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When Was Your Last Public Speaking Opportunity? Here's How to Brush Up on Your Skills. They say that the only thing we fear more than public speaking is death -- but the process doesn't have to be that stress-inducing.

By Drew McLellan Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Public speaking is a surefire way for you to demonstrate your credibility and authority. It can hold you up as an expert and help you land third-party endorsements, which leads to business development opportunities. (You might hear from some potential clients down the line who heard you speak and researched your offerings.)

Related: Making Time for Professional Development When Owning a Business

Plus, landing speaking opportunities can also boost your workforce's engagement levels. According to Richard Thackray, the biggest enemy of employee productivity is monotony, and there's nothing boring about hearing your leader give a motivational speech.

Although lots of professionals were still speaking at digital events throughout the pandemic, people are ready for the return of in-person events. Covid-19 vaccines are being widely distributed, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidelines for hosting safe events. Now is the time to practice your public speaking skills and reach out to the 80 percent of planners who expect to host their next in-person events in 2021, according to Northstar Meetings Group.

As an agency consultant, I have been a paid public speaker for years. It has generated a significant amount of revenue for my business in both speaking fees and being hired as a result of those presentations. I also speak for free at industry events (like the Content Marketing World conference), because I know I will generate revenue from the audience.

The key to seeing similar results is coming up with a public speaking game plan. Here's how:

1. Create a demo "video resume"

You wouldn't try to apply for a new job without a resume. The same principle applies when securing speaking engagements. It's important to have sample videos of yourself speaking to demonstrate your experience, expertise and confidence. When event planners know what you sound like, they can better gauge how you'll fit into their events.

Here's a pro tip: Make sure your sample videos include a setting that reflects the types of engagement you're hoping to land. If you are looking to present at a large conference, make sure your demo video features you on a stage speaking to a sizable audience. For example, motivational and keynote speaker Mel Robbins uses this video to introduce herself and showcase her experience speaking at a variety of venues.

If you don't have any footage of previous engagements, record a two- or three-minute video of yourself talking about a topic you're knowledgeable about. Prepare for it the same way you would a real speaking engagement: Get to know your audience, practice your speech beforehand, rehearse your movements and dress for the occasion.

Related: How to Polish Your Public Speaking

2. Find ways to make event planners' jobs easier

The easier you can make things for event planners, the more likely you'll land opportunities. As a speaker, you're one of hundreds — if not thousands — of moving pieces at an event. Even if you're not the best speaker, you might be amazing to work with, and that's critical when it comes to referrals.

So apply early to open speaker proposals, and don't leave the ball in event planners' courts after your initial conversations. Follow up proactively with check-in emails or information updates. Personalize the subject line to increase the chance they'll open them and keep the content brief. By actively pursuing engagements, you'll stay top of mind and demonstrate your commitment.

3. Make your expertise obvious

This might sound redundant, but you'd be surprised how many speakers don't publicize their skills. It should be immediately obvious to anyone searching you up online that you're a public speaker. Update your LinkedIn profile with the topics you can talk about and a blurb about your experience, and if you don't have a personal website separate from your business, make one.

During speeches, it's also important to state who you are and why you're qualified to speak on a topic before you begin. Your delivery can be more subtle, but the audience needs to know that you're a credible authority. This will help them understand what your unique perspective is and why it matters to them as listeners. For instance, if you're an agency owner, and you're talking about marketing trends during the pandemic, you can lead with an example of a client you worked with that tried something new and saw success.

Related: Why You Should Always Start Your Speech or Presentation With A Story

As more people receive vaccinations, in-person events loom just around the corner. You can strategically approach business development by landing paid or free speaking engagements and bolstering your thought leadership. Public speaking improves your exposure and credibility, which then positively impacts your business. So what are you waiting for? It's time to step into the limelight.

Drew McLellan

Head of Agency Management Institute

Drew McLellan has been in the advertising industry for more than 25 years. For 18 of those years, he has owned and continues to run his own agency. McLellan also leads the Agency Management Institute, which advises hundreds of small- to medium-sized advertising agencies on how to grow and build their profitability through agency-owner peer networks, consulting, workshops and more.

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