Public Speaking, Your Business and You


Article by Kristine CareyHave you ever considered using public speaking as a way to get noticed and get clients? Does the idea of standing up in front of a group, even a small one, strike fear into your heart? Or maybe you love it, yet haven’t explored using it in your business. And what is public speaking, anyway?

Speaker at podiumFlashback to 1999: I was the Northern California Sales Manager for a Napa Valley winery. The distributor our company worked with was having a district sales meeting and they wanted me to make a presentation. Up until that point, my speaking “career” had been limited to a few small meetings where I said a few words, as few as possible. Now I was about to stand in front of 200 people at a podium, the last presenter of the day, and do my best to deliver something coherent. Needless to say, I was petrified. As I gripped the podium, I was shaking so hard I’m sure I’d have fallen over if I let go. I spoke so fast I’m surprised anyone understood me, and finished my presentation in seven minutes flat. Fast forward to today: I still get a bit nervous before I speak, yet after a few minutes I’m in the groove and loving it.

What is public speaking?

In my mind, public speaking covers a range of activities:

  • Workshops that you create or where you’re using a template created by others.
  • Presentations to a work group, like a team meeting, maybe in a conference room.
  • Presentations to a professional group, like at a breakfast or lunch meeting.
  • Speeches on a stage, perhaps as part of a summit.
  • Speeches at a conference, such as a breakout session or a keynote.
  • Teaching a class at a school or organization such as a community college or the Small Business Administration.
  • Facilitating a conversation where you present subject matter then lead a discussion about the topic, like a mastermind group.
  • Hosting a radio show or podcast.
  • Standing up at your neighborhood watch or PTA meeting and expressing your thoughts.
  • Any place where you speak, no one else is talking, and all eyes and ears are on you.

What can public speaking do for your business?

Public speaking can be a very impactful way to share your expertise, gain visibility for your business, and get clients. When speaking, you can:

  • Display your style.
  • Gain credibility.
  • Meet many people at once.
  • Share your knowledge and expertise.
  • Gain admiration because you have the courage to stand up in front of people.
  • Let people know what you and your business can do for them, and make an offer to work together.

How can you get started?

If you’re curious about using public speaking, yet haven’t tried it, how do you get started? The way I did it, copying many who came before me, was to find a place where I could speak with the least amount of pressure. For you, maybe that’s the Rotary club, or your neighborhood group. If you’re really feeling self-conscious, simply raising your hand or voice in a class or meeting is a good start.

I used to shop at a store that offered classes to the public, and they were always looking for instructors. It was pro bono and the people who came were not my ideal clients, yet it was the perfect place to practice. The possibility of messing anything up was very low and those who attended seemed genuinely grateful for what they received. I learned how to not freak out in front of people, how to hold the room for others to contribute, how to design a talk so it flowed, how to share the stage with a co-presenter, and quite frankly, realized that I actually had something to say that others wanted to hear. I’ll be forever grateful to the friend who introduced me to that store, and to all the people who suffered through what I’m sure were some pretty lousy talks at the beginning.

Other ways to get experience are organizations you may have heard of, such as Toastmasters, Dale Carnegie, or Speaking Circles. Each of these has their own way of helping you discover your voice, how to be present in front of people, and how to craft a speech. There are many ways to learn. I recommend looking up speaking groups in your area to see what is available and what feels like a good fit for you. Add to that practice, practice, practice, and pretty soon you’ll be a pro.

Once you’ve got some experience, then what?

Now that you’ve got some experience, what’s next? Whatever level you’re at, I encourage you to take the next step to a larger stage. If you’ve been raising your hand in meetings, time to join Toastmasters. If you’ve been in Toastmasters, time to find a venue where you can give your speech outside the club. If you’ve been giving presentations to Rotary, time to find a local group that is your target audience. If you’ve been speaking to local organizations, time to go for a conference gig. If you’ve been doing conferences, time to craft keynotes. This speaking ladder is just an example of what you might create. Once you begin speaking more often you’ll learn where you enjoy speaking, how to hone your message to your audience, and how you would like to use speaking to serve you, your audience, and your business.

Go forth, my speaking colleague, and share your message with the world — we’re waiting to hear from you!

Related Topics

View more answers by this author or in related categories.




Subscribe via email, and we'll send you each new answer when it's posted -- no more than one per week, and your address will never be shared.

Jan 12, 2018: Get It Written Day

Get It Written Day

Join C.J. Hayden for a one-day virtual writing retreat for business owners! You’ve got important stuff to write. Let C.J. help you get it done. Work on your blog posts, articles, or book with coaching and peer support. Find out more


Write a Comment

Take a moment to comment and tell us what you think. Some basic HTML is allowed for formatting.


Reader Comments

Hi Kristine,

As a sales manager in winery, on what topic did you speak about. As a sales coach for coaches I want to speak for maybe 20-30 min. But what would be interesting for them to hear? I already give workshops but they last for 3 hours. How can you deliver the message on sales in 20 min.
Best regards, Kiki

Hi Kiki,

I often listen to what my clients are saying for the best clues on what to write a talk about. I’ve found many people don’t know who their ideal client is, esp. if they’re new to business, so I have a 30 minute talk I give on that topic that sprung directly from my client conversations.

Also, if you’ve got 3 hours worth of material, I wonder what piece you could extract and turn into a 20 or 30 minute stand alone talk? You’ve likely got a shorter stand alone talk just waiting to be discovered!

Kris