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Marketing Your Work

Why Public Speaking Is Good for You & Your Brand

Public speaking, while one of man's greatest fears, can be an exhilarating experience. It can also boost your reputation and your business.


Most freelancers and small business owners are required – like it or not – to spend a substantive amount of time on marketing. To ensure that the jobs and the clients keeping coming, we are constantly hustling – pitching new projects, updating our portfolios and CVs, and taking exploratory meetings. Yet, one of the best ways to build and promote your individual brand or company is one of the most oft overlooked: public speaking.Though many of us might break into a cold sweat just thinking about it, public speaking can be an exhilarating experience. It can also be a great way to boost your reputation and your business.

Perhaps as a healthy reaction to the increasing amount of time we spend online, more and more offline events and conferences are cropping up – particularly within the creative community. These gatherings offer a significant opportunity for anyone with a niche area of expertise to become a part of the conversation – and not just for self-promotion but for personal growth as well.

Here are a few notes on the benefits of public speaking, and a quick primer on how to get started.
 

The Benefits of Public Speaking

 
1. Present yourself as an expert.
If you’re highly knowledgeable about something, nobody will know about it unless you demonstrate that knowledge. By speaking publicly on topics within your area of expertise, you can position yourself as an authority within your industry.
 
2. Build your knowledgebase and connections.
In many cases, a good talk involves a significant amount of participation from the crowd. Attendees might challenge your viewpoints and offer valuable insights that, ultimately, will give you a more well-rounded perspective on the topic at hand. If you go into a talk expecting not just to teach, but to learn, you create an opportunity to really engage with the people at the event in a meaningful way.
 
3. Increase your visibility online and offline.
When you speak at an event, the content that you prepare is intellectual property with a value that can stretch beyond the roomful of people in attendance. By recording the talk and posting a video online (Vimeo, YouTube) or just sharing the slides (SlideShare.com), you take better advantage of the content you’ve created for your talk by making it accessible to a wider audience.

Getting Started

But what if no one is begging you to speak at their event yet? There are a number of ways to plant the seeds for public speaking engagements, which also happen to be good marketing tactics in their own right:
 
1. Identify your passion & what you would want to speak about.
This seems like an obvious prerequisite for public speaking. However, taking a critical look at where your expertise and your passions lie may reveal that what you think you want to talk about and what you’re actually equipped to talk about are two different things. Often, it’s better to give a talk on a very specific area of expertise than to present a more generic talk about a topic on which you have less to offer.
 
2. Attend the events that you would like to speak at.
If you want to speak at certain events, you need to do your homework. Pay attention to the kinds of people who speak and get to know the organizers. If you can establish yourself within that group, you’ll be more likely to be invited to speak, or at least more likely to be accepted if you ask to speak. People are far more likely to pay attention to someone that they’ve met before.
 
3. Blog.
While blogging has taken a backseat to the Twitter and Facebook buzz lately, there are few better tools to establish yourself as an expert than a carefully curated, well-maintained blog. People who write about specific subjects consistently and intelligently will, over time, be increasingly regarded as experts. Once you have established yourself as a unique and vital voice, speaking opportunities will naturally arise.
 
4. Execute.
Nothing beats action. Do and build things that show you’re good at what you do in a real, tangible way, and people will take notice.
 
But you’re already doing that, right?
 

Tony Bacigalupo is the founder of New Work City, a co-working space in New York City, and a partner at Shift 101, a workspace consultancy.

Comments (19)
  • Jon Bach

    Speaking and blogging has been a huge asset for us. It’s brought in business leads, increased our credibility, and built our brand in a very competitive (i.e. offshore) market. Every talk we do is something to add to our company’s intellectual briefcase that we carry to each new sales call.

    (Actually, now that I think of it, replying to helpful little articles like this online — which I discovered via a tweet — is also an easy way to “speak” on a subject to establish your expertise.)

  • Edward Julio B. Tuppil

    Thanxz For the new Knowledge… 🙂 cool…!

  • Yael Miller

    I’m curious how public speaking to a student audience (college) might be uniquely beneficial in and of itself. I realize the students will gain some valuable insights, but how would that benefit me as the speaker? It’s tough to get away from a busy studio without justifying it from someplace other than altruism.

  • Jim

    I have found that being a speaker is a great way to establish a personal connection with people – much better than a blog. Art related topics that I speak on are astronomical art, space art, and algorithmic art – which allows me to incorporate my own art into a general presentation on those genres. This further allows me to take the audience “behind the scenes” as it were – giving them a look at the associated creative process.

    In fact the weekend of Feb 12-14 I will be speaking at the Capricon Science Fiction Convention on the subjects of astronomical art and algorithmic art.

    Lastly, be sure to check out local libraries as they are frequently in search of speakers.

  • George

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time! Although the idea is pretty nerve-racking, public speaking is something I will give more thought to now. How do you know when you’re an “expert” though?

  • Randall P. Whatley

    I have been in the advertising and public relations business for almost 32 years now. I have tried to practice what you write about and I have encouraged clients to do the same. It has never been easier to speak and write about topics of interest to establish expert credibility than it is now with the Internet and social media options. This is an example of where the technological tools actually save us time and money and speed up the publicity process.

  • Hidezumi Inoue

    http://keynotes.hidezumi.com/k

    I introduced this article to Japanese readers. Here is my summary. If you require special notes such as copyright note, please let me know. I have included a link to your blog so that readers can read yours.

