Ways to Use Speaking to Promote Your Business
Speaking scares people. But it's not fear; it's energy. If you learn to think of it like that, you can harness that energy to take advantage of one of the most effective ways of promoting your business, and it costs no money at all—just a little time and preparation. Here are some considerations and ideas.
1. Remember that speaking isn't a way to save paper.
People sometimes assume the most important reason to speak is to share information. At least since the Gutenberg press and especially since the Internet, speaking is the least efficient way to share information. People can get it far faster than listening to you. Even a poor reader can usually manage 300 words a minute, whereas the average American speaks at 150 words per minute. Factor in the time it take to drive somewhere to hear you, and it's even more clear: people don't invest in being an audience for you because of your information. It's what you do with the information, what additional value they get beyond the information.
2. Focus on emotional connection.
It's hard to replace speaking for emotional impact. An effective writer can accomplish this, but it is much harder, and it's likely a speaker can connect emotionally much more effectively. This doesn't mean the information you share isn't important. As a philosopher might say: solid information is necessary. It's just not sufficient.
Note: this doesn't mean to only go for emotional content. People don't make decisions based on logic. They make decisions based on emotion; they justify decisions based on logic. That means you need to share both logical content and emotional content if you want people to do something. At the heart of the word emotion is "motion." Emotion is that which moves people. By definition, to get them to do you have to move them.
3. Share the one thing they can't look up on the internet.
People hesitate to talk about themselves because it seems egotistical. I'm not encouraging you to brag, but it's still a fact: they can probably look up the information you share. They can't look up your viewpoint, your experience, your personality, your stories. The one thing that makes it worthwhile for them to spend time with you.... is you.
4. Make use of storytelling.
A story isn't just "this happened and then this happened and then...." It's a structure. It's psychology. It's how humans have always made sense of their experience. Remember "once upon a time." One time something happened. Make it specific, make it focused. In essence, a story involves a focal or viewpoint character (the "hero," although not necessarily heroic the way we use the term today, and it doesn't have to be you) facing a challenge, and in the process of facing that challenge the hero grows and changes. Story inevitably, therefore, involves conflict and challenge.
5. Involve their senses.
If you can engage at least three of the five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), you put the audience right in the story with you. Studies indicate people engaged this way with a story show the same brain areas "firing" as would fire with an actual experience.
6. Seek out community groups that want speakers.
There are all kinds of local groups looking for speakers. This is essential in the beginning, and it's always useful strategy. A friend of mine has been a professional speaker for 33 years, speaking to corporations and associations, doing quite well with it. Recently he sought out connections with local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs for the same reason professional comedians will try out new material at small local comedy clubs.
7. Hold seminars.
These can be in person, offered free or for a small fee in a variety of ways locally. Or they can be held via Zoom to reach a wider audience or cut down on venue expenses. You can use them directly or indirectly to promote your business.
8. Join Toastmasters.
Toastmasters is the most effective inexpensive way to improve as a speaker. You have to use it the right way to get the benefit (i.e., if you're just going through the motions, you don't grow, but if you focus on getting feedback and applying it, you can quickly become more effective).
9. Use all of your speaker tools.
Words. Voice. Body language. It's a misunderstanding of Mehrabian's study to claim that only 7 percent of an interaction comes from the use of words, but it is true that the bulk of interaction "out loud" involves voice and body language because of the emotional component. If they were to just read your book or blog post or whatever, they would have the words. Your voice and body language add nuance, depth, and impact.
10. Speak every chance you get.
Like any skill, speaking takes time and experience to develop. You will improve over time and with experience. Keep at it.
11. BONUS: Record yourself.
Every time you can. It will be painful. But it's the best way for you to see/hear yourself the way the audience does. Bad news: yes, you actually look and sound that way. Good news: it's not a problem or a shock to your audience, because they're used to seeing/hearing you that way. Give yourself the benefit of experiencing your presentation from the perspective of the audience.