Overcome your fear of speaking and leverage the stage for success.
The ability to speak is a shortcut to distinction. It puts a man in the limelight, raises him head and shoulders above the crowd, and the man who can speak acceptably is usually given credit for an ability all out of proportion to what he really possesses.
– Lowell Thomas
Thick skin is a common trait among lifetime salespeople – those who don’t have it don’t tend to last very long – and a trait I am glad to possess. As a result, I don’t get embarrassed very easily, hardly ever, in fact. Yet when I examine the past, a few incredibly embarrassing moments do come to mind, and the common element among them is they each occurred while I was at the podium.
The first, and therefore most memorable, happened when I was a sophomore in high school. Mr. Harms, my psychology teacher, was the “coolest” teacher at school. Only a few years out of college himself, he was close enough to our age that we considered him one of us, and that translated to a kinship with most of the kids in our class.
Mr. Harms had an interesting and effective way of helping his students learn from their mistakes. The day after a test, the class would go over every question and answer together. Since he didn’t like to read the whole test himself, Mr. Harms would select students to go to the front of the room and read sections – taking turns until the review was complete.
On this particular day, we were reviewing a test on instinctive behaviors – how organisms have a genetic heritage that causes them to behave in predictable ways. I was at the podium reviewing the material with the class, when I read the following question out loud: “How do orgasms— ”
I suppose if I hadn’t stopped dead in my tracks, dropped my head, turned beet red, and tried to peek around the room to see whether anyone noticed, I might have gotten away with my slipup. But then again, in this classroom of 15- and 16-year-olds, there wasn’t much chance of that. But the thing that I’ll remember forever wasn’t the reaction from my fellow students, but the reaction from Mr. Harms. As my eyes finally met his, he burst into a fit of laughter that rings in my ears to this day. And naturally, as soon as Mr. Harms started laughing, the rest of the class let loose. (He confided later that he had been waiting years for a student to make that mistake.)
Return On Investment
This may sound a bit melodramatic, but my high school experience scared me for years and left me terrified of speaking to a group. So, you can imagine how I felt when I got into sales and learned that, whether I liked it or not, I would have to speak to groups to survive. Even if it was only before four or five people in a prospect’s conference room, or spending 10 seconds introducing myself at a seminar, speaking in public became necessary – a skill I had to master, and a fear I was forced to overcome.
In the coming pages, I’ll share some ideas for overcoming the fear of public speaking, and for turning any chance to speak into an enjoyable, and profitable, marketing activity. But before you invest the time and energy to improve your speaking abilities, you will probably want to know what return that investment will bring.
Five major benefits are related to accepting this challenge:
- Results: Organized properly and done well, public speaking is one of the few marketing activities that I guarantee will produce clients every time.
- Credibility: As is indicated in the quote at the beginning of this chapter, simply by being in front of the room, you become the instant expert on your subject – someone who has the authority to command the room, the social proof of having been selected by the event organizers and the respect of every person who sits quietly to hear you speak. Public speaking creates instant credibility, which increases the likelihood that your message will be heard, believed and remembered.
- Profit: If you want your prospects to cover your entire marketing budget, public speaking is a great way to not only make that happen, but actually make a decent living as well.
- Great Stories: If you speak in public, you will eventually suffer the embarrassment of making a colossal mistake. But every major mistake I’ve ever made in front of a room became a great story I could use to make a point somewhere else.
- Personal Pride: It is a wonderful feeling to conquer such a profound fear. Even if this were the only return on the investment, I believe it would still be worth accepting the challenge.
And before you let your internal voice say, “I can’t because I’m an introvert,” I’d like to point out that Alan Weiss, Ph.D., highly paid public speaker, author of “Money Talks: How To Make A Million As A Speaker,” mentor and friend, is a self-proclaimed wallflower. The guy can control a room as well as anybody alive, but the only way to find him at a party is to look in the shadows.
To achieve success at selling, repeat after me: “I can and I will challenge myself to improve my public-speaking abilities until I am no longer terrified to speak to groups.”
Overcoming Your Fears
Thirteen people were in the audience of my first-ever Honest Selling Breakfast Club – a once-per-month workshop on sales and marketing. Oh how I wish I had that presentation on tape, because showing you how bad I did would be one of the best ways possible to make you believe anyone – even a stumble-mouth, crackle-voice like me – can overcome the fear of speaking. My fear was so bad, in fact, I almost abandoned the Breakfast Club entirely. But I worked through it, and, in the subsequent four years, these meetings produced clients at a high rate. So I’m glad I pushed forward despite my failure, and my fears. (Now I really enjoy speaking before groups and my new problem is remembering when to shut up!)
