speaking Tips
Step 2. Find your ideal audience
Public speaking is a form of advertising, and all effective advertising starts with KNOWING your ideal customers. By understanding your target audience, you can be sure to get your message in front of the right people.
Think about it… a business owner trying to reach young mothers would most likely not waste time or money putting an ad in a hunting magazine, just as someone trying to target baby boomers would not advertise on a gaming website. The same principles apply when it comes to public speaking.
So let's say you are the owner of a software company that creates technology solutions for entrepreneurs. You would want to find conferences, podcasts, and panels to get you in front of the right audience. It doesn't matter if you know someone who might get you on a top-rated podcast if that podcast focuses on health and fitness.
It is essential that when you search for speaking opportunities, you make sure that you will be in front of your ideal audience. Not every speaking opportunity is created equal or will offer the same outcomes.
Step 3. Understand your own comfort level
Public speaking can be daunting, which is why speaking in front of others is one of the biggest fears many people have. To be successful at speaking, you must set yourself up for success from the beginning. This means understanding what your own comfort level is and going after gigs that align with it.
Not quite ready for the camera? Then podcasts may be a great way to get your feet wet.
Are you most comfortable being interviewed? Try panels and webinars.
Once you feel ready to take the main stage and carry the show solo…you can go for keynotes.
What is a keynote speech? Keynote speakers are usually tasked with the goal of setting the mood or theme for a particular event. So, for instance, you might be asked to speak at an industry conference and kick off the entire event to get the crowd engaged and excited.
As an entrepreneur, you can begin to look around in your own industry to get an idea of the conferences and conventions that are taking place throughout the year. Reach out to event organizers and offer to speak, even if the initial opportunities are unpaid. Unpaid gigs are a great way to get some experience under your belt. Remember, the long-term business gain is worth far more than the pay from one speaking gig.
As you begin to get more opportunities coming your way, you must create a step-up plan of tackling speaking opportunities as you grow.
Step 4. Build your story and message
Plato is quoted as having once said, "Those who tell the stories rule the world." Successful speakers take this bit of wisdom to heart. These speakers don't deliver speeches; they share dynamic messages and stories that inspire and engage.
Why is storytelling so powerful?
Science has shown us that the human brain seems to be hardwired for stories. Stories were how our early ancestors shared important information and navigated the strange world around them. Modern man isn't much different.
Without question, storytelling is the best way to capture your audience's attention and hold it. To stand out from other brands and other speakers, don't sell yourself or your company. Instead, tell stories.
"You're never going to kill storytelling because it's built in the human plan. We come with it."
- Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale
When brainstorming ideas for stories, here are some things to think about:
- How did you get started in your business?
- Is there an interesting story behind one of your products?
- What are your ideas on your industry in general?
- What are the problems that you seek to solve with your company?
Make sure before you start on the speaking circuit that you have several key messages and stories ready to go. Then you can adapt as you prepare for each upcoming event.
Related: 7 Public Speaking Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs
Step 5. Carpe diem
You may have been asked before to speak, but perhaps you were too uncomfortable or felt unprepared and politely declined. Well, it is time to seize the day and start saying "Yes!"
There are countless places to find speaking opportunities. Chances are that as an entrepreneur you are already aware of events, webinars and conferences that you have attended in the past. This may be a good place to start.
Is there an event every year that has your ideal audience in attendance? Perhaps you are in the fitness industry and there is a popular in-person or virtual event where speakers take the stage.
Reach out to the event organizers and explain what you can offer to the audience as a speaker at their next event.
Remember, in the beginning you may want to test the waters and start out with smaller opportunities. Do you know a few industry colleagues that are doing a panel? Reach out and offer to join them and add value. Ask anyone you know for referrals.
If you are doing cold outreach, understand who you are pitching to and how you add value as a speaker with your experience in the industry.
Speaking is one of the most underutilized and effective ways to grow your business. First of all, it's one of the absolute best ways to connect with prospective customers and clients. You get to "sell" your business without actually selling, and it's the only form of advertising I know of where you get paid to advertise.
The next time someone asks you to speak, say yes…it may just help you grow your business!