Speaking engagements can be a worthwhile way of generating new business leads. If, however, you’ve tried it but were disappointed with results, chances are you made the same mistakes I did in my early years in marketing. The fundamentals of getting it right haven’t changed much, and it’s much more about planning and implementation than about the advances in marketing technology.
If you’re ready to try speaking engagements again, the following may be helpful in improving your results:
- Be very specific about your topic
- Add a valuable offer to entice attendees
- Pick a location that is convenient (with public transport, parking etc. nearby)
- Promote the event to target audiences
- Craft a short and sharp presentation that will generate questions for the Q&A
- Set up a way to collect/control RSVPs (name and contact information of attendees)
- Follow up with attendees
Your Topic & Offer
You’ve got to give people a good reason to turn up. And it has to resonate with the type of audience you want.
If you’re looking to draw an audience that fits the profile of your target clientele, then you’ll need to know what such people consider important when they seek an attorney in your area of practice. Think about what your existing or past clients were most concerned about. You can also take a look at Quora, and do a general search for the questions that come up in your area of practice. List three topics that seem to be most talked or written about. And then narrow that down to one.
Copy-wise, I would caution against anything general like “Why You Should Make A Will”. Instead, you want to offer people value so I would suggest going with more specificity instead -- e.g. “How To Ensure Your Loved Ones Inherit The Most They Can From You”.
You could also generate more interest by offering a 15% discount on the first 10 registrants to sign up for a post-event consultation with you. Some marketers feel that this devalues a brand, and therefore has the opposite effect i.e. it dissuades prospective attendees. I’m not so sure; if someone finds your presentation compelling, that small discount could “push” her to make an appointment with you. Which is what marketing is supposed to do. So it may be that adding a valuable offer doesn’t necessarily generate more attendees, but it could be a decisive factor for some people who are already vaguely aware that your expertise is what they’ve been looking for (or should be looking for).
Open with an anecdote. A real case that tells a good story of how you’ve helped a client address the very issues that form the meat of your presentation. Everyone loves a good story. Stories abound these days, but how many really make us sit up and listen? What resonates – even in what lay people consider is the dry and humorless world of law – is the human aspect of your work. It’s a quick way of getting your brand across. Your chance to open with giving people a sense of who you are as a person and as a professional, so to speak. No one wants an attorney who is inaccessible, however smart he may be.
The presentation can then segue into specifics. Keep it short and sharp. I find that anything longer than 40 minutes compels a tendency in the audience to wander off into their own private worlds instead of paying attention to what you have to share with them. To further minimize the loss of their attention, you could use handouts with logos and contact information. Most people like to make their own notes, especially the ones who are sitting on the fence about whether they need an attorney’s help. What’s more, if they take it home, and leave it lying around, sooner or later they will come across them again. One never knows.
Would a Powerpoint deck be more appropriate? That could work too, if it’s polished, visually pleasing (as opposed to visually tiresome). I tend to feel that less is more, and that it’s crucial to return consistently to the key “persuaders” in your content – the things that unsettle people and make them think, “I should really do what he is saying!”. My personal reservation about PPT is that when something is up on the screen, people are looking, not listening. Then again, you could use the PPT for only main points, without verbose elaboration, leaving the value of your knowledge only for those who do pay attention.
I think this is crucial. Not every person who turns up at a presentation or seminar does so with the conscious desire to pose questions to the presenter. There is, however, a natural tendency to have questions form in one’s mind as one the presentation unfolds (provided your presentation is crafted to do so). If you have friends or associates attending, it's quite okay to "plant" questions to get the ball rolling. Start with a question that is likely shared by most of your audience, which is likely to lead to more questions.
Getting The Word Out
There’s a difference between being a speaker invited to present by an organization (e.g. a trade association), and setting up your own speaking event. In the former scenario, you’re somewhat at the mercy of your host in terms of promoting the event.
But these days, there is nothing to stop you from posting the event details with a short blurb on your own social media accounts, whether it’s a self-hosted event or one under the auspices of an organization. You may even want to test Facebook advertising, filtering for the characteristics of your target audience. Someone else is already paying for the venue and refreshments etc., so why not take advantage of cost savings and put them into a bit of promotion that will test whether your target client criteria actually holds up? If the advertising yields interest, then you are likely to have pretty good responses if you decide to host a similar speaking engagement of your own a few months down the road.
It would all be a bit of waste of time and effort if you didn't or couldn't have a list of all RSVPs. Whether it's the organizer of the event or your own firm, it's crucial that someone collates a list that you can contact. Sites like Eventbrite is an easy way to promote your event as well as collect RSVP information. For those who registered but failed to turn up, send a short email with a link to your presentation. Last but not least, if facilities allow, have your presentation recorded so that you can post it on social media and your website as an audio file since your handout or Powerpoint deck wouldn't include the Q&A (which is usually the most interesting portion of your event).
And Remember …
Marketing has never been a silver bullet. It simply doesn’t work if you don’t keep doing it. Regularity and consistency are key to generating the results you want. It’s isn’t enough just to get the planning right; there are dozens of variables as to why people don’t turn up (e.g. bad weather). But if you commit to a series of events, then you up your chances of success, whatever the changing variables that you can’t control. I’ve found the lack of commitment and consistency and regularity to be the top reason why speaking engagements (and marketing efforts in general) perform poorly. In the end, the marketer who succeeds is the committed, dogged one.
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