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
– Mark Twain
There is really only one way to overcome your fear of public speaking, and that’s to follow the Nike slogan: “Just Do It.” But before you make the leap, you should do a few things to lessen the likelihood that you’ll stumble, as I did at my first presentation:
- Increase Knowledge: You’re in front of a room to establish yourself as a credible expert in your field, so it makes sense to know your subject well. That means you must be able to articulate your beliefs, your customers’ beliefs and your competitors’ beliefs. And it means you must be aware of whatever current events impact you and your subject matter. So design a strategy for keeping informed of these important things, and never stop implementing your plan.
- Prepare And Practice: Comfort in front of a room comes through painstaking preparation and practice – the more rehearsed you are, the less rehearsed you’ll appear.
- Change Your Attitude: One of the things that most people fear about public speaking is that someone in the audience will reject their ideas, so they soften their message in an attempt to please everyone. Using the normal curve as our guide, I guarantee you that 5 to 10 percent of the people who hear your message will disagree with you strongly – that’s a fact of life you cannot change. So instead of trying to soften your message to please these people, strengthen your message to blow away the folks on the other end of the normal curve – the ones who agree. That way, you’ll be so busy closing deals with this group, you won’t remember or care about the people on the other end of the curve.
- Manage Your Expectations: If you go into your first presentation expecting to hit one out of the park, then there is a huge chance you’ll be disappointed. However, if you go in knowing it will likely be nothing more than a single-base hit, you will either be very smart for your accurate prediction, or pleasantly surprised at how well you did.
- Trust Yourself: Every one of life’s challenges requires internal strength to overcome. When you’re alone, on stage, with a microphone that doesn’t work, a computer that just crashed and a paper copy of your presentation that never arrived, who better to trust than yourself?
In the end, fear of public speaking is actually a wonderful thing. Think about it for a minute. Where else can you get the rush that comes from being totally terrified without actually risking life or limb? And with the payout being so profound – increased credibility, customers calling you, the ego trip of being respected for your ideas – why not take the risk?
Choosing Your Speaking Opportunities
I’m going to assume you’re a salesperson who is speaking primarily to generate sales, rather than a professional speaker who wants to make a living from speaking engagements. I’m also going to assume that you’re willing to invest the time required to speak anywhere, provided the organization that invited you to speak is willing to cover your costs, such as transportation, lodging and meals.
To determine where you should spend your speaking time, you must answer a few questions:
- Prospects: Who is most likely to have the authority and desire to buy or recommend what you’re selling? If you sell business to business, you’ll generate a list of job titles, like president, CEO, managing partner, owner or perhaps even chef. If you sell person to person, your list might include role titles, like family breadwinner or homemaker. And don’t forget to include the list of people who can recommend your products or services to others, such as consultants, attorneys, accountants or bankers – you can often produce more business by creating one new strategic relationship than you can by creating one new client relationship.
- Education: To what public venues do your prospects turn for their education? Do they attend home-and-garden conventions or trade association meetings? Do they take night courses at community colleges or participate in chambers of commerce?
- Resources: What public speakers are already presenting at these public venues, and what messages are they delivering?
- Differentiation: How can you present your subject in a way that is different from the methods other speakers are using?
Obviously, some of these questions can’t be answered by you alone – you’ll need to contact your prospects and/or clients to get answers. I recommend you start with your current client list. The next time you’re talking to a client, ask something like, “Do you attend any trade association meetings or other public business functions in town?” If you can, add “Are there any national conferences or events you find valuable?” This may sound simple, but you’d be surprised how many salespeople either forget or are hesitant to ask these questions. I’ve been asking them for a great many years, and I have never had a client or prospect react negatively, probably because I’m asking for an opinion and guidance, which is something most people are glad to share.
Bottom line: For you to achieve the maximum sales benefit from public speaking, you must speak where your buyers or recommenders hang out, about subjects they want to hear, in a way that is unique and memorable.
