Often you will find that an excellent way to promote your small business is to become involved in business networking groups such as the Small Business Chamber, the Downtown Business Association, the Savannah Chamber of Commerce Small Business Council and others.
As you do this, you will also find there are ways you can help other small business owners become more successful.
Many networking organizations are seeking speakers to share their expertise with the other members. This is a great opportunity for you and your business to become better known by others in the group.
Unfortunately, I have observed that a lot of small business owners are reluctant to volunteer to do these presentations because they are terrified of speaking in front of the group.
This is not surprising, as studies have revealed that fear of public speaking ranks nearly as high as fear of death for a lot of people. But if you really think about why you fear public speaking, you will realize you are focusing on yourself, not your audience.
What if you say something stupid? What if you forget what you were going to say? What if you can’t get the words out? What if you have a wardrobe malfunction?
The key to getting over these fears is to stop thinking about you. Stop focusing on yourself and focus on the audience. They want to learn how to make their businesses more successful.
It’s about them, not you.
If your focus is on the audience and how you can help them, you will realize you can’t educate them unless you know your stuff. You must thoroughly understand your topic and care about communicating this knowledge to the audience.
Choose a topic you know well and concentrate on developing a presentation that will get the important points across and be useful to the audience. Preparation is the key, so put some serious time and effort into it.
Meet their needs
To present information that is useful to the group; you must know your audience. As you prepare, focus on understanding your audience and what its needs are.
You should attend and participate in regular meetings of the group for a while before offering to speak. This will give you a chance to understand what the group is all about and how your knowledge could help them.
Be sure you understand what the group is looking for in a speaker. Talk to the person in charge of acquiring speakers about what the group needs. Be sure your topic will be beneficial to them.
Remember that although this presentation may help promote your business, this is about educating the audience, not about selling your product or services. Discuss the topic, not your business.
Help them focus
For your audience to truly learn, you must keep its attention and help it stay focused on what you are communicating. So you need to identify and eliminate anything that could distract it.
You may fear public speaking because you are worried about your hair being out of place, fumbling over your words, repeatedly saying “uh”, forgetting what you are saying, etc.
But don’t think of these things as bad because they might embarrass you. They are bad because they will distract your audience. They will interfere with your audience’s ability to benefit from your knowledge.
So focus on eliminating these problems for the sake of your audience, not for yourself. Practice your presentation on your own and in front of friends and colleagues until it becomes smooth and natural.
In summary, if you focus on your audience instead of yourself, you will find yourself better prepared, more comfortable in front of people and a lot less fearful.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.