By Rieva Lesonsky
You may not think being a small business owner makes you an industry expert, but you’d likely be surprised by how much you really know that people want to hear about. Think about the last time you talked to someone about your business. Were you sharing some inside scoop with a customer or some industry insight with your banker when you were trying to get a business line of credit? Could you bring those subjects to a larger audience?
Although public speaking ranks high on the list of things most people fear, speaking in front of different groups is one of the best ways for a small business owner to meet new business associates and customers—and gain their trust and respect. By speaking at industry events like trade shows and conferences, you can reach people who really want to hear what you have to say. You can also volunteer to participate in workshops or on panels.
Overcome your fear of public speaking by practicing in front of a colleague or friend who you know will give you honest feedback. Then videotape yourself: Are you talking too fast or slow? Are you mumbling? Are you audible? Cut down on the speech fillers like “um’s” and “er’s” when you speak. You can always join Toastmasters, a free organization where experts help you improve your public speaking skills.
Create a public speaking strategy plan, starting with your goals. Ask yourself what is the best audience to target, what is the best venue for reaching them, what you want to accomplish and what your primary message will be. Since you know your customers better than anyone else does, figuring out the “who” part is easy. Start locally and find out what organizations your customers belong to. Are you targeting parents? You can reach them by attending PTA meetings or school events. If your company sells business products or services try approaching the local chamber of commerce, Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or SCORE office.
To make sure the attendees think about you after the speech is over, ask your host if you can pass out handouts, business cards, coupons, flash drives, DVDs or whatever you have. Make sure the giveaways include your contact info (address, website, email, phone number, and Twitter or Facebook handle).
If possible, collect the names, mailing addresses and email addresses of attendees. Ask for permission to add them to your mailing list, and send them your email newsletter or marketing solicitations.
If you start out small and work your way to bigger venues, you’ll be amazed at the attention you’ll bring to your business.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.
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