Talk Up Your Business

Turn up the mike! Speaking to local service clubs is an efficient way to promote your company and make new contacts.
Talk Up Your Business
Patricia is a speech coach and sales presentation skills trainer. Contact her at, or by phone at 415/753-6556.

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Promoting your company can be pricey, but it's necessary for growth. So if you're searching for a way to get the word out without blowing your budget, look to your own backyard. The service clubs in your community provide an inexpensive and effective way to promote your business. Have you ever listened to a speaker at a service club and thought, "I could do that"? Well you can, and here's how:

Why give a free talk?

Service clubs do not pay a fee for speakers, but you are paid in a currency far more valuable: visibility and access to new contacts in your community. Plus you get to talk about something that's important to you: your business. Your first talks to local organizations such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Optimists may even lead to more invitations. Remember, every service club is looking for a free speaker for next week.

Maybe you think your business isn't exciting enough or that your talk won't bring immediate gratification. But whether your company deals in insurance or printing or wastewater, an effective speech will bring you recognition and eventual business.

What should you talk about?

What do you know that other people want to know about? What do you know that other people should know? What are the questions people ask you most often about your business, industry, or even your hobby or interests? You may be an expert in clean-water issues through septic service, an important topic to anyone. You might also serve special events with portable restrooms. That could be the source of some interesting personal stories.

Speaking at a service club, a business meeting or any local group is an excellent way to promote your product or service. Even if you prefer to talk about a hobby or a charity you're involved in, your introduction can mention your business.

But as a precaution, no one wants to hear a blatant sales presentation. Your goal is to be interesting, informative and even entertaining. For example, a business owner who also happens to be an athlete can talk about running an Iron Man Triathlon, what it taught him, and how that relates to planning for the future. This leads to audience members wanting to have a conversation with you. A conversation can lead to a friendship, a client or a referral.

How do you get invited to speak?

First, develop your speech. Then tell your friends, clients and other acquaintances you are available and would love to speak to local programs. Search online for service clubs in your area, and don't forget the local Chamber of Commerce. Find out the name of the program chairperson; they're always looking for interesting speakers.

An entertaining, interesting talk on any subject is always well received. You now have the opportunity to make yourself and your business more visible in your community.

How do you maximize the experience?

Be easy to work with. Write your own short introduction, including the importance of your topic and why you are the perfect person to deliver that message. Make your bio available well in advance for their newsletter or meeting notice. If the organization will advertise the program on its website, also supply a good photo and a link to your website.

Go early to the event, and make sure you meet as many people as possible, including visitors from other organizations. If they like your talk, you may get an invitation to speak to their group.

Have a handout or flyer. Put together a one-sheet handout that gives a brief description of your company. Offer a brochure if appropriate. If there's been an article published about your company in a magazine, newspaper or even online, make copies for audience members. Make sure whatever you hand out includes your contact information with a link to your website.

Collect business cards. If your goal is to develop business contacts, always collect business cards from audience members. And be sure to have enough of your cards in your pocket to hand out to prospective customers.

Let them know you are available. Before you finish your speech say, "If you belong to any other organizations that would be interested in hearing a talk on this subject ..." and refer them to your company website or any handouts.

Speaking before a group of strangers may be slightly intimidating at first. But just remember, this could be the beginning of many long-term relationships. So step up to the podium and profit from the experience.


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