    Here is summary of my article.

    This author recommend public speaking to demonstrate expertise in communities for small business owners and freelancers. They can use blog to get public speak opportunity. Public speaking is a great learning opportunity as well.

  • Hidezumi Inoue

    http://keynotes.hidezumi.com/k

    I introduced this article to Japanese readers. Here is my summary. If you require special notes such as copyright note, please let me know. I have included a link to your blog so that readers can read yours.

    Here is summary of my article.

    This author recommend public speaking to demonstrate expertise in communities for small business owners and freelancers. They can use blog to get public speak opportunity. Public speaking is a great learning opportunity as well.

  • Becx

    Great advice, Tony. I have long advocated this tactic for my PR and marketing clients but, as an employee, never practised what I preached. Now, as the owner of a small agency, I am forced (by budget, among other things) to revisit my own teachings for myself. One key avenue for me is fashion colleges and schools. To answer Yael’s question, I’m not sure of your circumstances, but I justify it in three ways – by scheduling and tailoring the talk to graduating students, who will be soon looking for professional services in my area, I see the potential to acquire some business. By presenting as an authority and leader in my field and giving takeaways, I envisage reaching some of the students’ own networks. And third, I view the decision makers at these colleges as influencers in the industry (often they also hold current industry positions and impressing them could have far reaching benefits). As for immediate conversion, not from schools. But not everything can be immediate – marketing requires a sustained, integrated approach, and this fits into a broader marketing plan nicely. And, as suggested, if you film your talk the physical audience is secondary (get a gig wherever you can!) – make it good and distribute it to the audiences you covet online.

  • Bobby Donohue - Be A Rock Star

    Tony, thanks for the tips on getting started. I’ve done some public speaking in the past, but have fallen out of the habit. When you’re starting over from zero on any project, you tend to look at the whole thing and see it as an insurmountable obstacle. But I’ve already identified my passion, and have my blog going too. So now I need to get out of my office and network at these events. Not so insurmountable any more.

  • Sam Parvin

    Great article, Tony! While branding and marketing your services / goods online will certainly help build your business, there is no substitute for personal interaction – getting in people’s faces and showing them what you know and that you are passionate about it. In general, if one is a genuine, hard worker who likes what they do, the audience members will recognize that, and it will get you quite a long way.

    Thanks again!

    The Quality of Personal Interaction: http://samparvin.com/2010/01/1

  • Brian H Campbell

    Great advice on public speaking. I’ve been thinking about doing this for several years and have a little experience. Thank you!

  • Todd Fong

    One fantastic opportunity for public speaking in a friendly, low-key environment is to participate in Pecha Kucha Night. These events typically focus on the design community, but I have seen a wide variety of presentations from architects, artists, social workers, even pastors.

    Pecha Kucha provides an established framework (20 slides x 20 seconds = 6min. 40 sec.) which is great when you’re getting in front of a group of strangers for the first time. As well as being a place to refine your public speaking skills, it’s also a great place to network.

    There are Pecha Kucha Nights in over 200 cities globally. Find one in your area at http://www.pecha-kucha.org/ .

  • PJ

    I don’t know about the rest of the world but right now where I am (Bangalore, India) not many such events are happening which have an open attendee list. Most events are closed and happen within a firm for instance. Some special promotional events do happen now and then supported by companies like MS which have a good business here but those are very sparse.

  • web designer

    nice branding tips… I am doing a research this week… This one is helpful 😀

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    Great tips — and exactly what I’ve been doing!

    Toastmasters gave me the skills to speak with ease in public and to groups. I’ve been using those skills to promote my book on volunteerism, and have been doing an increasing number of well-paid speaking gigs on the subject.

  • jamie_stint

    You have presented interesting points that are really needed on public speaking. These point are still the basic rules that we need to follow however new strategy and styles could be done to to make effective communication as the time changes. 3D communications has planned something to teach people who want to be good at public speaking a course that would make them familiar with the new trends.

  • Nathan Magnuson

    Tony, solid post with great tips. All of them are terrific. Here are 6 benefits I listed: http://wp.me/p2CUIJ-2I

  • http://artfuldilettante.com/ huckfillary

    I’m a terrific public speaker and speechwriter, but really only enjoy doing it when inspired. This leaves me entirely at the mercy of the event planners. I put my heart and soul into writing a speech for my son’s commencement exercises. I practiced it for months till I had every syllable and inflection memorized. I went to the school with it, only to be turned down. They loved the speech, and me as well. But they already had made their speaker selections and that was that. I was, and am, devastated. As far as I can tell, there’s no solution to this
    problem.

  • http://www.flauntmydesign.com Tomas Fransson

    If you live in a smaller community, you can create your own events with yourself as the speaker.

    Even better, pool your resources with one or a few other local, non-competitive freelancers. For example, a local web designer, copywriter and business coach could team up this way.

    Each speaker can focus on their core competence, creating a more interesting event. You can divide the costs between you. You can pool your marketing resources to reach more potential clients, e.g. by pooling your email lists.

    Such small-scale local events is a great way to drum up leads from local businesses. For a real-life example of this, check out Case Study: The Brand Spark Workshop. In the article, Molly Mason, an Addison (MI) freelance graphic/web designer, tells how she uses local events in her marketing. Molly usually picks up a couple of good leads from each event she organizes.

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