How would you like them to be introducing you to potential clients without you even having to ask? In addition to being great at what you do and delivering consistently, one tried and tested way of generating referrals like that is to do public speaking. The process is simple: you give people information they appreciate in a form they enjoy and they start doing the introducing for you.
If that all sounds too simple or idealistic, allow me to share a small example. Most Tuesdays, I go to an informal business networking event called ConnectEd, which takes place in a nice café in Edinburgh. As informal as the event is, roughly every two months, they invite people from the group to do talks, as long as they aren’t salesy. So, you might have a manager from a recycling company talking about Corporate Social Responsibility or an HR consultant talking about hiring and firing employees.
A few months ago, I did a talk on Going International and covered the basic team that any business will need to reach and convert an international audience into customers. It was one talk and it only lasted fifteen minutes but since then, every time the group leaders do their five minute introduction to the group for newcomers, my talk gets mentioned.
Every single new person to the group hears my name and what I can do for businesses. Not bad for fifteen minutes of work, eh?
Those results are pretty typical for good public speaking. Get a talk right and people remember you for a long time. But why does it work? Why do the results of public speaking seem both more immediate and longer lasting than a newspaper advert or an email pitch?
The first, and most powerful, reason is that unlike any other form of marketing or advertising, public speaking is an experience; not just a transfer of information.
When you speak in front of a live audience, you are in the same room as them, breathing the same air.
Performance theorists call this “co-presence” and, no matter how technological we get, co-presence will always be powerful. Co-presence immediately makes you seem more human. Behind the walls of emails or advertising, you can portray yourself as perfect. There, your expertise shines and makes you look distant from your clients. In co-presence, your humanity shines and reminds clients that you are just like them.
It’s this feeling of being “just like them” yet having that extra bit of knowledge or expertise that makes speaking so powerful. When you speak well, you not only teach people something but you connect with them too. And connection has always been at the heart of business. As business consultant, Karen Yates says, “People buy people first”.
No matter how good you are at translation or interpreting, meeting you in person will always be the deal maker or deal breaker.
All of this might seem very different to what you expect from public speaking. In fact, most speakers seem to think that public speaking is a chance to either show off their verbal eloquence or deliver a tightly structured article to an audience of willing victims. Neither of those two options work. In the first case, while people might start seeing you as an expert, they’ll also see you as a pompous windbag! In the second case, you’ll lose your audience and your opportunity to shine before you’ve even finished the first paragraph.
So, given the power of public speaking as a business tool, how can you use it best? Here are some of my top tips, taken from my new Public Speaking Building Blocks course.
- Keep it simple: you should be able to summarise your entire talk in a sentence short enough to fit on a t-shirt.
- Work on the hello and goodbye: your introduction and conclusion need to be strong and pull people into the rest of your talk.
- Use true stories to connect: talk about difficulties you have overcome or problems you have solved for your clients.
- Make memorable moments: locate the points in your talk you want your audience to remember and work on making them really stand out.
The moment we realise that speaking is a performance and not about simply transferring information from your head to the audience, the quality of our talks improves dramatically. People can get information from anywhere but connection and experience are where public speaking shines.
The next time your potential clients put on a tradeshow or seminar, pitch a talk to them and put these tips to work. You’ll be surprised at the effect a single talk can have on your business.
Dr Jonathan Downie is a consultant interpreter, researcher, writer & speaker trading under the name Integrity Languages. His book, Being a Successful Interpreter: Adding Value and Delivering Excellence was published in 2016 and won Best Interpreting Book at the ProZ Community Choice Awards in 2016. He co-presents the award-winning Troublesome Terps podcast (Best interpreting Podcast, ProZ Community Choice Awards, 2017) with Alexander Drechsel and Alexander Gansmeier and now offers online training in public speaking and creating magnificent multilingual events. His course, Public Speaking Building Blocks, can be found here: http://bit.ly/PSBB-Course.