Boost your brand behind the microphone
by Scott Topper

Many business owners can identify with anxiety and apprehension before speaking publicly, as the stage is leagues away from the comfort zone of the sales floor or board room. Addressing a crowd of contemporaries is vastly different from delivering a presentation to a small group of colleagues, but speeches are one of the premiere channels for brand construction—and public speaking prowess is a rubber stamp as a thought leader in your field. There’s an inaccurate belief in business that only professional speakers should address a crowd publicly. The truth is that only a small number of people who present at local events, conferences and meetings are professional speakers. Businesspeople who speak do it for product and service promotion or expanded visibility for themselves or their brands. The following five fundamentals can help you develop as a public speaker and market yourself successfully.

1. Assess skills and knowledge.

Are there any topics on which you’re an expert? Let’s say you’re passionate about healthful eating and fitness. You could use your knowledge to help people understand the importance of good nutrition. Write engaging speeches about organic food and its benefits, or talk about the role of physical activity in disease prevention. Show people how they can lose weight without starving themselves or spending a fortune on supplements. The topic options are endless. If you’re a business professional, you can talk about effective marketing techniques. Discuss how to start or grow a business, the best ways to attract more customers and ways to promote products for increased sales. If you’re a blogger, host webinars to teach your audience about Internet marketing. Regardless of your field, you can use your skills to educate and inform people.

2. Create your statement and share your story.

The primary goal when delivering a speech is to engage the audience with a dynamic message that creates value and resonates in their minds. Create a clear statement of what you do and how you can help customers. If you want to grow your business, focus on shaping a successful brand that tells your story and inspires people to take action. Deliver a presentation that imparts your values and ideals to your audience. The most influential speakers share personal experiences and real-life stories that engage and motivate people. If you want to become a good speaker, come up with something new—make the mundane interesting. Encourage your audience to see things from a new perspective.

3. Rehearse, practice, scrutinize.

As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect, and this is especially true when building your business and reputation through public speaking. Scrutinizing each and every aspect of your speech, committing it to memory and rehearsing in front of a small group of people will help alleviate any preperformance anxieties. Public speaking can be a risky business. Drawing a blank, failing to engage the audience or forgetting a line is entirely possible while onstage, but with consistent practice you will diminish the risk of all of them. It’s important, however, to understand that starting a public speaking business requires hard work and unwavering commitment.

4. Contact business associations.

When all of the legwork of crafting an insightful, engaging speech is complete, you need to find your audience. Many neophytes in the speaking world are confounded regarding the ins and outs of securing engagements, but it can be as simple as marketing yourself and your presentation to your target audience. As a business owner, you need to contact local and national organizations in your area of expertise and tell them you are looking for speaking engagements. Search for business events and trade shows or conferences where you can talk about your services and products. Find a way to tie your message to theirs to maximize your opportunities. For example, you can access a list of AAHomecare members who represent different facets of the home care sector via their website.

5. Involve the audience.

Inviting your audience to actively participate is one of the best ways to ensure engagement and connection. Encourage questions and sharing of ideas; create a dialogue. Ask people to stand up, group themselves and share one or two things they found useful in your presentation. Tell them why you enjoy speaking about this topic and how your speech can help them. There’s no better way to boost your business and increase name recognition and visibility than to dive into the public speaking sector.