When I started my career consulting business in 2009, I had $2,000 in my pocket, rent due in 2 weeks, and knew that if I didn’t devise a fast way to find clients, I was going to be looking for a job very soon. After leaving my last position where my boss told me my “creativity was an issue,” the last thing I wanted was to be confined to another soul-crushing 9-5 sentence.
Realizing I had more time than money, I decided to use that time scheduling, creating, and presenting free workshops. This was a scary decision because I was still very shy and brand new to speaking, but it seemed the only feasible option. I started by presenting at libraries in various towns around me. Then, I moved to Chambers of Commerce, Rotary Clubs, unemployment groups, and continued to branch out. In my first year of business, I gave around 500 free presentations, published a book (which came from the workshops), gave a TEDx talk in Washington DC, and weirdly enough – I started to be contacted by Fortune 500 corporations and major conferences asking me to speak! And the really crazy part? They wanted to pay me!
What started as a strategy to prevent me from getting a job quickly became the best decision I’ve ever made for my brand, my business, and my pocket. Today, I am an award-winning professional speaker, three-time author, two-time TEDx presenter, and trainer of creative, entrepreneurial women who want to claim their leadership and own their voice on stage while also getting paid.
Here are five reasons why all business owners should also be public speakers:
It’s a master networking strategy
Don’t just show up to another networking event hoping to meet 5-10 people, OWN the networking event by getting on stage and wowing every single person in attendance. Instead of just being another face in the room, present yourself as a leader by sharing your knowledge, inspiring your audience, and connecting with each person through your stories, insights, and personality. I stumbled upon this amazing networking strategy early on and found it to be the best way to leverage my time while also making the biggest possible impact the event offers. I still run into people who saw me speak at networking events five or six years ago and tell me my presentation stuck with them and they’ve been following me ever since! Needless to say, I’ve never received that kind of reaction from a quick business card exchange.
Build your brand as a leader much faster
One piece of the story I haven’t shared yet is that I was 28 when I started my business. To add to my young age, I looked like I was 19. Can you imagine being a young woman who looks like she just graduated high school touting herself as a career consultant? Realizing I was going to have to overcome perceptions of what I know and don’t know, I could quickly manage skepticism by getting on stage and impressing everyone in my audience. When walking up to people at conferences or trade shows, I often received a confused look followed by the question, “Where did you learn how to do this?” Unfortunately, this was my reality. Fortunately, it made me work harder to prove I was a leader by consistently building new workshops, keynotes, and seminars I could lead for many different audiences. By proving my value every time I got on stage, I was reinforcing my brand, my communication capabilities, and becoming known as someone who is a leader (regardless of age).
Build a new income stream while also marketing yourself to new customers
Public speaking is amazing because you can get paid to market yourself! This can come a few different ways: you could be paid by a conference/event organizer to come in and talk, or you could speak for free and use the opportunity to sell your services, products, or programs in the back of the room. After I became an author, free speaking gigs were a great way to sell books. When I was starting out my consulting company, I could sell consulting programs and one-on-one sessions. Once I started getting paid to speak, I stopped selling in the back of the room and started negotiating speaking fees to compensate me for my time and value. I can now confidently ask for four and five-figure speaking fees and know the group that hired me will get a lot of value for what they are buying. I always include my website, social media handles, and a newsletter sign-up sheet at my events as well, giving me an opportunity to stay connected to the audience for years to come.
Leverage your time
Workshops are helpful if you offer a service that usually takes a lot of time to explain. Rather than doing individual information sessions with clients, set aside three or four timeslots during the week when you can have a group of potential clients come in together and learn about what you do. They will often learn from one another’s questions and also see that you are in-demand because others are also interested in what you do!
If you are a coach, consultant, teacher, or trainer of any type, speaking is an amazing way to bring your clients together in a way that helps you leverage your time. Rather than meeting with everyone one-on-one, what if you ran a roundtable, workshop series, brainstorming sessions, or group classes? This gives you time to build new programs, write books, and focus on building your business rather than spending all of your time in time consuming individual meetings that aren’t helping you scale.
Public speaking is better than social media when it comes to building lasting relationships
I’m often told (especially by shy, introverted business owners) that they would rather build their following on social media than get on stage. They say, “I could never do that! I’m just not that kind of person.” I always feel sad when I hear that because I truly believe that if someone like me, who was extremely shy and insecure at one point in my life, can do this, anyone can. It takes commitment to learning a new skill, dedication to getting past the fear, and a sincere desire to grow your business.
Sure, social media is an excellent way to be seen and remembered, but it doesn’t come close to the power of the connection you build through public speaking. Getting on stage and sharing a point of view is the oldest form of content marketing and it is here to stay. By becoming someone who can facilitate and lead conversations around the topics you care about, you are positioning yourself as a leader in your field, an inspiring person who takes chances, and a bold entrepreneur with a purpose.
To learn more about how public speaking can bolster your business, register for our free webinar, 7 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming A Paid Speaker on Thursday, April 14th from 4-5pm EST. I will teach you the steps you need to take in order to see if public speaking is for you while also revealing some of the biggest mistakes I made on my journey to becoming a paid speaker. I’ll also be announcing a brand new online course I am rolling out! Hope to see you there.