Business Development Through Speaking

Have you ever attended a seminar, webinar or other presentation where you felt “tricked” into listening to what could best be described as a “sales presentation”? Haven’t we all… As a marketing/communication consultant I often do speaking engagements both “live” and via webinar. And, over the years, I’ve attended a lot of these presentations. While I do think that these types of activities can be good for business development, it’s best approached as a long-term approach and not a “quick sell.”

I’ve found that doing local speaking engagements through the Chamber of Commerce has been a good way to establish my expertise in certain areas, to keep my name/face in front of segments of my intended market and to build relationships. Webinars or regional/national speaking engagements cast a wider net. If you’re interested in establishing your expertise, building credibility and doing business development through speaking opportunities, I’d recommend:

  • If you’re new to speaking, take advantage of every opportunity you can to get in front of an audience, whether that means speaking to your child’s class, a local civic group or a local not-for-profit organization.
  • Once you’re ready to “hit the big time,” the key to using these engagements strategically is to first identify your desired target market – decisionmakers – and then find the speaking opportunities that would put you in front of them.
  • When preparing and delivering your presentation, it’s very important to not come across as attempting to “sell” something when you’re doing these presentations. Audiences absolutely hate being given a sales pitch and feel like they’ve been scammed when they go to a presentation that is clearly nothing more than a brag session.
  • To avoid the perception of a “sales pitch,” focus on delivering something of value to the audience and don’t be afraid to “give away” information and expertise. Chances are no matter how much you tell/show them, they’re not going to be able to (or have the time to) do it themselves anyway. Your ability to demonstrate value will increase your credibility and demand for your services.
  • Connect with your audience before, during and after the presentation if possible. Put your name/contant info on your handouts, presentation materials, etc. Get a list of the attendees if possible. Ask for their business cards. Ask if they’d like to be added to your eletter distribution list. Interact with them and then follow up with additional information of value.
  • Take advantage of opportunities to present online. Organizations like BrightTalk and ExecSense can be a good place to start. Services like GoToWebinar allow you to quickly, easily and inexpensively prepare and present your own online presentations, or webinars.

Finally, enjoy the experience. I tell students in the speech and business presentation classes I teach at our local university that I was petrified about speaking in front of audiences. And I was. In fact, I literally do not remember the topics of the speeches that *I* gave in my college speech course, and looking back at my transcript I found that I got a C+ (and I think the instructor was being kind…) But, over the years, I’ve come to enjoy the experience and appreciate the opportunity to interact with and learn from the audiences I present to, whether they’re students, communication professionals, or business professionals in fields as diverse as orthopedic surgeons, lawyers or nurses.

Share what you know and share it freely – that’s the best form of “business development” that I can think of!

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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