Public Speaking to Promote Your Business
Your hands get cold and clammy. You begin to tremble and find that you are short of breath. Your stomach churns. You are hyper-aware of the fact that everyone is looking at you expectantly, wondering what is wrong. But no matter how much you wish it were otherwise, there is no ambulance coming to whisk you away to a nice, quiet hospital room. No, this is not an illness; it’s just your bizarre reaction to public speaking.
Sounds like you? You’re not alone. It is one of the most common phobias in the world. Unfortunately for you, it is also an invaluable skill when it comes to promoting your business, so you are just going to have to suck it up and get over your anxiety. Take a class, talk to a therapist, or undergo hypnosis, because whether you’re in a small pitch meeting or delivering a seminar to hundreds at a symposium, you are the public face of your business, and as such, you must be eloquent, appealing, and compelling when you represent your company.
Here are a few tips to help you jump on the oratory bandwagon (or soapbox, as the case may be).
1. Practice makes perfect. While most people find it hard to define exactly what makes them experience a fight-or-flight response before they get on stage, it probably has something to do with performance anxiety, the fear of looking foolish, and suffering embarrassment. This is a valid feeling that can be stemmed (at least somewhat) by preparation. Memorize the major points of your speech and stay organized with a few concise note cards. NEVER read your whole speech directly from a page.
2. Start small. Try out your sales pitch or speech in front of the mirror, then for a small group of friends. When you think you have it pretty fine-tuned, set up a meeting with investors or clients. From there you can offer to speak at meetings for your local chamber of commerce or small business clubs to get a feel for speaking to a crowd before you attempt something larger like a convention. At every step you will make contacts, connect with other business leaders, and secure ongoing opportunities.
3. Do your homework. Try to find out ahead of time who your audience will be and tailor your speech to target them specifically. If you speak on a topic that is of interest to them or choose an angle that will grab their attention, you are much more likely to walk away with additional requests for seminars and a pocketful of business cards for potential clients or investors.
4. Keep it clean. The nuances of public speaking are almost an art-form. Keeping it clean means two things. First, try to inject some humor, but avoid off-color jokes. If you can’t make it funny without being offensive, don’t bother. Second, don’t ramble. Stick to the point or risk losing the focus of the audience.
5. Keep your eyes on the prize. Confidence is as good as gold. When you speak to people, you are selling not only your business, but yourself. Would you want to loan money to someone nervous and retiring? Investors and prospective clients will be put at ease by a representative who is calm and self-assured, so it is imperative that you master your nerves if you want to succeed.