Mention the idea of public speaking to most people, and they will get a glazed, anxious appearance. Public speaking is probably one of the most feared aspects of marketing your consultancy around these days. It is even a leading cause of panic attacks!
However, as a consultant, you need to create a reputation, as an expert in your field, and very often, that requires public speaking of some form or another.
Start as Part of a Group
Launching yourself into the world of public speaking as the sole person behind a mic stand is not ideal! It may be a better idea to join in discussions at your chapter meetings, if you are a member of an association, or as part of a panel of experts at a trade show or conference. Having support around you makes easing into public speaking a little easier!
Start With People You Know
Another great idea is to volunteer to make a presentation at a networking group or similar. These are people you know, so speaking to them is a little easier than standing up in front of a room full of complete strangers and trying to deliver a speech!
As you become more comfortable with the idea and the practicalities of speaking to large groups, you will find it becomes easier. This is when you should move onto the next challenge – speak at regional or national meetings, either presenting case studies, or research you have completed.
Then get involved in round table sessions or debates, and finally, when you are comfortable, and the opportunity arises, do the same thing at international meetings.
All of these ideas and steps in the process of becoming public speaking ready lead to one ultimate goal – establishing a reputation as an industry expert. This, in turn leads to increased business, as most clients would prefer to deal with the consultant that sets the benchmark, rather than with one who is just starting out, or flies so far under the radar they are invisible!
Words of Advice
Bear in mind that when you start out as a public speaker in your niche, it is almost certainly going to be an unpaid service to whatever local chapters or conferences you are addressing. As you become better known however, you may find that people are willing to pay you to share your knowledge.
Another key point to remember is to leave the marketing pitch at home. These people are interested in what you do, and what you know, but they want information, not a sales pitch! They already know you are a business consultant, and in this situation, it is better to highlight your expertise than throw a lot of gratuitous advertising at them!
Public speaking can be a great way to build your reputation and your client base, but exercise a little caution, take your time to get used to the idea and the method of presentation, and build your confidence, and you should be fine!