Smart small business owners watch great public speakers

Writing and captivating and audience with your words are two different things. Find free tips at

There’s something about a well-done speech that stays with you.

As a small business owner, professional writer and marketing consultant, I’m always on the lookout for communication done well. Public speaking ranks high to my mind, so, I tend to seek out opportunities that allow me to learn from the masters.

Sometimes those gems hit you by surprise.

I will never forget one of the best live speeches I’ve witnessed. It was Bill Bradley in 2001. Who is Bill Bradley you ask? Frankly, I didn’t know much about him either (you can bet I went to find out more after watching this artful communicator). He was a presidential candidate and a US senator at the time.

Tickets were cheap. I was in town. So, I figured, why not go?

This was a small crowd gathered in the Palestra at the University of Rochester (seating capacity was 5000-8000). This indoor sports arena was hot. Acoustics were poor. Spectators were packed uncomfortably tight on bleachers.

Yet, this gentleman was so captivating, none of that mattered the moment he began to speak.

Here was a guy who had reason to brag, but never did. He managed to reveal tidbits of his personal history in such relatable ways it felt like he was talking to you, not about him. He poked fun at himself to ensure all attendees felt like peers.

Before crafting his comments, then Senator Bradley researched his audience (how many presidential nominees would do that today – for a small crowd – at a college campus – to a group comprised of people unlikely to vote for him {bet many would have after this event}).

His comments were brilliant (and it was apparent he was too as he humbly peppered the presentation with references to his accomplishments).

He took the time to know about audience interests, making it obvious presentation revisions were made into the night prior. This wasn’t a big-donor, connection-intense presidential results swaying crowd. A large percentage of the audience was comprised of students and faculty. Still, his preparation and style demonstrated he cared about every person in that room.

Writing and captivating and audience with your words are two different things. Find free tips at http://NanetteLevin.comHis comments were so fluid (no script reading or obvious notes), the presentation seemed extemporaneous. Clearly not so – he wove audience specific material throughout. This was one of the tightest, most entertaining and engaging presentations I’ve ever witnessed – from someone who had excuses (including flight issues delaying his arrival) for poor preparation.

Not only was I wowed by his speaking skills (to the point specific details are memorable 15 years later), but his personable approach had me leaving the room liking him, so much so I considered what wonderful friend he must be.

I doubt I’ll ever achieve his presentation skill level, but his example is one I hold as something to reach for.

Designing your small business message for effective impact

Great speeches are borne from smart design and ample preparation. So are most marketing strategies that fill company coffers.

While presentation skills are important, you’ll be amazed at how much better yours become with a good script and time spent preparing. Those tight speeches you see that seem off-of-the-cuff aren’t. That artful communicator spent a lot of time crafting and memorizing comments, including predicting audience questions and comments (or paid someone else to do so).

Simple is best. This applies to speeches as much as it does to any marketing material, including graphic design.

This wonderful TED talk by Roman Mars demonstrates many great communications skills merged together. It’s worth the 18 minute watch no matter where you are with your small business promotional efforts. Roman is hysterical with his subtle (and sometimes overt) comments. This is a polished presentation that took a lot of preparation – including audio and visual accoutrements. It feels extemporaneous because it’s so well-rehearsed. Although his subject is flags, he presents in a way that makes what he’s sharing applicable to all (with easy action ideas for engagement).


Most small business owners worry a professional won’t be able capture their voice. Granted, it’s hard to find a ghost writer who can craft copy that sounds like you, but they’re out there. Don’t settle for less. You’ll get giddy when you find a vendor who can use your vocabulary to showcase you as a brilliant wordsmith.

Public speaking engagements can lead to surprising returns (many pay, more comes from attendees buying your wares). The “fear greater than death” most claim gets gone when you’re prepared. Great content helps.

Why not consider hiring someone to help you shine and prosper as a small business owner with speech material that’s exciting for you and engaging for your audience? The speech preparation is your onus. Writing it need not be. Done right, you’ll relish the next opportunity to get in front of a group. Call me at (540) 400-7106 or e-mail if you’d like to explore the possibilities.

10 responses to “Smart small business owners watch great public speakers”

  1. Just back from blogging conference in Salt Lake where we heard two keynote speakers. One was brilliant. Masterful. The info he shared about his company came in the last two minutes and the rest was devoted to sharing the smart social media tidbits he’s learned over the past 30 years. Reading your post today was spooky as I’ve been thinking about the differences between it and the other ever since. Off to share, Nanette.

    • It’s funny how serendipitous life is, isn’t it Kelly? Masterful public speakers are rare, yet so significant in what they teach us – and how we remember them. Interesting, seeing Bill Clinton speak (also to a relatively small crowd) didn’t compare to Bill Bradley’s allure. Ted Turner’s about the worst I’ve ever seen live. So glad to read you had great fun at your blogging conference. Those good (and bad) speakers can provide incredible learning opportunities. I carry everyone with me as I strive to better understand what works – and what doesn’t.

  2. Too many folks- whether they are in small business or not- fail to recognize that a great “off-the-cuff” speech is rarely thus. Because the components of that missive are items that have been contemplated and exmained from all angles. And, because of that, one has the ability to expound on those tenets so easily.
    Thanks for bringing that up here.

    • Singing to the choir, Roy. I do chuckle when I hear “how lucky” people are to be good speakers – or writers. That’s usually from those who brag they can write a blog post in ten minutes or deliver a (failed) speech with little or no preparation.

  3. You make a very good point here, Nanette. I am one of those rare people who actually loves public speaking. I had considered joining Toastmasters but never found a group that fit my availability. Maybe its time to give that another look.

    I think that anyone would be lucky to have you at their side with your wordsmithing. (Is that a word?)

    • Funny, Amy, I enjoy public speaking too (when I’m prepared – learned the hard way how dreadful it can be when you’re not – or when you start a presentation with “audience participation” to discover that speech you had carefully crafted isn’t suited for the attendee desires).
      Do look into Toastmasters. Curiously, I’m seeking a club here to join too. The first one I visited didn’t feel right. Will be a guest at another next week. They all have such different personalities. Don’t stop looking if the first one (or few) don’t suit you. Big fan of this organization (and a former Area Governor).
      Thanks so much for you kind nod to my expertise.

  4. It’s amazing how powerful a good speech can be. You’re certainly a testament to that with your memory of one 15 years ago. While you’ll never convince me to don the role of public speaker, I certainly understand the benefit of having that asset working magic for your business.

    Fun TED talk – and it makes me want to design a flag now.

  5. Here I thought certain people just had a ‘gift’ to be able to speak like this. I would not have guessed that the gentleman in the video had practiced it so much. I enjoyed watching the audience reaction as he was speaking. The whole video was quite captivating to me and I don’t usually care anything about what a flag looks like however now I will be noticing them….thanks to him! Wonderful points here, thank you!

    • Funny – flags aren’t something I think about often either, Elda. Yet, you can’t watch this video without it changing how you consider them going forward. That’s the mark of a powerful speaker.