Build Your Business Through Public Speaking


Public speaking has a lot of benefits:it increases your visibility online and off, it establishes your expertise, and it generates leads for your business.

There are shelves—if not libraries—of books out there on how to be a better public speaker and how to put on more engaging presentations (Presentation Zen is a must read), so there’s little reason for me to try and top that. Rather, I’ll focus on how you can build up your own cottage industry of public speaking opportunities, based on my own experience.

Don’t Wait to Be Asked

Whether you’re a business consultant, health & wellness expert, or parenting guru, you don’t need to wait for some local (or national) organization to recognize your brilliance and ask you to present.

My first speaking engagement came when a friend and I decided we wanted to drum up business for our respective companies, and we put on a paid 90-minute presentation at the Chamber of Commerce’s conference room, which was available to us for free because we were members. By asking around, you should be able to find a number of public spaces near your business that have low or no-fee room rentals.

Side note: Whether to charge for your own event is a personal decision based on your current circumstances, whether speaking will be a revenue stream or a lead generation technique, and whether the market will pay to hear you speak.

My personal feeling is when you don’t charge for your time, you are telling people that your expertise has no value. Charging a fee, however small, will keep away the tire kickers and the people who have nothing better to do with their time. Are these your best prospects? Likewise, when people have registered but not paid, something urgent always comes up at the last minute to prevent them from attending.

Keep in mind that if people are paying for your presentation they’re not there to listen to an advertisement. Although you should mention what you do at the beginning and end of the presentation and how to reach you, your audience is there to learn…so you need to deliver.

If you have enough space in your office, consider putting on your own events. Over the years I’ve put on seminars at flyte’s offices and conducted webinars. However, the problem is that you start seeing the same faces again and again. When that happens, it’s time to branch out.

Meeting New Audiences

There are plenty of local organizations that you can approach—everything from Rotary, to Chambers of Commerce, to SCORE to the PTA. Here in Maine there are additional organizations like TechMaine, Maine Businesses for Sustainability and the Maine Marketing Association that put on educational events…chances are you have similar groups wherever you are in the world.

Joining LinkedIn groups that target your area will help you become aware of local events and connect you with the people organizing them. You may not get paid for these gigs—local groups are notoriously low on funds—but you will get the opportunity to reach new prospects.

Getting Bigger Gigs

Once you’ve started building up your experience you’re a more attractive candidate for bigger gigs with larger audiences. When you are ready to go after these conferences, consider setting up a Google Alert on “call for speakers” or “call for presenters.” You’ll get daily notices of organizations around the country and the world that are looking for presenters with your expertise.

Using the Web to Make Your Presentations Go Further

There are plenty of online tools that will help your presentations reach more people. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • This site is the YouTube of PowerPoint slides. You can post your presentation slides to the site and share them with the world. Further, just like a YouTube video, you can embed the slide show back in your blog or web site.
  • YouTube: If your presentation is recorded you can post snippets or the entire presentation to YouTube and other video sharing sites like Vimeo or HowCast. When responding to a call for presenters you can include a link to these videos.
  • Webinars: With tools like GoToWebinars, Webex and Glance it’s easy to present to people around the corner or on the other side of the globe. Many of these tools also allow you to record the sessions so that you can make them available to people who are unable to make your live presentation.
  • Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn: Social networking sites can be an accelerant to your visibility. Promoting your presentation before it happens, taking questions via Twitter during the event and sharing your slides or other material after the fact will multiply your results and your leads.

Maximize Your Lead Generation

You won’t always get a list of who’s in the audience, so consider having a giveaway at the end, such as a copy of your slides, or a related white paper that you will email to people who give you their business card. Those who walk up after (or fill out your contact form in the case of a virtual event) are your hottest leads. Follow up with them shortly after the event.

In Conclusion

Public speaking—whether done in person or via a webinar—is a great way of educating your audience, establishing your credibility, and generating a consistent stream of leads. If you don’t establish yourself as an expert, your competition will.

Whether you speak for other groups, or create your own speaking opportunities, you can leverage the web and social media to greatly increase your visibility.

If you need any help on creating a strategy around public speaking or putting on webinars, please contact flyte today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media