Talk Up Your Toastmaster Talents

9 ways to promote yourself as a public speaker

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From the time Sindy Martin joined Toastmasters in 1997 to 2004, her career took major leaps forward. "I was promoted four times," says Martin. "And there is no question it was because of my speaking abilities.

Martin went from providing technical support to sales staff over the phone to presenting to 400 people every two years at a national sales conference. "I kept my VP up-to-date on my speaking achievements," explains Martin, "so when the need for a speaker came up, it was always, 'Send Sindy."'

Martin is not alone in her success. Individuals willing to speak on behalf of their companies typically earn 5-25% more than their colleagues and enjoy enhanced opportunities for travel, visibility and advancement.

Are you putting yourself out there as a speaker to enjoy these perks? Remember, you possess a talent few do - the willingness to speak in public. Make this talent work for you outside your Toastmasters meetings!

Consider for a moment how you would like to use your skills. Do you dream of being a motivational speaker? Of speaking out to improve your community and the lives of others? Or maybe you simply want to further yourself in business. Any of these options are within your grasp if you'll promote yourself as a speaker. How much promotion you do depends on how far you wish to go. Follow the tips below to get started.

1  Speak Every Chance You-Get. No assignment is too small. Garner assignments by suggesting topics on which to speak. "I understand this program is causing confusion. Would you like me to do a 10-minute over-view for your staff on how it works?" is a great way to approach a manager. You're making their life easier and highlighting your skills - a win-win.

2  Create a Web site. If seeking to promote yourself as a speaker outside your immediate company, it's essential to have a Web site. Here are some suggestions for what to include:

• About You. Talk up Toastmasters and any public speaking experience to date.

• Appearances. List them all, including upcoming events. If you spoke at your son's Boy Scout meeting, include it. You're looking to show a range of speaking expertise.

• References/blurbs. These can come from colleagues, friends, or people in your Toastmasters group. "Sheila brings excitement and enthusiasm to all her presentations." Be sure to list the names and company affiliation of anyone who supplies a blurb. This list especially builds credibility with outside groups who are considering asking you in as a speaker.

• Tips for public speaking. Including a "top 10 list" conveys fun and confidence.

• Pictures of you speaking.

• Blog. A blog (Web log) is an online journal centering around a specific theme or topic. Your topic will be your public speaking. Use your blog to write about current projects and appearances, and anything else you want to share (Speech go awry? Share it in a funny story. People love to see the "behind the scenes" side of speaking). Keep your blog active, giving people a reason to return to your site. People can ask questions and post comments, making your site truly interactive. In addition, using keywords to title your entries encourages traffic to your site.

• Contact Me. List an e-mail where you may be reached.

3  Use E-Mail Signatures. E-mails reach a multitude of people. If you've achieved your CC or CL status, include them in your e-mail signature after your name and use them as a conversation starter.

If you haven't achieved a Toastmasters designation, simply note you're a public or motivational speaker. You may not be able to include this information on a corporate e-mail, but you can add it to your personal e-mail. You'll also, through your personal e-mail, want to supply a link to your Web site.

4  Network. Just as 70 percent of today's jobs are found through networking, so are the majority of speech assignments. You can get the ball rolling by joining organizations/associations and becoming active in them.

Don't be shy about networking and accepting small, non-paying speeches. You may think, "Eh, this is a speech to the five members of our local Kiwanis club," but you don't know who might be listening who can recommend you to the next big client.

5  Teach Classes. Teaching classes in any topic will quickly establish you as an expert speaker in the eyes of others. Approach colleges offering continuing or adult education programs about teaching a class in pottery or basic accounting principles or whatever holds your interest. Recreation centers, senior centers and schools are other venues to consider. Don't worry about money - what matters is you're setting a precedent that you know how to organize material and lead a workshop. If you're nervous, buddy up with a friend or fellow Toastmaster. For that matter, get your Toastmasters group involved in presenting public workshops. If tight on time, offer to teach a lunchtime class at work.

6  Write Articles. Write an article for your company Web site or newsletter. It can be an article on public speaking, but also write about subjects in your chosen field. How does this help your speaking career? People respect the written word. The more you write, the sooner you'll be asked to speak on what you've written about.

Article writing also allows you to conduct your research ahead of time and become comfortable with your subject. By the time you're asked to speak, you're knowledgeable on your topic and feel comfortable speaking about it.

Submit articles to:

7  Get Your Name Out. Send a press release to your local paper every time you teach a class or speak in public. (Hint: Advertise the event over the fact that you're the one speaking). Promote yourself in company newsletters. Some companies have a bio page for their employees. Yours should state that you belong to Toastmasters, your designations and experience, and that you're available to give presentations, facilitate meetings and lead group discussions. Think about your bio as an introduction someone might read before you give a speech: "Jack Smith has been speaking for over 5 years and has given presentations on marketing strategies, financial analysis and better customer service tips."

8  Maintain a List of Appearances. Keep a list of every-where you speak - staff meetings, Toastmasters meetings and volunteer activities. The list will become invaluable when you apply for a new job or are negotiating a raise. Not many people can whip out a list of public speaking engagements and topics. But two years from now, you won't remember all the 20-minute office presentations you made, so record them now.

9  Think of Yourself as a Professional Speaker. You must believe in your speaking abilities before you'll convince others to see you as a speaker. Start small. As you give speeches to different groups on different topics, your confidence will increase alongside your reputation and exposure.

Conclusion

Establishing yourself as a public speaker requires time, preparation and dedication. Start now by thinking of your-self as a speaker. Seek out speaking engagements. Talk yourself up. Teach classes. Write articles. Soon people will be seeking you out. From there, it's up to you how far you wish to carry your speaking career. But whether you aim big or stay small, actively promoting your speaking abilities will pay off in new friends, added income, increased confidence, and a wide range of previously unexplored opportunities.

As for Martin, she has since left her position and is seeking new ventures. Her speaking skills continue to set her apart from the crowd. "In my last interview I was asked how often I do public speaking, and I could say I've done 10 presentations in the past month," says Martin.

"They were impressed."

By Donna_Harris

Opportunities For Speakers Abound.

Consider speaking at...

• Toastmasters Events. Volunteer to be a presenter at a district conference. Enter an evaluation contest. Volunteer to be a judge. (As a judge you don't even present, but people assume you have solid speaking skills yourself.)

• Church/Religious groups. Lead study groups, read at the pulpit, teach children's classes.

• Job Search/Networking groups are always looking. for new speakers.

• Girl Scout / Boy Scout-type clubs. Are you an engineer? How about a hands-on presentation about how electricity works? A stay-at-home mom? How about a talk on budgeting?

• Book discussions. Lead one in your neighbor-hood or at work.

• The Office. Position yourself as the "go to" person for presentations. Don't wait for people to come to you. Come up with specific ideas for talks and put yourself out there.

• Speaker's Bureaus. Volunteer organizations offer wonderful opportunities to establish your public speaking skills. Ideally, you're volunteering with an organization you have a passion for, which makes it easier to speak about its mission. There are any number of volunteer organizations that need community speakers - people willing to lead tours, conduct fundraising, give interviews to the press or provide educational talks.

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