Building Your Presentation Portfolio
You can consider many types of speaking presentations, from keynote speeches to being a clown at a child’s birthday party. But for purposes of selling (rather than making a living by speaking), I’ve found the following four to be the most effective:
- Keynote: You open a day- or weeklong conference or association meeting by addressing all attendees at the beginning of the event. These are typically 30 minutes to one hour in length, and your presentation will traditionally have little to do with your product or service, because the objective is usually to inspire rather than train.
- Trainer: Your job is to transfer knowledge to the attendees of the conference, trade association or chamber of commerce meeting, or at your own workshop. At a conference, this presentation may be given to all attendees at once, or to a smaller group in a breakout session. At most trade association meetings, you will typically be the only speaker for the day or, at least, the only one speaking at any given time. You can also organize a workshop of your own. For example, many financial advisors use training workshops as their primary method for finding new clients.
- Panel Participant: A panel of experts is assembled to address a specific subject, and you’re one of the panel members. This is a very low-risk way to get started in speaking – there is safety in numbers, and you’ll speak only a small percentage of the time. Besides, the questions and answers are usually prepared in advance, so you’ll have the chance to practice until you’re perfect.
- Panel Moderator: Another great way to get started is to moderate the panel, instead of being a member of it. You’ll be the person introducing everyone and controlling the meeting. This gives you some credibility as the authority – the person in charge – yet is low-risk, because you won’t have to express your opinions. I recommend this type of role highly for coaches, consultants or any service providers who facilitate meetings as part of your professions, because it gives you a great way to demonstrate your ability to control a group.
While a host of factors can contribute to the success – producing as many new sales opportunities as possible – of any given effort, the two most important factors to consider are the credibility created by your speaking engagement and the size of the audience. So when evaluating your speaking opportunities, if all other things are equal, you should choose the opportunity that establishes you as “the recognized expert” with the largest audience. For example, at a large conference, the person who delivers the keynote address is automatically assumed to be “the best,” simply because he or she has been selected by conference organizers to deliver the keynote. And since the keynote is delivered to the entire assembly, the number of people who hear the message is quite large.
Exercise: Choose The Best Sales Opportunity
Suppose you’re considering the following two speaking opportunities, and both are on the same day – meaning you can pick only one.
- Keynote: You’ll open a weeklong conference by delivering a 30-minute keynote to 500 conference attendees. Your objective will be to challenge the attendees to open their minds and consider new ideas, so they are better prepared to absorb the information presented by other experts throughout the week. The conference is out of town, so your time investment will be at least two days. You will not be paid for this engagement; the conference organizers are covering your expenses only.
- Workshop: You’ll conduct a half-day workshop with a national association located in your city. Your objective is to teach the 150 people who attend something they can use in their day-to-day lives. You will be paid $1,000 for the presentation; you have no expenses.
In a keynote presentation, you might not be discussing your subject, product or service. You can incorporate subject-matter examples into your speech, but you are not trying to educate. So the real marketing value is related to having been selected as the keynote speaker, rather than related to the content of your message. This is a great opportunity to get people to like you, so they’ll feel comfortable that working with you would be fun. So feel free to add humor and great stories to your presentation, provided they help you make your points and help you produce the result you must produce. You will benefit greatly from the title of “keynote speaker” in the event’s marketing material, but even that will have little to do with what you sell. Everyone who attends will hear your message, so you’ll have a higher volume of people who may want to discuss business with you later – if you can figure out how to incorporate your subject into your speech.
In the association workshop, you have the opportunity to teach your prospects about your products and/or services, so they will be more open to buying from you in the future. The audience is smaller than in a conference, but the educational impact is greater, which should produce better short-term sales opportunities.
Your exercise is to make a choice. But before you can choose, you must think through the marketing plan you would need to implement to make each of these opportunities a success. So to begin, design at least two before, two during and two after activities for both the keynote speech and the workshop speech described above. Then, based on your two plans, determine which you think will produce the most sales. Based on that answer, make your choice – keynote or workshop?
I’ve done the planning, and for me this is actually a tough choice, because the keynote will generally produce more long-term opportunities, but the workshop will produce short-term wins. But when I factor in that I now really enjoy professional speaking, I always lean toward the keynote. After all, if I do well, I’ll not only produce sales opportunities for my consulting and other services, I’ll probably produce more paid speaking engagement opportunities as well.
The point I’m trying to make, of course, is to think through your marketing plans for each type of speaking engagement in your portfolio, so when you’re faced with a choice such as this, the decision is clear.
