To paraphrase Gordon Gekko from the film, Wall Street, “Public speaking is good”. Public speaking works. It clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the entrepreneurial spirit…and all the other spirits too.
Recently, we were at a conference talking to women about how great speaking is for your career and your company. The women we met agreed with us wholeheartedly, then someone said, “Yes, but I’m not a CEO or anything. Why would they want to hear me?”
That’s a great question. Why would an audience want to hear you? What makes you qualified to speak? You’re not the head of a multimillion dollar company. You’ve only been working in your field for five years, or ten.
But here’s the thing, in those five or ten years, have you learned anything? Have you made discoveries about your profession or yourself? Have you gained specific knowledge about your field? Are you willing to share your insights or your journey?
Of course! That qualifies you.
When most of us think of public speaking, we think of an A-list celebrity, addressing a graduating class at commencement, or a CEO, describing her latest triumph from behind a podium emblazoned with the seal of a multi-million dollar company, or a trailblazer, holding forth at a TED talk. Sure, big audiences at big conferences exist, but not every speaking opportunity will be you, wearing a headset, stalking the audience from the stage like Debbie Harry. (That’s Blondie for you young ones.)
Every year, there are thousands of speaking opportunities out there. Are they all covered by the major networks? No, but they’re all chances for you to shine. For every front-page-newsworthy address, there are multiple Meetup panel discussions, round-tables, and ‘lunch and learns’ filled with colleagues in your line of work. Colleges have them. Professional organizations have them. Eventbrite has them. Your own company might even have them. (We have ’em too, and we share a list every week via our exclusive speaker newsletter.)
Seek them out. Show up. Talk. Come up with a brief, conversational pitch. Did you start out studying literature and discover a passion for engineering? Throw in something personal. Were you the only opera lover in your dorm at school? Do you love to sail? That’s memorable and it starts conversations. With each smaller meeting where you speak, you’ll gain confidence and improve. People who speak articulately get asked back. That means positive exposure for you and your firm.
Who knows? Maybe there’s a TED talk in your future. And, yes, we want to hear YOU.
— Kerry Fristoe