Money Talks: Market Your Business with Speaking Engagements

image_freedigitalphotos-microphoneWhen I launched my marketing consulting practice in 1999, I started mostly from scratch. Up to that point, I’d successfully landed clients via direct mail, cold calling and networking, but I was eager to embrace thought leadership marketing in place of expensive direct mail campaigns and meeting prospects via random networking at business events.

I embraced public speaking, contacting business groups and websites and offering to deliver talks and teleseminars on marketing, branding and public relations. It took some effort, but within six months I’d spoken 10 times. I saw that public speaking not only established my credibility but were much more effective in generating sales leads.

My talks are always designed to deliver practical information without sales pressure, and they almost always result in audience members approaching me afterward to inquire about my services. To this day, I average one new client each time I speak. In some cases, public speaking has delivered major opportunities.

In one case, I traced $200,000 of consulting work to a single teleseminar in 2003. This talk was a standard presentation on thought leadership branding strategies. It attracted a Personal Fame Program client, a large corporate consulting contract, and later, an invitation to speak at a conference which led to a consulting contract with a major US company.

Speaking Sells

Many business people never consider standing in the front of their buying public to share professional wisdom. If you’re one of them, you’re missing the boat.

Speaking may be old fashioned, but it’s still effective. The power and effectiveness of speaking pre-dates our current era dominated by Internet marketing and social media. Yet, speaking remains one of the most effective marketing strategies for getting in front of potential customers.

Speaking is one of the fastest and cheapest ways to establish yourself as an expert, and it gives you tremendous credibility that increases over time. When done well, a speech can help you close sales before you leave the room. Having heard you speak, people feel they know you personally and are more confident about hiring you.

Speaking puts you in front of potential clients and customers. Speaking regularly can end the uncertainty of knowing where your next client will come from. Speaking can help you reach dozens, even hundreds of your best prospects every time. Business owners often report that speaking regularly continuously fills their prospect pipelines, ensuring a steady stream of new clients and customers.

I’ve been hired for large contracts by decision makers who merely heard about my talks through pre-event promotions. In 2007, leading up to a webinar on thought leadership marketing for sales professionals, I was contacted by a company director who couldn’t attend the talk, but asked me to come to his office in Silicon Valley to explain my services. As a result, I landed a 5-figure contract.

Speaking dramatically builds your credibility. Your prospects may tune out advertising, but they’ll pay attention to your talk because it presents your knowledge in polished form to people who think it will help them. Speaking showcases your knowledge before groups of people who eagerly show up to hear it.

Speaking works because it gives prospects a taste of what you offer in a non-threatening environment. When they are in a room full of people, they feel comfortable. Audience members do not experience the sales pressure of a one-on-one meeting.

Speaking puts you ahead of your competition. Speaking is powerful precisely because it’s most people’s least favorite activity. A much-quoted statistic is that public speaking ranks near fear of death as a top social fear. Thus, by confronting your natural fear or resistance to public speaking, you can use speaking to rise above the majority of your competitors who are afraid to take the podium.

Speaking is more powerful than online-only marketing. It’s fairly common to establish a web presence through blogging and social media, but more distinctive to speak publicly. Ever noticed how even the top online social media gurus have a full speaking schedule? It’s no accident: public speaking is a top credibility builder and lead generator that effectively complements online marketing methods.

The value of speaking increases over time. Whenever you are in front of a room, people will remember your business. The more people see you speak and see your business name, the more successful people think you are. Even when people do not attend your talk, but see your talk promoted in newsletters, email blasts or websites, your visibility, credibility and reputation get a boost.

Get On The Program

Speakers are in great demand‑—‑especially those willing to speak for free. There are tons of speaking opportunities at clubs, organizations, and associations and you don’t have to be a seasoned speaker to get started.

When you decide to add speaking to your marketing mix, start by developing a strategy. Just because it’s easy to get booked somewhere as a speaker doesn’t mean it’s worth doing. Before you commit yourself, find out about the audience. Most organizations can answer these questions:

  • Are audience members really members of your target market?
  • How many people are likely to show up for the talk?
  • What kinds of speakers have recently presented to the group?
  • If expenses are involved, will the organization reimburse you?
  • Can you hand out materials and/or gather audience contact information?
  • Can you sell your books or other materials at the talk?

Start Local. If your business is local, clubs like the Kiwanis, Lions and Rotary provide opportunities for speaking. Chambers of Commerce are possible source of speaking opportunities (some may require you to be a member). These cover a number of topics of interest to local businesses, from marketing and sales to technology.

Industry & Professional Associations. Every industry has at least one association. Groups like the Council of Realtors have meetings and conferences that utilize outside speakers. Groups not specific to a particular industry, such as American Business Women’s Association, always need speakers.

Continuing Education Programs. Teaching a class is a great way to gain credibility in your community. Continuing education programs, adult education programs like the Learning Annex, community colleges, and university extension programs provide opportunities.

Webinars and Teleconferences. You don’t have to be personally present to give a talk that reaches your target market. Webinars and teleconferences can help you reach a lot of people eager to hear your message.

It takes time to prepare your speech, travel to a speaking venue and give a talk. Before you pursue a speaking opportunity or accept an invitation to speak, make sure it has a high probability of benefiting your business.

Your speech should offer value to listeners and not be a hard sell about your business. The trick is talking about what you know and helping listeners solve problems. Choose topics based on your business that solve common problems related to your prospects. Give them a taste of what you can offer and prospects will eventually want more.

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