Five Public Speaking Tips For Small Business Owners

March 2017

Public speaking is a prime opportunity for any business owner or founder. It provides a platform on which to pitch to potential funders, to build relationships with communities, and promote a brand through networks that may be otherwise difficult to reach.

Many entrepreneurs, however, see it as a source of fear and dread. The truth is that very few people are naturally talented at writing and delivering speeches. The skill of capturing hearts with a brilliant delivery, while simultaneously challenging minds with fascinating content, is one that requires practice.

Follow these 5 tips to be successful when public speaking

  1. Own your stories and messages

Always be comfortable with the stories and messages that you’re sharing, and try to focus on subject matter that is within your arena of expertise.

That said, what should you do if you find yourself asked to speak about your business from a financial perspective, even if this is not your strength? Set the scene by introducing the company and the aims of the speech, then present the right person in your company who can talk specifics from that particular angle. There’s no harm in using the strength of your team to create a more powerful connection with your audience, as long as whoever is speaking truly owns their words.

  1. Be honest – lessons from failure give more insight than success

We all love a good success story, whether it’s revealing a tale of triumph in the face of adversity, or describing spectacular business growth despite a competitive market. Nonetheless, for any audience (be it funders, clients or your peers) it’s the failures and lessons experienced prior to the success that provide the most insight.

How an individual navigates the lows – as well as the highs – of their company’s journey is what often determines their achievements and profile as a business owner. Be honest about how you got to where you are.

  1. Use your slides as prompts

The slides accompanying a presentation should serve as prompts for you – the speaker – while also providing intrigue for your audience. Their purpose is not to deliver a written white paper of your company; I often repeat aloud only ten words (or fewer) that are shown on any one slide.

The images, keywords and bullet points displayed are there to encourage others to listen for further explanation. If there’s too much text, your audience will focus on reading, instead of listening to you.

  1. Provide a discussion point, not definitive answers

When speaking to clients, funders or potential key advocates for your business, try to open up a discussion and inspire fresh thought processes. The joy of giving a speech is that it has the power to provoke everyone in the room – including you, the speaker – to think about certain issues and challenges in different ways.

A classic way to do this is to ask questions without providing definitive answers. This will encourage the audience to view your business within a wider conversation that relates to them on a personal level. They will take heed of your company’s potential to deliver solutions.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

The only way to get better at public speaking is to practice. This means giving speeches to “real” people (not your reflection in the mirror). Ask them for honest feedback and make the necessary changes.