Speak up! Speaking opportunities are great marketing tools

Civic organizations are always looking for speakers. It’s your chance to talk signs.

By Richard McKinley

Posted on Saturday, August 26th, 2017

What should you talk about?

There are many potential topics for presentations on signs that would be helpful to businesspeople in your community. The goal is not to sell signs but to educate them so that they can get the best value from signage for their business. Here are a few to get you started:


The value of a sign’s cost vs. exposure or viewings compared to other media

What makes an effective sign?

Sign wording: When is there too much copy on a sign?

Mike Stevens’s approach to sign layouts and why it works

Capturing your thoughts on a sign in a short message

Who, What, Where? Valuable words in the sign business

Hand painted or computer?

Signs don’t move—people do

So you want a sign…

The three-second rule

Does your sign match the character of you and your business?

Why more than one sign will draw more customers
Remember these numbers: 7, 38 and 55. Speaking to local civic groups—Rotary Club, Chamber of Commerce, downtown business groups, it doesn’t matter—is an opportunity no business owner should pass up. Sign companies are no exception. The late Bob Fitzgerald’s book, Practical Sign Shop Operation, tells of the opportunities speaking to your fellow businesspeople presents.

As a guest speaker you have the chance to meet local business people while at the same time introducing your sign business capabilities to solid prospects. I participated every time I was asked to do so. My best opportunity was Chamber of Commerce breakfast meetings. After one such meeting I landed an order for a new fascia sign for the Chamber.

It’s not necessary to focus your entire speech on your own business activities. Certain aspects of the industry should be matched to attendee’s occupations, such as explaining how your business tracks employee’s time and material costs.

Speaking skills If you have not been involved in public speaking, but feel you need some local help, join a group such as Toastmasters. There are books offering sound advice on improving one’s presentation skills, too. But if that isn’t your cup of tea and you prefer to jump in without testing the waters, here are some tips to aid you in boosting your confidence and retain your audience.

After you have decided on a specific topic about your company, here are a few guidelines which by all means are not the only ones. They are just what worked for me, and I learned them the hard way.

How you communicate will make or break your presentation. Three key areas—words, voice and body—when combined with a complimentary delivery, will make a favorable impact on your audience.

7, 38 and 55 The beginning of this article I asked you to remember the numbers 7, 38 and 55. These numbers address the three areas of communication that determine how much impact you’ll have on your audience. Those percentages tell how an audience absorbs what is presented during a one-minute speech: 7% from the words you say, 38% from your tone of voice and 55% from your body language. In a twenty-minute talk, the numbers change a bit: Words 15%, Voice 45% and Body at 40%.

Making a positive impact leads to good retention, understanding and believability. Your tone of voice should be relaxed, warm, friendly, being of good resonance and pitch. Most of all it should be believable. Smile, but don’t overdo it. Avoid being overly friendly as you may come across as being phony.

Start with a grabber that captures the audience’s attention like a newspaper headline, i.e., “There is one common thing we use every day, directing our path, advising, shouting from the sidelines. Do you know what that is?” Your grabber should tell the audience the point of your presentation.

Pause and use inflection in your voice when hitting an important point. Increase your speed through the less important areas.

Body language is a very important aspect of a speech. Never use a pointer, use only your hand and arm for pointing. Stand left of the screen and point with the left hand working left to right as that is how people read. It’s more polite to show the back of your open hand when pointing.

It’s not a performance Audiences do not want the speaker’s need to perform to get in their way. Rather, they have a need to know and learn. No need to put on a show.

Proper eye focus connects, controls, aids in concentration and convinces your audience. Look at your audience and at individuals, especially during question-and-answer time. Maintaining good eye contact puts your audience at ease. Keep your eyes on the questioner and commit to listening. Don’t interrupt, even though you may already know what they are asking. Let them finish.

Pause before answering the question. At the same time move your eye contact around to other attendees to keep them involved. Repeat the question that was just asked so everyone can hear and understand the question.

Always bridge from a question to making your point.

Key messages need to be visualized. Visual aids are good to use but don’t be liberal with them. It is recommended to utilize only three or four at best. Photos work well, but avoid charts. Too many visuals can cause retention of the wrong point or thought.

Wait until the end of a talk to distribute handouts. It’s difficult to keep an audience focused it they have material to peruse during a speech.

Consider the time Breakfast presentations bring their own obstacles. Attendees will continue to eat, sip drinks and make all sorts of distractions. Inquire of the host or staff if they will bus the tables before you speak.

Early morning presentations present another problem: drowsiness. One cannot expect everyone to stay awake after a good breakfast and having to arise earlier than normal to attend.

Be energetic and get to the point. Keep it short, providing the bare facts to drive your point home. If you’re good at telling jokes (clean ones, of course), do so, but use only one and make it short. I have been in attendance where the speaker asked everyone to stand up and stretch, then she proceeded with a short funny. Just don’t be long winded when a short breeze will do.

Edit your thoughts to keep them shorter and tighter for more impact. Remove qualifiers such as “I think”, “I feel”, “I know”, etc. Give your listeners time to absorb what is being communicated. After all, people comprehend 10% of what they read at, 40% of what they hear and 50% of what they see.

Don’t be afraid to get in front of a group of businesspeople because the rewards will be greater than your fear, even if you mess up. In the beginning I made mistakes, but learned from each one with little or no criticism. Listeners usually forgive as long as they are learning something helpful.

Richard McKinley

Richard McKinley is semi-retired from the sign business and the promotional products industry. He lives in Howard, Ohio. He can be reached at richo@roadrunner.com.


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