Engaging in public speaking isn’t just about putting a face to a brand – it is also one of the best ways of delivering your vision to franchisees and customers alike
The ability to speak well in a crowded room is an essential skill for any serious business owner. As a marketing method, it’s one of the cheapest available and can be very effective; people buy from people and there’s no better time to make a connection than when you’re face-to-face with a potential franchisee. And, whilst not everyone is a natural public speaker, those of us who are on the shy side can still learn how to deliver a good speech or presentation.
Effective public speaking can certainly be a major driver of sales in the franchising industry. It’s a great way to promote one’s brand and helps ensure key messages reverberate consistently among staff and out to customers.
Steve Bramley is head of support at Rainbow International, which provides specialist commercial cleaning services and restoration work and has clients in the public sector and insurance industry. Bramley has spoken at numerous franchise events for the business over the years but now mostly speaks at company events and training sessions. He says these events are critical for ensuring the company is operating as it should be. “As a franchisor, you want to be sure that what you are offering clients is the same, wherever you do it,” says Bramley. “Public speaking for me is often about delivering key messages, vision and strategy.”
Bramley is currently preparing for his company’s annual conference, where he hopes to provide a new impetus to the network and ensure consistency in sales messages and delivery. He says the most important thing for a public speaker is to be interesting, adding that PowerPoint slides full of written information are a turn-off for any audience. “You need to understand your audience,” he says. “By making it interactive, it will make it more interesting for the audience and will ideally make them do the thing that you want them to do, whether that’s buy your product or invest in a franchise.”
One of the main uses of public speaking is to recruit potential franchisees who may attend conferences and events. Rachel Ray is the founder and owner of housekeeping service Bright & Beautiful, which began operating as a franchise in June 2010 and now has over 50 territories across the country. Ray often uses events and conferences as a way to find new franchisees and runs ‘discovery sessions’ where she talks about how the business works.
“I present at a lot of discovery sessions where people who attend are interested in our franchising opportunity,” says Ray. “You need to understand your own goals and the expectations of the audience and make sure you are fulfilling both. My objective is to communicate effectively the value of the franchise to potential franchisees.”
Ray hones down her talks to a series of easy-to-understand messages. However, she also tries to relax and be herself and advises against being too corporate or formal. “You need to be succinct but also be yourself,” she says. “It should be a conversation so I would recommend having bullet points but then doing some ad-libbing in between. The worst thing to do is be too formal or read from a script.”
Understandably, the audience will come with questions on their minds at such sessions. She advises speakers to always schedule the Q&A section and to inform the audience of this in order to avoid interruptions. “I think it’s important to tell the audience that there will be a specific time for questions,” she says. “By the time I have finished speaking, I hope to have answered 95% of them.”
The greater good
Franchisors will always want to advertise their businesses and make connections. However, it is often advisable to adopt a less acquisitive approach at events and instead aim to help others in industry, network broadly and avoid the hard sell.
Ray speaks at a range of events each year to both promote her business and contribute to discussions and activities within the franchising industry. These include British Franchise Association (bfa) events. “I am always honoured to speak at a bfa event,” says Ray. “It’s not always about promoting the business: you can go to talk about best practice with other franchisees and learn from others too. It’s a great industry and it’s important that franchisors share best practice.”
Toby Buckle of the Brighton Leadership Project has worked with leaders in major organisations on key business skills. Here are his top tips for public-speaking success:
1 Know your audience – Put yourself in the audience’s shoes and work out what is most important to them.
2 Use the magic number three – Start your presentation by outlining the three reasons why what you are about to talk about is important. Then deliver your presentation in three distinct chunks.
3 Work on timing – Most people try to get too much into their talks and they either become boring or run out of time. Time yourself practising the speech and allow time for questions.
4 Calm yourself – Get yourself in the right state by breathing in while counting to six and then out again for six. Feel your feet on the ground and loosen your jaw.
5 Tell them a story – Stories help to hold attention and people relate to them. So think about how you can tell your business’s story in a way that people will enjoy.