How Presenting at a Conference Helped Me Grow My Business
April 7, 2019
When you’re a freelancer, finding a way to take control of your own professional development is majorly important. I recently turned butterflies in my stomach into payments in my inbox, and morphed my professional opinions into social media followers. No, I don’t own a magic wand, but presenting at a conference sure put a spell on my business. Let me explain.
Last year, I accepted an exciting public speaking opportunity. During a 2017 content marketing conference, I spoke as a panelist in a social media session with one of my clients, a company that creates natural personal care products. I knew this opportunity would elevate my visibility in a competitive market, so I put aside my unwarranted fears of being on stage and went for it — and it paid off.
After sharing my professional insights with an audience of over 100 peers and colleagues, my business grew.
Public speaking: A magic potion for freelancers
My experience isn’t unique. I reached out to several other self-employed individuals to see if they too experienced a wave of increased consumer interest and personal fulfillment after a public speaking engagement — and it’s like we all drank from the same bubbling business brew.
Comments overlapped about the benefits of speaking engagements — most of which focused on having the opportunity to hone your communication skills, build mentor/mentee relationships, network with a purpose, generate leads, build self-confidence, increase sales, land future speaking opportunities and ultimately increase your credibility in your niche.
If you want to stand out in your industry and grow your business, it’s time to get over your fears of public speaking and step into the spotlight. These four long-lasting benefits far outweigh the temporary sweaty-palm moments.
1. Improve your communication skills
Does your industry require you to call prospects, close deals at meetings or present to potential investors? Public speaking engagements can give you a chance to practice talking about your products or services until the words flow seamlessly out of your mouth. As you’ll have already nailed down the perfect talk track, you’ll be able to better focus on the potential sale when you’re trying to close a new deal.
Dr. Ty Belknap, the certified professional life coach behind MyCoach.Life, says public speaking helped him become recognized as an expert in his field, and empowered him to improve his business communications.
“Being an introvert, I used to have a difficult time with sales calls,” Belknap explains. “But speaking in front of audiences has given me much more confidence during those times.”
I have to agree. As a writer, I have to regularly follow-up with colleagues on projects, conduct interviews and negotiate payment terms. When I speak with confidence and authority, I’m taken seriously as a small business owner.
2. Give visibility to your new products and services
Think back to the last presentation you enjoyed. During the introduction, you most likely learned about the speaker’s background and their recent projects. If you choose to speak publicly, your introduction is the perfect time to promote new product launches or additional services you offer that your audience may not be aware of.
As comedian-turned-author Fred Ford explains, he sells more books when he proactively shares his ideas in-person.
“Having an audience’s full attention on you when you speak and share your expertise builds credibility and creates exposure for what you do,” he says.
I can certainly attest to that. Each time I publicly mention my social media handles to a live audience, my following increases within minutes, which lands more eyes on my product: words. Harness these opportunities to inject some momentum into your business, and bring your products and services into the light.
3. Elevate your professional status
When you speak with confidence in front of an audience, you’ll be seen as an influencer in your industry. And when that happens, you gain clout. People start referring to you as a thought leader, a guru, a professional or an expert. And these labels instantly open doors to more opportunities.
Patty Soltis, the CEO and founder of STYLEdge Fashion, LLC, agrees.
“Raising your public profile automatically elevates you in the eyes of current and potential clients as an expert,” she notes. “As an expert, one can charge more for their services, as it includes their knowledge and expertise that are now on public display. Further, in the growing world of social media, building one’s own brand is essential. As a public figure, your brand is secured.”
After presenting at a conference, I wholeheartedly agree. The communications that rolled in after my talk referenced my level of expertise and professional insight. Several additional public speaking opportunities followed, which increased my visibility and readership.
4. Reach your business goals
Our businesses are based on milestones. Why not use public speaking as a way to inch closer to your own measurable goals?
Linda Pophal, the owner/CEO of Strategic Communications, LLC, says you should “start with an end in mind” when you plan your next speaking engagement. Bottom line: Have your goals guide the talk.
“Getting a firm handle on who you’re hoping to influence and how you’ll know if you’ve influenced them can help you ensure that you’re pursuing the best speaking opportunities, those that will help you grow your business or achieve some other goals,” Pophal stresses. By targeting the right audience, you can achieve key business goals you’ve set for yourself, like improving your marketing outreach or earning new clients.
As an entrepreneur, your professional development is in your own hands. Consider offering to speak at local meet-ups, pitching an idea to a national conference committee or hosting a seminar yourself. Diversifying your skill set by adding public speaking to your roster of services can help you turn your business dreams into a reality.
Angela Tague has worked in news writing and photography since 1998. After she attained a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa, her journalism career led to positions at The Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa; The Sioux City Journal in Sioux City, Iowa and several weeklies in the Midwest. She’s been freelancing since 2009, and was named Writer of the Year in 2012 by Skyword, a global content marketing agency.
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