Somewhere, a club needs a speaker

Miami's Community Newspapers

Nobody knows your business better than you do. That makes you, as a small business owner, the perfect candidate to be a speaker at a local club’s luncheon or dinner meeting.

If you’re someone who quivers at the thought of public speaking, think about this: A club meeting gives you the chance to market your business without having to buy an ad. The difference between your speech and an ad is that you’ll teach the audience something about your specialty, which will cause them to see you as a credible expert—someone to call if they need your goods or services.

How do you make this happen? Start with research on the names of local organizations that have regular meetings. Examples include civic clubs (Kiwanis, Optimists), business-oriented groups (Business and Professional Women, city or community business networking groups, trade groups), and school groups (PTA). Then find a contact name and email or phone number for clubs that interest you. Make a contact, indicating a topic you can talk on that will interest the members of that group.

When the contact person gives you a positive answer, then make sure to get the exact time, date, and location for the meeting. Ask how many minutes is usually allowed for the speaker (often its 20 minutes or so).  You will probably be asked to send a brief biography of yourself to the contact person so that you can be introduced properly.

In preparing for your appearance, create a simple flyer or bullet sheet with tips that you can give out to the audience. Make sure that your company contact information is somewhere on that flyer/bullet sheet.

Now: how do you plan a speech? First, make sure the topic is one suitable for the audience. A retirees group has little interest in how to give an inexpensive birthday party for pre-schoolers. On the other hand, parents of pre-schoolers are not in the market for financial advice for senior citizens.

Make sure that this speech has helpful, practical or educational information. Start out with a question for the audience that will lead to the main point of your presentation. If you’re an interior decorator, you might use, “Are there rooms in your house or your office that are boring? The colors haven’t changed in five years and the furniture is exactly what it was five years ago.” You’re leading up to how to plan for a fresh look—colors, materials, furniture, floor plans.

Do NOT start your speech with a joke, unless you are talented at telling funny stories. Sometimes a real-life example has all the humor you need, without your having to deliver a punch line.

Make your speech organized, so that the audience can follow you from point to point. Leave time at the end of the presentation for questions and answers. If someone asks a question that you’re not prepared for, try, “That’s a good question. I’m going to research that. See me after the meeting and I’ll get your contact information so I can get back to you.”

As you deliver your speech, move your eyes slowly from one part of the room to another. Smile a lot. Watch for body language from the audience—are they engrossed in your presentation—are they going to sleep—are they distracted by a phone call?

When the meeting is over, spend some time talking one-on-one with the members. Offer them your business card and ask for their cards. If you have done a good job in communicating, the audience will find you approachable and worth recommending to friends who are in other clubs in need of a speaker.

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