Public speaking can be a hassle. First, there are difficulties in getting the gig (more on that in post #30), you need to prepare a message and maybe the audio-visual to go with it, and there is travel time and expense. Plus, the fact that many business professionals fear and dislike speechifying so much that they would rather have a tooth extracted without anesthetic, than give a speech.

So why does public speaking still matter, in an age where you can reach a much broader audience through other means, like social media and publishing articles? Here are three ways public speaking can help you fast-track your career, which no other communications tool can do.

Wearing a ‘speaker’ badge gives your conversations more power

Most conferences and other events that offer lanyards and name tags also have a way to designate a speaker at the event. It could be a ribbon you attach to your lanyard, or just the title “Speaker”.

Those things are extraordinarily powerful. They give even your ordinary conversations over coffee-and-croissants more authority. People at the event are eager to meet you and engage you in conversation, and listen closely to what you have to say. After all, you’re a speaker, right?

This is particularly powerful when you’re not already a recognized authority in your field. When you are, people come to you, laugh at your jokes even if they’re not funny, and buy lunch. Getting there --- well, that ‘speaker’ badge is a big help.

So, work it. In your conversations at the event be sure to drop in a mention of the topic of your speech, and invite people to come to the event. If they have a question to ask about your topic, say that you hope that they’ll ask it during your Question-and-Answer session. Flatter them by asking their opinion – what they’d like to know about your topic.

You can make your content laser-focused on your audience’s needs

Those conversations are important if you’re to benefit the most from the second big advantage of public speaking – you can get information that allows you to focus on the needs of the people you want to serve. That’s what you want, right? You want to show that you can deliver solutions that work in their world.

So let’s say you’re at a power utility conference, talking about practical applications of wind power. You’re wearing your speaker badge, and over coffee in the morning you chat with someone else in the lineup. She happens to mention that her state’s government has recently passed tighter regulations about the environmental impact of transmission lines connecting wind turbines to the grid.

Now that you know that this regulatory change is a big issue for people in your audience, you can mention it in your speech, and then weave in your recommendations on how to
minimize habitat disruption from transmission lines, using a software mapping tool you’ve developed.

That’s how conversations at the event, plus research ahead of time, can help you make your speech relevant to your audience, and up-to-the-minute current with the issues they’re facing. It can also go a long way to making people in the audience eager to connect with you as soon as you step off the podium, as well as later in the event.

Potential clients get to see if they’ll enjoy working with you

A third way public speaking boosts your career, as no other tool can do, is that potential clients get a chance to see what you’re like to work with in person. And that really, really matters. If it’s a competition between you and another business professional, your prospective client is likely to choose someone that they know and like.

That “know and like” is something you can deliver from the podium. People get to know what you’re like in person. They can see how approachable you are, if you have a sense of humor, and if you’re able to roll with the situation if the microphone goes out or some other problem develops. Most importantly, they can see how you respond to questions from the audience.

If they’ve seen you in action, they’re more likely to want to hire you.

Getting invited to speak boosts your credibility

A fourth reason public speaking can give you opportunities that build your career comes from the limited number of spaces available. If you consider a day-long conference that has three plenary sessions, and four concurrent sessions offering four options each – that’s a total of 19 speaker slots.

Conference organizers need to fill those 19 slots with people who will be able to drive registrations – either because of the importance of the topic, or the fame (or notoriety) of the speaker. So, if you get an invitation to speak, it’s a tribute to your expertise and stature as an expert in your field, and this boosts your professional credibility.

Being invited to speak, or having spoken, are facts that you can drop into your CV, your LinkedIn profile, and conversations you have after the event. All of your potential clients know that the number of speaker slots at a conference is limited, and this is part of the power of oratory as a career-building tool.

Public speaking is just one of many tools for building your professional profile, but it’s an important one.