If you're a savvy marketer, you've got all kinds of clever ways to get the word out about your business. You might have a blog or a customer newsletter, take out paid ads in newspapers and magazines, or submit press releases when you have news. You might donate products or services to charity, use free directories, have a page on MySpace, or offer free consultations.
There are myriad free and low-cost ways to promote your business. Have you considered public speaking? Public speaking includes not just giving speeches, but also attending mixers, networking events and referrals groups.
Public speaking is a free and easy way to promote your business. Here are some ways to make it work for you.
Pointer 1: Make friends and build relationships through networking
Attending networking events can be nerve-wracking, especially when you don't know a single person in the room. You see people standing around in groups and you wonder, "How am I ever going to break in?"
Networking is about making connections and building relationships, not about throwing your business card at anyone who will take it. How you present yourself at these events (and any time you talk about your business) is how people will remember you and your business. Make an effort to get to know people and find out how you can be a resource to them in ways that might or might not include your business.
When you enter the room, look for the host. She can point out people for you to meet or introduce you to someone you don't know. This is the host's job, so take advantage of it.
A good way to be indispensable at a networking event is to act like you are the host. When you see someone standing alone or looking uncomfortable, take the opportunity to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Put others' comfort before your own and you will be making friends in no time. Show confidence on the outside, even if you don't feel it inside. Put out your hand and introduce yourself to people. It gets easier the more you do it, and others will appreciate that you took the initiative!
Keep moving. If you talk to only one person all evening, you're not meeting anyone else! To exit a conversation, say that you're going to get another drink, or find the restroom, or that you see someone you need to talk to. Or just say "Excuse me," and walk away. It's not always comfortable finding a way to leave a conversation, but it's not at all rude.
After the event, stay in touch with the people you've met. Send an e-mail or make a call to say you enjoyed meeting them. When you come across information you think they'd be interested in, send it along. Cultivate those relationships; you never know how or when they might bear fruit.
Pointer 2: Offer your services as a speaker
Companies all over your town are looking for speakers. Some companies offer brown bag lunch educational sessions, some need to train specific departments on your subject matter, and some are having retreats or all-staff meetings where seminar speakers are needed. How can you tap into this abundance of speaking opportunities?
Contact businesses, nonprofits, and associations in your community by e-mail, or call to get information about their needs. Provide them with professional marketing materials if they ask; at minimum, have a website they can refer to for more information. Tell them about your expertise and most significantly, how you can help them. Talk benefits, not features: what will be the benefits to their company of having you as a speaker?
Once you have secured the speaking engagement, do your research. Ask the organizer for information about your audience. What do they already know about your topic? Are they beginners or advanced? How will your presentation help them in their jobs? How many people will be there? Collect questions in advance from the group so you can be prepared to address those needs.
When you practice your presentation, you will most likely finish faster than when you speak to the group; make sure to take this into account and build in a time cushion. Audiences love being let out early, but hate being let out late!
Your presentation need cover no more than three main points. It's okay not to share every single thing you know about your topic. After all, you'd like to leave the audience wanting more - more information about how you can help them!
Be approachable and friendly; greet people before your talk and stick around afterward to chat.
Most importantly - give them relevant, practical information that they can use right away. No one likes to give up an hour of work time for a speaker who tells them nothing new and nothing they can use.
Pointer 3: Promote your business by not promoting it
There's a trick to promoting your business by public speaking, and it has a lot to do with not talking about your business.
When you're at a networking event, show more interest in others than in yourself. Your goal is to build relationships, which doesn't happen if you talk incessantly about yourself. And it will never happen if, while talking to one person, you spend your time looking around for someone better.
What can you offer others that's not about you but is truly about helping them succeed? How can you be listening for what they need instead of waiting to talk about yourself?
It's especially important to limit your promotion when giving a presentation. If you sound like your talk is one long commercial, you will not be asked back, and you will not gain new clients. Say what you do and the name of your company. It's even okay to throw in some examples that involve clients, but be very careful not to cross the line into advertising.
Be a resource to people. Teach them something new. Leave them wanting more. And make sure to bring your marketing materials and business cards so they can find you later.
Use public speaking like any other marketing tool - it's fun, easy, and free, and the connections you'll make are priceless.