Creating Effective Presentations
There are as many opinions as to what makes effective presentations as there are presenters making them, so I won’t get into substance here. Personally, I don’t care whether you’re doing a high-wire and juggling act, or standing behind a podium looking like a deer in headlights, the bottom line is, there are three primary keys to “being effective” when presenting, and how you accomplish them isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you do accomplish them all.
Key 1: Produce The Owner’s Results
The first key to being effective is to produce the results desired by the person who “owns” the meeting. This is the person who is being judged based on the success of the entire program, which is often not the same as the person selecting speakers – who is likely the event planner or organizer. The owner of the meeting is the person who signs the contract or writes the check, such as the division head, vice president, president or chief executive officer of the company, or the president of the association or organization. (Event organizers rarely own the meeting, but always know who does.)
Before you can produce the owner’s desired results, you must:
- Identify the owner. As simple as this may sound, the easiest way to get started is to ask the person who contacted you, “Who owns this meeting?” (You may need to explain what you mean.) Once you learn who, then ask, “What result does [he/she] expect me to produce by speaking?” Remember, the mission of an event organizer, is usually to get the best speakers at the best prices, so he or she may not be able to answer your question. However, by asking the question anyway, you will open the door to get a discussion with the meeting owner, before agreeing to speak at the event. (If you encounter a meeting organizer who won’t let you talk to the owner, use your best judgment about whether to continue the process. Since your ultimate goal is to speak and sell, you might be better off agreeing to the engagement and finding the owner later.)
- Find out what results the owner wants produced, such as making attendees receptive to new ideas, keeping the audience awake after lunch, or transferring skills so attendees can increase business, save time or make better planning decisions. During your five-minute chat, learn about the owner’s motivations, by employing the interview techniques you learned in Chapter 3.
Bottom line: Never give a presentation without talking to the meeting owner and learning about his or her desired results.
Key 2: Communicate Clearly
As simple as this concept is, you would be surprised how many speakers forget that their job is to communicate a message clearly and simply. In Chapter 4, I gave you several ideas for improving your ability to communicate. Apply those concepts when creating your speech, and you’ll undoubtedly create something that is quite effective. (Be certain to incorporate stories and analogies into your presentation, regardless of how dry or mundane your subject may be.)
Key 3: Voice Your Reality
Once you’ve created a clear message that produces the owner’s results, concentrate on producing the result you want as well – to build relationships and credibility that will increase sales quickly.
The best way I know to turn a presentation into immediate sales opportunities is to voice your personal reality. What about you is different? What sets you apart from the competition? In what way are you bucking the trends? What position do you dearly hold that raises the ire of many who hear it? What hard-nosed stance can you take in support of that difference?
What is your personal “North Star”?
I have a visceral hatred for bullies, because of the affect their behavior has on their victims. This hatred fuels my efforts to combat the manipulative, deceptive, immoral tactics many salespeople use to bully their prospects into buying when they shouldn’t buy.
Eliminating the bully behavior so pervasive in the profession I love is my personal North Star. It guides every decision I make and comes out in every speech I give.
Real matters. And this is my personal reality.
Bottom line: Attendees don’t want to hear safe messages; they want provocative content that makes them think and challenges them to try new things. The greater the risk you’re willing to take, the more effective your speech will be at both accomplishing the owner’s results and creating sales opportunities for you. Obviously, the stand you take must be something in which you believe, not a contrived stance just to be different, because you simply can’t sell unless you believe in what you’re selling.
Style And Format
As for presentation style and format, and which technology to use, do whatever fits your personality. I’m great when I’m forced to think on my feet, so I often do presentations with a blank flipchart and marker. But I’ve seen many presenters do incredible jobs with PowerPoint® presentations, and I’ve seen others blow rooms away with multi-faceted audiovisual extravaganzas. Use as much technology or as little as you must to be comfortable when delivering your message. But regardless of what you use, remember this simple fact of professional speaking: Somewhere, sometime, when you least expect it, your technology will crash and burn – your PowerPoint® presentation will contain a virus, your handouts will not arrive, your audio will fail, perhaps the power will go out and they’ll move you to an outside venue.
If you aren’t prepared to accomplish your objectives of the speech with none of the supporting tools, then you aren’t prepared.
