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How to Promote Your Business Without Sounding Like a Commercial

Have you thought self-promotion is only for the aggressive saleperson? Do you choke when it comes time to talk about your art? Are you of the belief that your portfolio should sell itself?

We’ve all been there!

In many cases, art schools merely tell us that we’re supposed to talk about our work, but they really never give us the tools to do it properly. We rely on reason and technique to get us through to the next project but rarely do we know how to do this successfully.

Lisa Braithwaite, a Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Coach is going to guide us on how we can move through our own awkwardness and embrace self-promotion with aplomb.

Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners. ~Jimmy Stewart

In a recent past life, I was a jewelry artist. I traveled for shows, knocked on gallery doors, attended networking events, and did everything I could to get my work in front of people. One of the biggest fears and concerns that arose from fellow artists and crafters was, “How do I talk about my work without sounding like a commercial?”

This is a legitimate concern; I think we’ve all met someone whose work we admired but whose aggressive selling style turned us off.

How can you can present yourself when you’re in the position of selling (say, at a networking event or speaking engagement), but not sound like a commercial? There are a few simple tips to keep in mind to stay on your prospects’ and customers’ good sides.

Know your objective

No matter who you’re speaking to, you must always know your final objective. Are you giving a lecture or demonstration? Are you meeting a retailer? Are you going to a conference where you’ll be mingling and networking? Think about what you want to achieve in each of these settings.

At the conference, you might be looking to meet some art collectors (final objective: get into their collection). At the lecture, your objective might be to share the history of your art form (final objective: they buy your art or hire you for a custom design). If you’re meeting a retailer, well, that’s pretty easy: You want them to buy.

In fact, in all of these situations, you want your audience to do something as a result of your talk. That’s your final objective. From the very beginning of your preparation, keep your final objective in mind.

Know your audience

In order to make your desires a reality, you have to know who’s in the audience. What are the demographics of the people you’re speaking to? Are they young or old? Well-versed in art or newbies? What do they normally like and buy?

You have several avenues to answer these questions in advance. Talk to the organizer of the conference or speaking engagement to find out what you can about the people attending. If you’re speaking to an organized group or attending their meeting, visit their Web site. If you’re giving a presentation, ask some questions right up front to learn more about the audience; even better, arrive early and talk to people personally about their interests.

Avoid going into a situation “cold.” Having some advance information helps you craft your talk for your audience’s needs, and also reduces the anxiety of the great unknown.

Make it about the other person

A mistake that many speakers, writers and artists make is to get too caught up in their own process, thoughts and perfection when preparing an article or presentation. Here’s the hard, cold truth: It’s not about you.

Always keep in mind what’s most important, relevant and valuable to your audience. What do they care about? What do they want and need? Do they want to spend an hour listening to you talk about and show them the intricate details of a hand-embroidered sleeve (even though you find it fascinating), or do they prefer a general overview, a piece of fabric to touch, and some entertaining stories about the people who wear the garments?

What’s most interesting to you is not always what’s most interesting or useful to the audience. Focus on the benefits to the person rather than the features or description of the item. For example, instead of, “It’s made of rare exotic wood,” try “It becomes more burnished and beautiful as it ages, a family heirloom to pass down for generations.”

Engage them

Now that you know your objective, who you’re talking to, and what they’re interested in, have a good time! Ask questions, give examples, demonstrate. Make the content fun and interesting to your audience.

Draw them in with stories, quotes and statistics (if applicable). Use humor, anger, sadness, curiosity, empathy to engage their emotions.

Get them involved by asking questions about their own experiences and knowledge. Not only can your audience learn from each other, but they might teach you something as well! Show them that their contribution is important and they are partners with you, not just empty vessels to be filled with your wisdom.

When the audience engages with you, relates to you and gets to know you as a person, they are more likely to want to stay in touch with you later. And when you focus on the other person’s needs and interests, you take the pressure off yourself to be perfect, to be brilliant, to be the smartest person in the room. You can be yourself, show your passion and enthusiasm and give them what they want and value. They will love you for it.

Learn More About Lisa

Lisa Braithwaite, M.A.
Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Coach | |

*Registration is now open for AskLisaB group coaching call-in program

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  1. […] F+W Craft Books said: One more biz item: Great tips for feeling comfortable promoting your craft biz. Good for authors, too! […]

  2. […] a quick thank you to Lisa Stewart at INDIECreatives for inviting me to guest post on her blog. Check it out if you want to know how to promote your […]

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