How to Market Your Business Through Public Speaking
Nobody knows your business as well as you do, which makes you an expert in the field. Sharing what you know in a public forum can help you market your business, expand your network of contacts, and attract new customers.
Here are things you can do before, during, and after a speaking gig that will help you make the most of this brand-building opportunity.
Before a Speaking Engagement
Do some background research. Effective public speaking is all about getting in front of the right people. For example, if you own a pool-cleaning business, your goal may be to identify commercial property owners, leaders of homeowners associations, and similar professionals. Once you’ve narrowed the field, figure out where these people gather and pitch yourself as a guest speaker to event organizers.
Offer to speak about a topic that will provide your target audience with useful information (rather than merely advertise your business). Your goal is to leave people wanting more.
Plan and promote your speech. Get in touch with organizations that cater to your target audience. Send them marketing materials that establish your credibility. Be sure to emphasize the benefits you’ll provide during your speech, such as money-saving tips on the best techniques for maintaining a pool during the winter months.
Assess how much your target audience already knows about your topic. This will help you tailor your speech and determine the most attention-grabbing angle. Think about how to incorporate your product or service into your speech, maybe as a prop or with an entertaining anecdote that helps highlight some of your key points. Plan for a Q&A session by anticipating what types of questions people may ask you.
Assemble materials that you can distribute and/or display at the presentation (as well as product samples, if possible). If the event organizer is handing out materials, make sure your brochure or sample gets included in the attendee package.
Don’t be shy about promoting the event. Send a press release to local media, alert your current customer base via email messages, and share details of your speaking engagement on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites.
At a Speaking Engagement
Gather attendees’ contact information. Provide a sign-up sheet, so that audience members can register for your free newsletter or special discount emails. There’s always the “business card in the fishbowl” trick, where attendees leave their business cards in exchange for a giveaway at the end of the presentation.
Do “stealth promotion” during your presentation. “If you sound like your talk is one long commercial, you will not be asked back, and you will not gain new clients,” cautions public-speaking coach Lisa Braithwaite. “Say what you do and the name of your company. It’s even OK to throw in some examples that involve clients, but be very careful not to cross the line into advertising.”
Demonstrate your expertise with a Q&A. Providing personal answers and citing helpful statistics, current trends, and even second opinions in a casual manner reinforces your status as an industry expert.
Provide your contact information. If a slide-show is part of your presentation, end by displaying contact information about your business. Leave this slide up while you answer questions and gather up your materials. The last slide could also include a special offer for attendees.
After a Speaking Engagement
Do post-event promotion. Make use of online tools to keep interest in your speech going after the event. Post your slides on SlideShare, upload the video to YouTube and Vimeo, and write about the event on your company’s blog.
Tweet about the presentation (using an event hashtag) and consider following some of your attendees on Twitter. Create a business fan page on Facebook and post attention-grabbing questions, such as, "Is it true that chlorine in a swimming pool can turn your hair green?"
If your presentation is informative and thought-provoking, you’ll likely succeed in promoting your business through public speaking without being blatantly self-promotional.
Lee Polevoi is an award-winning business writer specializing in the challenges and opportunities facing small business. He is former Senior Writer at Vistage International, a global membership organization of CEOs.