Get real results from your speaking engagements.
I couldn’t believe my ears when my client Patrick recently declared, "I never get leads—much less real projects—from my speaking engagements." What? It seemed impossible. How could any speaker, carefully chosen from a pool of formidable competitors, not glean quality new business opportunities as a result of his or her presentation at a conference or seminar?
Now take note, Patrick offers technical content to intrigue an audience. He has an acceptable delivery style—nothing that should detract from lead generation. So where’s the problem? The answer is simple: His presentation itself was just a single touch. And one touch is often not enough.
As a professional engineer, you likely have some marketing responsibilities, especially if you are a current or future leader of your firm. Have you ever delivered—or at least submitted your credentials to deliver—presentations to an audience of prospective business partners or clients? When done well, quality presentations followed by multiple touches will go a long way toward increasing your firm’s visibility and position as an industry expert.
And there’s more. Great speakers are treated like superstars. Attendees line up to speak with them personally—to sing praises, to describe their company’s issues, or to acknowledge take-away. At a minimum, they all want to trade business cards and stay in touch. This appreciation is personally gratifying, but gratification alone won’t affect your firm’s bottom line. Executing a range of steps before, during, and after the presentation will garner high returns from your speaking engagements. Make sure to act upon these opportunities in the moment, ensuring the fruits of your labor will be primed for future growth.
Ask for and review the attendee list in advance. You deserve to know who will be in your audience; perhaps there will be prospects or existing clients. This knowledge gives you a chance to further focus your content.
Send attendees an e-mail or snail mail in advance to describe the learning points from your presentation. As well, invite them to submit advance questions.
If you have in-person access to attendees before your session (for example, you are one of many speakers during a multi-day conference), then drum up interest while networking. Get folks excited about your presentation topic; take informal polls to get their feedback on what they would most like to learn. Not only will you get them psyched to see you (they’ll spread the word with other attendees, too), but also you’ll be able to reference those casual dialogues during your presentation—portraying yourself as in tune with the audience.
Look at the speaker roster and make direct contact with other speakers who may want to attend your session. This is a great chance to build a new network—potentially abundant with referral sources, prospective clients, and peer-to-peer support.
Get fully acquainted with event/conference hosts. They are excellent references for future speaking opportunities. Incidentally, they also select keynote speakers. So be accommodating, and submit your presentation elements on time, including your presentation brief, headshot photo, handout materials, and travel preferences. Make it easy for them to work with you, then "wow" them with your popular presentation and positive attitude. You will surely be invited back again or recommended for speaking engagements with fellow chapters or other organizations.
Offer to send the presentation (in PDF format only) via e-mail upon request. I recently saw a speaker build her presentation on-site by facilitating a brainstorming session with the audience. She had created a version of what is sometimes called "open space technology," where the attendees themselves are in charge of content and direction of the meeting. Instead of distributing handouts prior to her presentation (for note taking), she made a trade with the audience: business cards in exchange for an electronic copy of the final collaborative presentation.
Facilitate moments when the audience can learn from one another during Q&A. Let’s face it: As speakers, we are positioned as the experts, but there are many intelligent minds in the audience with their own valuable perspectives. In addition to fielding the usual array of questions from your audience, also encourage attendees to share their insights with the entire group. This will ensure a multi-faceted experience, and it will also enable attendees to become further acquainted with one another’s talents. It’s warm; it’s fuzzy; and it strengthens their memory of your session.
If Q&A is going strong, then offer an open invitation to meet in a nearby location (lobby, business center, coffee shop) to continue the conversation during the next scheduled conference break. Set yourself up in that area, and see who shows up. It’s a great chance to offer more value and to serve as a source of connectivity.
Remain visible during the entire event to allow shyer folks to approach you with their comments. Some people feel much more comfortable asking their questions and holding discussions in a private, one-on-one setting.
If your presentation is out-of-town, suggest to attendees that if they have pressing matters requiring your expertise, you would be glad to hold a one-on-one meeting with their firm prior to your departure. They may take you up on your offer to talk while you’re still in town. With a little finesse and good timing on your side, this meeting could serve as your kick-off to a new business relationship.
The last thing I want to do at the end of a long conference day is spend hours following up on leads and contacts. But I discovered that if I don’t do it within a 48-hour period, the "high" dissipates. My energies get refocused on other things, and, the hot leads and new contacts get downgraded to warm at best. Dedicating time to follow-up now will save you time later; in fact, it cuts my follow-up time in half. Following are four essential steps:
- Send personalized e-mails or handwritten notes as appropriate to the hottest contacts.
- Categorize contacts—short-term opportunity; long-term opportunity; networking resource; business partner.
- Record those categorized contacts in your database.
- Insert next steps and due dates into your calendar.
Many of these tips require flexibility in terms of your presentation content and how—and with whom—you specifically spend your free time at the conference.
Remember, you are selected as a speaker because you have something worthy to share. You are an expert, and you know your material. Remaining flexible will help exceed audience expectations, and it will strengthen your long-term impact when you touch ’em, and then later touch ’em yet again.
Anne Scarlett is president of Scarlett Consulting, a Chicago-based marketing advisory firm providing hands-on attention to the AEC community. The firm’s services are listed online at www.annescarlett.com. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.