Lead Generator #8 – Become a speaker…

Speaking can be a good lead generator, as long as you are in front of the right audience. The secret is to identify your ideal clients, so you don’t waste your time in front of the wrong groups. Focus on your target niches — specialty, geography, industry, and type of business (B2B, B2C, B2G)

Speaking (like writing articles) is something you can do prior to launching your consulting firm. If you speak about your existing specialty, it likely won’t be seen as a threat to your employer.  In fact, it may enhance your perceived value.

Keep the topics simple and tutorial. Like magazine articles, you are not trying to impress your peers — you are trying to show potential clients how you might help. Here are a couple of examples of focused yet practical topics – both professional and business:

  • Professional -An accountant talking about estate planning
  • Business – A marketer talking about LinkedIn for lead generation

OK, you’ve convinced me. Where can I speak?

  • Professional groups – Local society chapters are always looking for speakers, and are a good place to start. Symposiums are also good, but focus on the “tutorial tracks.” Leave the advance topics to the academics.
  • Business groups – For business topics, local organizations like the LIONS, Rotary, and Chamber of Commerce are also hungry for speakers.  Once again, focus on helping those who might actually need and buy your services.

Your talks (professional or business) must be informative and entertaining. Make your talks interesting. Whatever you do, don’t make them salesy.  A good test is to ask yourself, “Even if we never do business, has the talk been helpful?”

If you are really good and enjoy this, it might even lead professional speaking. Many leading consultants make thousands of dollars a year as speakers, doing keynote addresses, etc. Don’t expect to achieve that overnight – you need to earn your stripes. But even if you never make it to the paid speaker ranks, the business you bring in can make it worthwhile.

What to talk about?  Something of interest to both you and your audience.

  • Keep it basic. Think tutorial — you’re not doing a college lecture.
  • Keep it short. 20 -30 minutes for a lunch meeting.  30 minutes to an hour for a professional meeting. If an hour, make sure there is some technical meat in it.
  • Keep it simple. Three things to…  Top five problems…  Four ways to approach… New regulatory impact of …  How to avoid… Understanding the mysteries of …
  • Recycle. Did you write a  magazine article or publish a paper? Turn it into a talk. Add some overheads and you are good to go.  Don’t overdo it, though — we all know about “Death by Powerpoint.”

Your first talk.. Here are some last minute thoughts..

  • Practice, don’t wing it. Have a friend (or better yet, a group of friends) critique it. Time it to make sure it doesn’t run too long. Then practice it again until you feel confident.
  • Going live. If you are like most of us, there may still be butterflies.  Perfectly normal, don’t worry about it. In fact, I get worried if there are not butterflies — that is when thing usually turn sour.
  • Prepare an introduction for your host. Type it out, but keep it brief. No life history. Should be deliverable in about 30 seconds.

Unsure of your skills? Try Toastmasters. Although not a Toastmaster alum myself, several colleagues have praised the organization. I developed my “platform skills” through in-house presentations and teaching technical classes. We’ll talk about the latter in a future post.  Like sports, the more you practice, the better you get.

My own experience. Although I’ve now done hundreds of talks (and taught over 200 technical  classes), I did not start out as a natural speaker. In fact, I took a speech class in college and absolutely hated it!

Later, I discovered that  when I was interested in a topic, I could easily talk about it.  It wasn’t a speech — rather, it was a conversation with a friend or group of friends. The goal was not to impress, but rather to convey information. It does get easier with time — I promise.

A favorite talk was for the Society of Women Engineers many years ago as a sales engineer.  As the only man in the room, it was an eerie feeling to say the least.  Remember, engineering is still a male dominated profession.  (But I am delighted to see that is finally changing a bit..) .

So, I began my talk with “I’ve been trying to figure out why I feel so different here. Then it dawned on me — I’m the only person in the room with no hair… ” They roared. A little self deprecating humor can go a long way. For several years, I would run into attendees at that meeting. One even became a client after I launched the consulting practice.

In closing — speaking can be a very effective way to and generate leads and business, and can  generate new friends as well. Both have happened to me.

Comments or questions?

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