I follow this rule with all presentations: You’ll know you are totally prepared when you can produce the owner’s desired result, communicate your message clearly and create sales opportunities with nothing more than your voice. (And just in case you get laryngitis, you might ask the meeting organizer to have a contingency speaker on hand!)
Get Speaking Engagements
Following are three of my favorite ways to secure speaking engagements. Please do not use only these three methods, because you will undoubtedly miss out on many opportunities that you could have seized.
I’ll Be There Already
Remember how I said in Chapter 2 that prospects are afraid of many things, and that, once you find their fears, you can use that knowledge to create sales opportunities? Well, think about what meeting owners and organizers fear above all else – especially on event morning, when they have hundreds of things to get done. Put yourself in the position of having lined up 35 speakers for an all-week conference, and most of those speakers are traveling from out of town.
What kept you up last night?
Bottom line: Meeting organizers are terrified that a speaker won’t show up due to travel delays, illness, even unprofessional behavior. So if that’s a meeting organizer’s greatest fear, leverage it – build great relationships by helping to minimize that fear. Imagine how many great relationships you’ll build if you send a letter containing the following message before attending your next conference (address it to the meeting owner, event planner and/or program director):
As the event planner for the XYZ Association, I imagine one of your biggest fears is that a speaker will cancel at the last minute. I’m contacting you to let you know that I’ll be attending your conference in October, and would be available as a contingency speaker should you need one last minute.
I’ve enclosed a one-sheet that lists my qualifications and several of the presentations I can conduct on a moment’s notice in front of virtually any group of business people. If one of your speakers cancels at the last minute, please call my cell at (314) 416-1440, and I’ll be glad to fill in.
If you attend association meetings and conferences as part of your marketing plan, then create and implement a before-activity step that reminds you to send letters such as these. Then, when you get to the conference make it a point to look up the meeting organizer, give him or her your card and remind him or her that you’re ready to go if the worst should come to pass.
Once you’re selected to speak at an event, you have instant social proof – you were chosen by someone to speak, so you must be good – that you can leverage to build relationships with other event owners and organizers in the area where you’ll speak. A very simple, yet effective, marketing method is to invite these people to the meeting, so they can see your presentation firsthand. I’ve found a handwritten note card with the following message produces great results:
I’m speaking at the XYZ Association meeting next month, and I thought you might want to attend, because the presentation would also be appropriate for your membership. Details are on the XYZ website at xyz.com.
If you decide to attend, use my name, and they’ll let you attend at the member rate.
This is not going to produce immediate short-term results, because you probably won’t have hundreds of meeting organizers to whom you can mail at any given time, but if you invite those in your database to all the meetings in their areas, a large percentage of them will eventually come to a meeting or simply call you to speak at one of their events.
Give And Ye Shall Receive
Wouldn’t it be great to have other speakers referring you to the event owners and organizers they know? Then why not do the same for them first?
I assume that you occasionally attend functions where experts speak. I also assume that by now you’ve created a marketing plan for attending these functions, and that plan has before, during and after sections. To get referrals from other speakers, add the following tasks to the during and after sections of your plan:
- During: If you liked the speaker (“Sally”), shake hands, get a business card and interview her to determine for what types of groups she likes to speak.
- After: Introduce Sally to meeting owners or organizers of organizations to whom you previously spoke, and for whom Sally would be a good fit.
When you make your introductions, you can carefully include something like, “When I spoke at your association, I learned that the majority of your members are business owners. Last night, I heard Sally speak about achieving balance between personal life and work, and she did such a great job, I thought she might be a fit for your group.”
If Sally gets a gig, follow up and ask her whether any of her audiences would want to learn about your subject – the reciprocation factor virtually guarantees at least one introduction.
Setting Your Fee
Since you’re really in this to produce sales opportunities, you should be willing to speak almost any time someone invites you to do so. As a rule of thumb, I charge for-profit groups (like corporations scheduling a retreat) a fee plus any expenses, and I charge nonprofit groups expenses only. However, if the situation is right – meaning I have a high expectation of securing many sales – I’ll cover my own expenses as well.
Bottom line: Charge as much as the meeting owner is willing to pay for you to produce the desired result. Below is an example of how this fee-setting conversation might go. (Bear in mind that this example picks up at the end of a sales call that lasted 45 minutes and explored several different topics, so our relationship was already solid.)
