Speak easy

6 lessons for turning public speaking into personal and business development

By Doug Wilder

Have you thought about going on the speaker circuit, but aren’t sure if it will be worth your time orstress? Whether you are just speaking up at a board meeting, presenting at a workshop, or giving the keynote speech at a convention, speaking in public can be good for you personally as well as professionally.

Good for personal development

Public speaking is good for personal development because enhances your leadership skills, boosts your confidence and courage, and actually becomes fun.

•Leadership skills. To lead is to inspire others into thought or action. People who speak publicly often acquire the ability to inspire and those leadership skills are carried over into normal non-speaking time.

Lesson 1: Create speeches that inspire and entertain. If you aren’t sure how to accomplish this, join a Toastmasters Club or ask someone to help you. Be bold. Sprinkle in heavy doses of character, wisdom and good cheer in your speeches. The more serious the topic; the greater the need for humor. As you inspire, be inspired.

•Confidence boost. Confidence is the belief that what you are doing is “right” and that you will be successful. By speaking in public you will find that you can and will rise to the occasion, and your worst fears are rarely realized. If you do not give up, you will continue to improve, and you will boost your confidence.

Lesson 2: Make it a practice to always say “yes” when asked to speak. Have courage. Face your fears and do it anyway. You will become more confident, and that confidence will help you on and off stage.

•Enjoyment. Speaking in front of groups can be quite enjoyable. As your confidence and courage increase, you will find your abilities and control increase and your stress will decrease.

Lesson 3: Choose to enjoy public speaking. You may need to fake it until you make it. Laugh at your mistakes. As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously!”

Good for business development

Gerlach, Wilder, and Caplan

While eating lunch with two lawyers who do public speaking to enhance their business, they mentioned three ways they benefit from presenting at seminars: credibility, publicity, and direct business.

•Credibility. Howard Caplan, business lawyer (, said that public speaking brings him additional credibility. People can see and hear his expertise on Intellectual Property Rights, particularly when he is able to engage the audience in a discussion.

Caplan said, “For instance, at a recent Continuing Legal Education (CLE) class at which I co-presented with Patent Attorney Jo-Anne Yau, we welcomed dialogue and involved the audience.” Therefore the lawyers in the audience were more likely to see the presenting lawyers as subject matter experts and refer business to them.

Lesson 4: Keep track of the places you speak at so you can later furnish that credibility list when needed. Also, gather testimonials in a file.

•Publicity: Caplan said publicity is another reason public speaking is good for business development. “When the CLE classes were advertised, it was in essence an advertisement for me.”

Lesson 5: Before the event, ensure the event announcements are strategically circulated and that you are getting the publicity you want. If not, see what announcements you can create yourself. Don’t forget to use social media to spread the word. Let your clients and friends know what you are doing. After an event, you can tell everyone that you did it and perhaps something about it that might interest them.

•Direct business: Gregg Gerlach, an employment lawyer ( and the other lawyer at lunch, chimed in, “Public speaking is an integral part of our firm’s business development strategy. While we don’t solicit the audience to hire us, sometimes the attendees call for advice and do indeed hire us.

“Last week I was the main speaker at an HR conference where 65 supervisors were in attendance and listening to my ‘war stories’ about legal issues facing other supervisors. I have already received a phone call from one of the attendees wanting advice.”

Lesson 6: It is sometimes considered gauche to sell your services or products while speaking at an engagement. If you must, get permission first. For most speakers, just being a great speaker will entice some in the audience to want to do business with you. Be sure to leave something with your name and contact information with the audience so they may contact you later.

By applying the six lessons above, your public speaking will be good for your personal development and your business development. Speak up, and be prosperous and happy!

Doug Wilder is a speech coach with Wilder Business Success Inc., which  strives to create wilder success with less stress. He can be reached at 904-880-8877 or through

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