Are you looking for an inexpensive way to promote your business? Have you ever wondered what a higher visibility in your community could do to increase your results?

Have you ever listened to a speaker at a service club and thought, "I could do better than that!" Chances are you can, so why not get started?

Brenda was a successful hairstylist in San Francisco's financial district. At the encouragement of her mentor, she attended the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking course and then became a Toastmaster. The hair product company she was affiliated with hired her to deliver seminars for other stylists who carried their product line.

Conversations with her executive clients about her weekend speaking activities led to invitations to speak at their Rotary, Kiwanis, and breakfast clubs. They knew her bubbly personality and prior experiences with other groups would lead to an interesting program. When she exceeded their expectations, the executives recommended her customer service talks to their companies for staff meetings.

As Brenda was delighted to discover, speaking for groups in her community turned out to be a very effective way to help build her business.

Why Should You Give Free Talks?

Service clubs do not pay a fee. However, you are paid in a currency that is far more valuable: visibility and access to new contacts who are part of your local community where you do business. As Brenda told one of her salon-owner friends, "Rod, clients who drive eighty miles for you to cut their hair feed your ego. Clients who walk or drive to you from within a fifteen-minute radius feed your family."

Talking about your business, charity, or major passion is exciting, fun, and provides great visibility. Your first talks to local service organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, and Optimists lead to many more invitations. Truth is, every service club is looking for a free speaker for next Thursday!

Al was one of Brenda's loyal hairstyling clients and recommended her to speak at the Golden Gate Breakfast Club. At the time, all the members were men and good prospects for her salon. Brenda was excited to discover that the same day she addressed them, three members of the audience made lunchtime appointments in her salon.

Whether your business is in network marketing, insurance, or printing, an effective speech will bring you recognition and eventual business. Even if you talk about your hobbies, interests, or charity of choice, your introduction will mention your business. You will be networking and meeting new local business professionals.

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, or industry, or even hobby or interests?

Speaking at a service club or any local group is an excellent starting point for promoting your product or service. But remember, no one is eager to listen to a sales presentation. Your goal is to be interesting, informative, and even entertaining. This leads to the audience members wanting to have a conversation with you. A conversation can lead to a friendship, a client, or a referral.

For example, an insurance professional 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, and add in his expert advice or investment philosophy.

How Do You Get Invited to Speak?

First, develop your speech. Then, tell your friends, clients, associates, and acquaintances you are available and would love the opportunity to speak to local programs.

Search online for service clubs in your town or city. In most cities, the local Chamber of Commerce will be at the top of your search. Find out who the program chairperson is; they have a tough job and are always looking for interesting speakers.

An entertaining, interesting talk on any subject that is professionally delivered 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 the subject and why you are the perfect person to deliver that message. Make your short biography available to the club hosts well in advance for their newsletter. Most organizations now have websites that advertise the program, so include a good photo and link to your website.

Go early to the event. Your goal is to meet as many people as possible. Find the visitors from other organizations and mention, "If you enjoy my presentation, please give my card to your program chair."

Have a handout or flyer. Develop a one-sheet flyer detailing your key points and information on your topic. Only offer a catalogue or brochure if appropriate. If you've had an article published, make copies for the audience members. Make sure whatever you offer includes your contact information.

Collect business cards. If your goal is to develop business contacts, always collect business cards from the audience members. You can hold a drawing for small prizes, such as product samples or a gift certificate for your business.

Drive traffic to your website or blog. If your audience is interested in the subject, make sure to tell them where they can get more information.

Speaking before a group of strangers may be slightly intimidating at first. However, keep in mind that this can be the beginning of many long-term relationships. Start today and with time you will sharpen your skills. Step up on the podium and profit from the experience!

PATRICA FRIPP is a speech coach, sales trainer,
and keynote speaker. She is the author of many
programs and books on public speaking,
Speaker's EDGE: Secrets and
Strategies for Connecting with Any Audience.