I’ve already determined that the managing partner of this accounting firm wants me to deliver an after-lunch keynote at her firm’s annual retreat. There will be 350 accountants in the room. The objectives of the presentation are twofold. First, I am to challenge all firm members to make one change that will result in one new client during the coming year, and give them three ideas for achieving that goal. Second, the managing partner and I had already agreed that I would provide coaching, mentoring and training to the first 10 accountants at her firm who indicated they wanted help, so we would use this platform to introduce them to the coaching idea.
Sue: What will this cost?
Me: We’ll need to discuss results before I can answer that. When I’m finished challenging them to try new things, and I’ve given them ideas for getting more referrals, networking effectively and using their writing skills to create better marketing material, what percentage of them do you think will actually apply what they learn?
Sue: I really don’t know. Do you have any examples from past presentations that might fit this situation?
Me: There are some college statistics we can use, and in my experience they’re pretty accurate. Generally, in a one-shot training situation, the audience will understand about 80 percent of the content that’s presented, retain about 50 percent and apply about 20 percent. I do things to increase that, but let’s assume it’s an accurate number for now. That means, of the three ideas I present, there’s a safe bet every person will remember and apply something. Just to be extra safe, though, let’s assume let’s assume your group is below average. Would you think that of the 350 accountants it’s a safe guess that 100 of them will learn and apply one of the three concepts I convey during the coming year?
Sue: That sounds fair, although I think it will be more than that.
Me: Okay. Then to calculate your expected return on investment, let’s figure that 100 accountants will each use one new idea to produce one new client this year. What’s one average client worth to your firm over a year?
Sue: An average client? Around $7,000.
Me: So, if we hit the numbers we listed, the result of the presentation would be $700,000 in new business over the next 12 months. That sounds high to me.
Sue: Yes, it sounds a bit too good to be true.
Me: What do you think an accurate result would be?
Sue: At best, I’d guess half of that.
Me: Okay, so if I’m successful, that represents 50 new clients and $350,000 in new revenue over the next 12 months. If I could wave a magic wand right now and produce that new business right now, what would you pay me to wave the wand?
Sue: That’s it – force me to pick a number. If you really had a magic wand, I’d be nuts if I said anything less than half that. But the reality is, I’ll get kicked out of the firm if I paid you $175,000 for a 30-minute keynote. But I like the way you think, and I’d like that attitude transferred to my people. I could get by paying you $5,000 and not get vilified by the other partners. Would that work for you?
Me: That sounds fine. I will need to get paid up front to book the engagement and lock in the dates. Is that doable?
Sue: No problem.
Before these conversations happen, most salespeople have a fee in their heads – a number they’ll lay on the table if forced to. As Sue was about to tell me what she’d pay, the fee in my head was only $2,500 – my magic wand produced an additional $2,500 of income right out of thin air.
Even though conducting a return-on-investment interview like this doesn’t always work, when it does, I find that I end up getting paid twice or three times as much for my presentations than I expected. But again, the key is to let the executive pay you as much as he or she wants.
Just as with every other marketing activity, to ensure maximum response, you must organize your plan. Following is the public-speaking marketing plan I created and use whenever I speak to groups where anyone can attend, such as a trade association meeting or conference. In other words, I would not implement this plan for private engagements (like Sue’s accounting firm retreat above).
Keep in mind that this is merely a guideline to ensure I don’t miss any steps. For each speaking event, I usually implement additional ideas based on the specifics of the situation or the meeting. I don’t always implement all the steps shown below, because they aren’t always a fit, but I do review this plan for every speech to ensure I’m generating the best possible response.
- Build business-generating relationships with 10 percent of the people who attend the meeting. (This is the group on the right end of the normal curve – the portion of the attendees who agree strongly with the message conveyed.)
- Close two sales within two weeks of the presentation.
- Strengthen business relationships with association leaders, prospects and clients already in my database of contacts.
- Increase credibility and brand recognition.
My public-speaking marketing plan has two before-activity phases. One phase happens during the negotiations with the meeting organizers, and the other occurs once the engagement is booked.
Negotiations With Meeting Organizers
- Secure the right to invite people outside the group to my presentation, and negotiate some sort of discount or special privileges for the people I invite. (For example, I try to get them free passes or members-only rates to the meeting.)
- Offer to help meeting organizers improve the results of their marketing efforts to get people to attend.
- Make sure organizers will give me a complete copy of the attendee list, in electronic format, after the meeting.
