I’ve been doing a lot of traveling in the past month, speaking at events in my local community and around the country. It’s tiring, but worth it. Why? Because for my small business, public speaking is a major business-builder—and it can be for yours, too.

Why is public speaking so effective for small business owners? First and foremost, it gets your name and your business’s brand out there in the community. It also helps build your reputation as an expert in your industry. And, as you do it more and more, it gives you greater confidence and the ability to talk to just about anyone. I don’t have to tell you how valuable those factors are in growing your business.

If you’re like many entrepreneurs, however, the idea of public speaking is about as appealing as swimming the English Channel in mid-winter. Speaking as a shy person myself (I know—most people who have heard me give a speech can’t believe that I’m really an introvert), I can vouch for the fact that getting over your fear of public speaking is well worth it. Try recording yourself giving a speech or asking friends and family to watch you and critique.

The best way to market your business with public speaking is to start slow. Begin with a plan—figure out what prospects you want to target. Maybe you own an accounting business and you want to get more small businesses as customers. Identify events and organizations where small business owners gather. This could be chamber of commerce meetings in neighboring communities, associations that help small business owners or adult education programs and seminars. Volunteer to teach a workshop for SCORE.

Then determine what topics you could speak on that would benefit your prospects, while also subtly promoting your business. For example, the accountant could talk about how to know what records to keep and what to throw out, or getting ready for year-end tax planning.

Approach organizations and offer to speak at their events. When you speak, be sure to bring some handouts such as business cards, fliers or introductory discounts for your product or service. Also collect attendees’ contact information so you can follow up with them later. You will need to offer them something of value in return—for example, you could ask people to sign up for your email newsletter, or provide their email addresses so you can send them a free e-book or tip sheet.

As you get more comfortable speaking to groups, you can expand to bigger events such as industry conferences or trade shows. Offering to participate in or moderate panels is also a good way to get started because if you’re shy, these can be less stressful than giving a solo speech.

Who knows? You may even find yourself becoming a sought-after speaker. Take it far enough, and you could end up holding seminars or workshops and charging people to attend. As you can see, public speaking opens up a wide range of possibilities for your small business—so start now getting over your fears.

A SCORE mentor can help you plan out your public speaking strategy (and critique you, too). If you don’t have a mentor, get started by visiting SCORE’s website today.

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and

CEO, GrowBiz Media

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