by Jill Foster of Live Your Talk

As a new business owner, I keep re-visiting these questions:

  • Where are my most ideal customers? 
  • Am I accessible to them? 
  • And do I engage with them authentically and clearly in their environment?

That 'in their environment' point brings to mind a recent experience with a client, also a fellow business owner.

The client said: "I don't like live audiences. I want to use social media to find prospects."

Our discussion at hand concerned her engagement strategy i.e. the relevant, public conversations and stories that could help carve out trusted, profitable relationships. We were approaching this conversation from two angles for her company: public speaking and social media.

Realizing the online-offline connection
Even though her customer base (current and prospective) heavily engaged offline as well as online, she wanted to prioritize an online approach - and exclude public speech planning since live audiences "dismantled her confidence."

At this point, the WomenWhoTech Telesummit came to mind - a great event on 9/15 (for disclosure, I'm on the advisory board). I mentioned the summit to her for potential motivation - since many of the speakers work online and relate to her industry, yet also benefit from relating a lot to public speech audiences.

Out of concern, I then said: "In today's environment, an audience always exists. And potential customers could be ready for your offering whether they're online or offline or both. So does any potential customer deserve your confidence, or just those you find online through social media?"

We just looked at each other for a few seconds.
Her vulnerable feelings about public speech warranted respect. I anxiously wondered silently if my reply was too harsh or insensitive. Certainly fear and that I'm-going-to-vomit anxiety are hard to manage when speaking in public! But it was her complete evasion of potential audiences in this forum - and thus potential customers - that inspired my concern.

It seems reasonable to say we've arrived at a 'public speech 2.0' reality
-where the engagement arena for our services and brands go beyond any single online or offline dynamic. The client eventually broke the silence and we began brainstorming how a public speech plan could fit into her overall engagement strategy.

These questions have shaped public speech strategy for my own business; and my client used them in her own development and commitment to 'public speech 2.0':

  • What passion propelled you to start your business?
  • What 3 stories, based on your experience, best express your business value (and passion for it)? What conversations are most valuable to your customers? (both those in online and offline communities)?
  • How can these core stories be developed through conversational speechcraft?
  • When engaging in a relaxed, one-on-one discussion - what are your conversational strengths? How do you cultivate trust in this type of informal setting? Are you a strong listener? Do you give and receive attention well? Do you maintain steady eye contact or ask targeted questions?
  • In what ways can you develop and transfer your conversational strengths to stage-delivery dynamics?

What do you think about 'public speech 2.0'?
What has helped you prepare to authentically, intentionally engage in public, whether that be through social media or a public speech onstage?


Cited by ForbesWoman as one of 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter, Jill Foster's work has been in conversation in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Guardian UK, Washingtonian Magazine, and a range of media outlets. As principal of Live Your Talk, she teaches creatives, community builders, and entrepreneurs to be distinct communicators online through social media and offline through public speech. Jill has a particular expertise with women in leadership and technology communities and works in the Washington, DC area. A social tech enthusiast, she co-founded DC Media Makers, a peer learning community that teaches digital technology. She is the founding editor of the blog community Women Grow Business - a top ranked blog on social media and marketing. In 2009, Jill won the Apps for Democracy Social Citizen Award for a co-produced project on how technology could help Washington, DC neighborhoods.

Website: | Twitter: @JillFoster

Profile photo by JJG3 Photography.

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