- If multiple speakers are on the docket, secure a list of the speakers’ names and contact information prior to the event. Contact each speaker and invite him or her to a happy hour, dinner or some other social function, and build relationships with each of them.
- Secure a conditional commitment from meeting organizers to provide testimonials if my stated objectives are achieved.
After The Meeting Is On The Calendar
- Schedule a marketing strategy meeting with the members of the board of directors at the association or group. Review their current marketing methods, and create a strategy for improving the results of their announcement to their attendee list. Write the material, and get it to key players before they expect it. (In other words, “show my stuff” to the people who run the group.)
- Go through my database of groups to which I would like to speak in the future. Contact meeting organizers, association presidents, and so forth, by phone, letter or e-mail, and invite them to attend the presentation at a discounted rate.
- Send 50 to 100 personal invitations to prospects, clients, colleagues – anyone with whom I want to build or strengthen a relationship – and invite them to hear me speak at the discounted rate. Ask them to RSVP if they want to attend.
- Assemble a list of those who said they would attend. Search for ways to incorporate their success stories into my presentation. (Be sure to get their permission to use their stories.) Where appropriate, call them to do a short interview to improve the stories you’ll tell.
- Write or modify an article or case study that will be appropriate as a handout to the audience members, and incorporate my guests’ success stories in the material.
- If speaking outside of my local area, contact prospects, clients, colleagues, etc., in the city where the speaking engagement will be held, and invite people to dinner or to meet for a drink.
- Before my presentation, greet the people I invited. Introduce them to one another and to the meeting organizers – make as many connections for them as possible.
- As I use my guests’ stories, point to my guests and have them stand or raise their hands, so the audience will know where to find them after the meeting if desired – get them as much exposure as possible.
- During the presentation, invite attendees to follow up with me in some manner to receive additional value, such as “Send me a copy of your cold-letter, and I’ll review it for free.” Tell them to find me after the meeting to exchange business cards.
- After the meeting, stay long enough for everyone in the audience to have a chance to speak with me if they like.
- After the meeting, ask the meeting owner whether I produced the result he or she wanted. If so, confirm the commitment for a testimonial. If not, learn why, and fix whatever was broken.
- Follow up with all my invited guests who attended.
- Send a follow-up to the 50 people I invited who chose not to attend. Tell them I was sorry they couldn’t make it and include the article or case study I wrote. Include suggestions for a next-step action.
- Send the meeting organizers handwritten thank-you cards.
- Follow up on all commitments – to individuals and to the group – made during the meeting and your presentation.
- Using the attendee list provided by the meeting organizers, send something to all attendees at the meeting not already contacted through one of the means above.
- Greatly improved relationships with clients, prospects, and association and group leaders that were invited and attended.
- Slightly improved relationships with clients and prospects that were invited but did not attend.
- Established credibility with most of the attendees.
Estimated (Or Targeted) Results
- Two of my existing relationships should turn into immediate business opportunities, either directly or through a referral.
- Two or three additional speaking opportunities should result, because of my strengthened credibility (through social proof) with other association leaders.
- At least 10 percent of the attendees I did not previously know should be actively participating in some form of my marketing plan (meaning they chose to receive information from me in the future).
- The number of immediate opportunities for work from attendees is unknown.
- Approximately two full days of planning and implementation for all before, during and after activities combined.
I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but organization and preplanning are true keys to getting the highest return possible from your efforts and shortening your journey to the number one spot.
The [Your Name Here] Sales System: Speaking
Public speaking is a high-risk, high-reward marketing activity. You can and will flop on occasion (the risk), but you also can and will secure huge sales opportunities (the reward), if you make the commitment and get over your fears.
There is simply no faster way to establish credibility than to give a well-organized and effective presentation to a group of your prospects – and it’s something anyone who wants to achieve success at selling should seriously consider doing.
For detailed and practical advice on everything related to public speaking, buy a copy of “Money Talks: How To Make A Million As A Speaker,” by Alan Weiss, Ph.D., and study it carefully. For peer encouragement and training, consider the following two organizations:
- National Speakers Association: http://www.nsaspeaker.org
- Toastmasters International: http://www.toastmasters.org
Both of these organizations have chapters around the world, and Toastmasters tends to have multiple groups in a single major city. Each chapter will have a different flavor, so if you join a chapter that isn’t a fit, consider trying another chapter before abandoning the organization as a whole.