Thursday, 21 May 2020
With the help of entrepreneurs who have already reaped the rewards, we explore the key business benefits of public speaking.
Addressing a live audience, whether it’s three people or 3,000, can be a daunting experience – but there are plenty of reasons for business owners to embrace public speaking opportunities. Here are some of the biggest to consider.
With so many businesses scrambling for your target audience’s attention online, public speaking in person can be a great way to stand out.
“The business landscape is noisier than ever, with all the technology, social media and distractions we have in front of us,” says Josh Smith of London-based events promoter We Fill Events. “Business owners who aren’t putting themselves out there effectively and efficiently are usually just contributing to the noise, rather than cutting through it.”
Smith suggests entrepreneurs get themselves in front of larger audiences wherever possible, and to embrace the power of what he calls ‘one to many’. “It’s more efficient to have one perfect conversation with a handful of people at an event than it is to have the same conversation over and over again with individuals at coffee meetings,” he says.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that face-to-face communication can be up to 34 times more persuasive than text-based equivalents like email and social media.
“Embrace enough public speaking opportunities and eventually you’ll start to be recognised by your market as a thought leader”
Trust is a big factor in this, as Sherry Bevan, a career coach who specialises in helping women in business, has herself discovered. “I work with something quite personal – careers and confidence – so the women I work with want to feel trust and rapport from the start,” she says. “And it’s so much easier to build those things when the audience sees me speak in the flesh.”
According to marketing consultant and regular speaker Eli Zheleva, this trust can start building before you’ve even said anything: “Putting yourself on a stage is itself a brave thing to do; it shows that you’ve overcome your fear of being exposed in favour of adding value for your audience,” she says. And value is a key word for Zheleva, who adds: “The talks I do are not sales-driven – I’m not selling a product or service at the end of it. I just share my knowledge as I know that people can benefit from it. That is a great way to establish and cultivate trusting relationships.”
Bevan’s public speaking has helped her gain new clients, but the engagement doesn’t just go in one direction – you also have a chance to learn something, about your target market or yourself.
“Talking regularly to live audiences helps to broaden my horizons and perspectives on things,” she says. “Sometimes people in the audience will question or challenge the information I share, and that’s always great because it gets me thinking from a different point of view – that’s invaluable for any business owner.”
Public speaking should complement rather than replace social media as a brand awareness tool, according to Nikki Hesford, founder of Blackpool PR and marketing agency Hesford Media.
“Talking live will give you an opportunity to show who you are and what you’re all about in a way that social media doesn’t allow,” she says, “but the two can work together very well if you know what you’re doing.”
“If an audience is engaged with what you have to say, members will often tag you in posts on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram during and after your slot – and that will get you in front of people who weren’t even at the event.”
The trick, according to Hesford, is to get the audience onside: “If you are someone who comes across as warm, witty and engaging in person, your audience is more likely to remember you when they sign in to share their experience online, and later when they’re looking for someone to supply what you offer.”
Being chosen to address an audience is a sure-fire way to establish some authority in your field, and the more you speak in front of your target market or industry peers, the more of an impact you’ll have.
“Embrace enough public speaking opportunities and eventually you’ll start to be recognised by your market as a thought leader,” says Charlie Marchant, COO of Nottingham marketing firm Exposure Ninja. “The momentum should build too – you might find yourself invited back to speak at certain events a second or third time, and that in itself will help public speaking seem more familiar.”
If your goal is to position yourself as an expert in your field, Hayley Smith, founder of Boxed Out PR, has the following advice: “Write a talk that you can use and use again. You don’t necessarily need to repeat it word-for-word every time, but you will soon come to learn it by heart, especially the important parts and main threads. That will translate into confidence, which in turn will help you speak more authoritatively.”
Bethany Spence, also from Exposure Ninja, adds: “We recommend taking a targeted approach to public speaking. Try to find industry-specific events where your customers, competitors and peers are likely to attend, rather than general speaking opportunities.
“Some of the senior team at Exposure Ninja regularly speak at the B2B Marketing Expo, for example, as this is a great opportunity for us to get in front of marketing managers, business directors and the rest of our target audience,” she says.