Tuesday, February 21, 2023

One-eyed and canny – Why you should and can market your service through public speaking



All businesses, especially freelancers, seek to market their services with the maximum efficiency at the lowest cost. One of the least used techniques is speaking at conferences and other public events. Not only is it one of the most effective ways of making a business known but it also involves the least financial investment, making it available to the most cash-starved freelancer. Moreover, the challenges involved with public speaking are far less intimidating than they seem. In practice, racking some courage and investing some time can efficiently and effectively lead to many new customers.

["Concentration" game" with two penguins shown]

The spoken word, especially face-to-face, is the most effective form of marketing. In reaching out to potential customers, the goal is to create a positive impression such that they will remember your name when they require that service. Written materials, whether advertisements or informational posts, have limited effectiveness since the average person sees thousands of words every day. Thus, it takes extraordinary text and/or timing to leave an impression on any given individual. By contrast, potential customers have a significantly better retention of spoken words. Adding a face and a personality further strengthens the impact of any message in that we remember not only the content but connect it with a specific person. Thus, an oral presentation to an audience, especially a live one as compared to through video means, leaves a strong impression, the goal of all marketing efforts.

[small red purse]

The financial cost of public speaking is potentially the lowest of all forms of marketing. Advertising, whether in written media such as newspapers or audiovisual forms such as TV, can be quite expensive, far beyond the budget or justifiability of a small service provider. For the most part, only major corporations invest in regular advertising on these means. By contrast, expressing your message orally and directly involves very little direct cost whether the forum is a conference or a social media such as TikTok. In some cases, the conference even pays the presenter. Public speaking mainly involves a time investment for planning, preparation and performance. All businesses regardless of size and budget can choose to invest that time.

That speaking directly to the public is an effective means of marketing is intuitively clear to many if not most freelancers and other business people. Their issue is the ability to actually stand up (or sit down as it may be) and do it, whether out of the belief that they have nothing to say, are not natural speakers, will make a fool out of themselves or they are simply too shy. Based on my 30 years of experience teaching public speaking, these issues are either irrelevant or easily managed, meaning that almost any person can make a professional oral presentation.

[Owl on thick book]

For reasons of insecurity, doubt or ignorance, many knowledgeable people do not recognize their own expertise. Yet, due to their background or natural tendency, they find a certain task to be quite straightforward and obvious and assume that others find it similarly easy. In practice, each person is unique in terms of talents and weaknesses. The result is the terms simple and complicated are subjective, i.e., personal. Therefore, many peers and potential customers will appreciate clear information on a given subject because they do not understand it or need more information. While it is true that that given speakers may not be the only or even the best source of information, they are the expert in that place and time. Thus, even entrepreneurs with little business experience can educate their peers and customers on specific matters, thus creating a positive image of themselves. It is merely a matter of identifying a relevant subject.

[ball with a scared face]

The myth that only natural speakers should make presentations also discourages potential quality speakers. From my long experience teaching public speaking to first-year engineering students in Israel, the percentage of people with a natural gift of gab is quite small, clearly less than 5%. However, with minimal coaching and practice, a very high percentage of normal-range individuals become effective public speakers. Moreover, it is important to remember that even professionals are nervous before the actual event. However, they have learned that this tension is acceptable and manageable. Likewise, business people wishing to market themselves and their services can manage their worries and make an effective presentation even if they are not especially gifted in that area.

[genius at work sign]

In practice, for the most part, speaking proficiency involves managing nerves, proper preparation and appropriate subject matter.  In terms of avoiding black out, the key is ratio is nervousness to preparation time. In other words, the more insecure a person is about public speaking, the more that person needs to practice. When “showtime” comes, the practice pays great dividends. I actually practice much more now than I used to as I want better results. Preparation involves understanding and organizing the material and smoothing out and mastering the connection between the various topics in the presentation. Once a lecturer is certain of the entire content, it is possible to focus on and connect with the audience. As for subject matter, most people cannot fake expertise. People speak with confidence on those matters that they thoroughly understand and enjoy discussing. With proper psychological and physical preparation as well as subject choice, the scary monster of standing up in front of people turns out to be a manageable process.

[shy woman]

Many people with much knowledge to share do not speak in public they believe their lack of comfort or shyness does not allow it. No business person, freelance or salaried, feels comfortable in all aspects of their job at any time of their career. In many cases, circumstances force people to deal with their fear of the unknown, whether it is accounting or personnel management. The refusal to face these fears prevents some people from reaching their full potential. It does not mean that the task will necessarily become their favorite but instead it will not interfere with their performance. If a freelancer has no budget for effective advertising and needs more customers, the refusal to speak in public may limit their potential growth. Clearly, not dealing with an issue is a choice but not necessarily an ideal one. As for shyness, many years ago, I was a sales manager for an advertising company and interviewed a certain sales candidate whose speaking skills as evidenced by his interview were so bad that I shortly rejected him as a candidate in my head. However, his answer to my last question completely changed my mind. I asked him to tell me about a special event in his life. His description of skiing in the Alps was so fluid and passionate that I hired him. The moral of this story is that when talking about something they enjoy, people forget their shyness and become effective public speakers. A person can be very shy at home and in social situations but project a strong presence in certain work situations. Any person can be persuasive.

[frog with crown]

In short, despite the general perception, any business person can effectively and efficiently make a positive impression on peers and potential customers by speaking directly to them at conferences and public events as well as on video social media. It is possible to overcome issues such as lack of experience and innate fear of public speaking as these issues are quite manageable. A person does not even have to be the leading expert either. When speaking directly to people, the presenter becomes the primary source of knowledge. As the expression goes, in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed are kings, which makes for great marketing.


* Picture captions allow the blind to fully access the Internet.

Picture credits: Pixabay

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