Jan 03

Do you like to talk to people so much you could do it all day? Do you think you could entertain an audience and get paid for it? Have you ever thought of making a business out of public speaking, but were unsure how to start?

We often get asked about how to get started in the speaking business, and what tips could we give someone setting out to make a living out of talking publicly. Oddly enough, our top tips are not about speaking, but about the practicalities of business, and will work equally well for any business:

  • Practice your elevator pitch
  • Purchase professional quality business cards
  • Push yourself to network with people

Practice your elevator pitch
Imagine the scenario; you get into the elevator to ride to the top floor and someone nips in behind you, just as the door closes behind him. He presses the button for the top floor, where you are going and you notice that it is Sir Richard Branson! Do you stare down at your shoes and wonder if you can think of something witty to say before the lift stops, or do you smile at him and say “Good Morning Sir Richard, I am a great admirer of you work…” followed by twenty words which leave him asking for your business card?

You should practice your pitch until you can say it confidently out loud in any company, by any medium; in person, by phone, by Skype or FaceTime. You can practice by using it every time you meet someone new. If it starts to sound stale or insincere then you modify and refine it until it always sounds exciting and fresh. That way when you do run into Sir Richard you will know what to say.

Purchase professional quality business cards
This one should be a no-brainer after the last scenario. Make sure you can give Sir Richard a business card which is clear and of sufficient quality to be treasured, without looking too flashy or extravagant. If your business is based on speaking about a specialist subject, make sure the subject is on the card! Obvious, realy, but how many people have returned from a networking event with a pack of business cards some of which you can not remember what the person did? Make sure that you card is noticeable and acts as an aid to memory.

Push yourself to network with people

Getting out to networking events is a great way to boost any business, particularly when it is getting started. However, it is really easy to find something more important to do that day, and life will always find a way to get in the way if you let it. Set yourself a target of one meeting a fortnight, and once you can manage that, make it one a week, and then two. Once you have established the pattern it becomes easy to sustain, and will give you ample opportunity to practice your presentation style.

If you want to improve your public speaking, then the best way to do it is to practice, practice, PRACTICE! What better place to practice than talking to people, and gauging their reactions. You will be offered instant feedback and will improve every time you speak. If you get the chance to address the whole group, then grab it! If one of the speakers does not turn up, then offer to stand in with your party piece. The organiser may not take you up on you offer this time, but they will remember you for another day.

There are a few practical Dos and Don’ts which will help your speaking style

  • Do be yourself, you are supremely qualified for the position
  • Do pause occasionally, for breath, reaction and dramatic effect
  • Do listen to your audience, and engage with their points of view; only then will they relate to yours

On the other hand

  • Don’t learn your speeches to perfection, or they will always sound rehearsed and insincere
  • Don’t practice to a camera unless you are planning to record your work for commercial reasons
  • Don’t practice in front of a mirror, unless you think that mirrors are likely to be your best audience!

So practice your pitch until it is automatic and natural, and have a good quality business card ready to give out when the right moment arrives. Push yourself to get out to networking events and practice by speaking at every opportunity

Finally, remember the old adage “If you do not run yourself like a business, you will run yourself out of business’

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