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.
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.
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.
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?