There are a myriad of ways to build your business: from more traditional ways (mailouts, email newsletters, advertisements etc) to somewhat more new school ways (social media, QR code campaigns, and so on). All of these methods can be effective in building a business, but there is one in particular that can be very effective by combining a huge range of methods into one: public speaking.
I’ll wait for your cold sweats to stop.
The Business Benefits of Public Speaking
When I’m talking about the business benefits of public speaking, I’m talking generally about the outcomes of sharing your expertise in your field with your clients, your potential clients, and your peers.
With that in mind, public speaking isn’t so scary, although it may seem so at first. Quite often, the fear of public speaking comes from the speaker not wanting to stumble over their words or appear less-than-knowledgable. But if we’re talking about public speaking in order to build your business, you already have a leg up: you’re going to be speaking on your area of expertise, right? So stop being a nancy and get some confidence. You wouldn’t be in business if you didn’t know your field, right?
Now that my tough love section is over… why you should be sharing your expertise via public speaking? Well, sharing your expertise in this manner will help you:
- find new clients: by putting yourself out there in front of new groups of people, you increase your odds of finding new clients. Perhaps they were already looking for your services; perhaps your awesome talk convinced them they need an expert like yourself.
- build relationships: people like to hire people they feel they know; they like to hire people they feel a connection with. By public speaking and connecting with your audience post-talk, you will increase your connections with people–and we all know relationships lead to new business.
- build your brand: want to be known in your city as a friendly, funny, go-to person for online marketing and SEO? Get out there and start talking about it. That’s what Dana Ditomaso has done here in Edmonton, and she’s done a great job. It doesn’t end after your talk either: if you do a good job, people will share your talk/slides, people will mention you on Twitter, and so on.
- make a few bucks: if you become well-known as a killer speaker, opportunities will open up: flights & travel expenses can be comped, and you can ask for a fee for speaking. It’s another revenue stream for your business.
- support your community: it’s not all about making cash, though. Public speaking often starts at the grassroots level; get out there and share your expertise for free. Give back your knowledge to the community: lots of them help keep your business afloat, so why not return the favor?
So stop sitting on the fence–it’s obvious that public speaking can provide huge benefits to your business. You never know; you might meet your next $10K project at your next talk.
Who Can Be a Public Speaker?
You can. It’s really that simple. I’m of the mind that every single person is an expert, on some level, on some topic. What really matters is the context that you’re delivering your talk within, and the quality of your content.
For example, if you’re a WordPress expert and you have a super-useful talk planned on custom post types and taxonomies: great. That talk will go over great at a WordCamp, like Daelan’s did at Edmonton’s last year. But you might not want to give that talk at DrupalCon. Or at WhiskyFest.
“But I’m Not a Double-Black Diamond Expert!”
It’s alright if you’re not a double-black diamond expert in your main field. The truth is, there are very few in any industry. Think of it this way: there are only a few game-changing hockey players, like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, or Gordie Howe. But you would still love to hear a player like, say, Ryan Smyth or Trevor Linden talk about their experiences in the NHL.
There are levels of expertise, and compared to someone, you know something worth sharing. Don’t feel like your talk has to reinvent the wheel; just make sure the talk is inspiring, accurate, and the audience knows whom the talk is geared to. Let’s use a couple of examples from last year’s WordCamp Edmonton:
- What is WordPress & Why is it Great? by Kory Mathewson. This talk was geared towards beginner/first-time WordPress users who are looking for some background on the software. Maybe a green circle.
- Tips & Tricks to Improve Your WordPress Workflow by Sebastien Lhomme. This talk was an intermediate-level talk for WordPress developers (people creating themes for WordPress). Perhaps a blue square.
- Using SASS to Code Better WordPress Templates by Dana Janssen. This was a fairly advanced talk for developers using WordPress. I’d give it a black diamond rating.
The point is this: you don’t need to be the Wayne Gretzky of your field to get into public speaking. You don’t even have to be Trevor Linden. I’d listen to Jason Strudwick talk because it would be informative and enjoyable.
How to Find Opportunities to Start Public Speaking
Alright, so now you’re sold thanks to my mastery of pen-based salesmanship. Nice. So, you can’t immediately start your public speaking (and thus business-building) stream of your career by jumping into the hugest conferences in your industry. But you can start at the grassroots level, and all the benefits are there. Look around online in your community; some places include:
- Your local Chamber of Commerce. Quite often they’ll have lunches or breakfasts with a speaker slot. Throw your hat in the ring!
- Grassroots-style, industry-specific organizations. For example, WordPress has WordCamps that consistently happen all over the globe. Here in Edmonton, we have smaller groups like SocialMedia Breakfast, YEG GirlGeek Dinners, and other such meetups. A great tool to find events in your city is Meetup.com.
- Do it yourself! If you want to talk on a subject, or perhaps organize a few speakers on a subject, maybe you should look into organizing a small event of your own. Sometimes you just have to create what you wish existed.
That’s it. Public speaking isn’t scary when you know what you’re talking about… and you do. There are opportunities abound to get your feet wet, and the benefits of public speaking can be huge. Get out there and do it!
Are you a WordPress user who wants to get involved with public speaking? WordCamp Edmonton 2012 is currently accepting applications to speak at our event, taking place Nov 16 & 17. Get your application in before it’s too late!
*photo by Mack Male