Marketing and PR efforts should be in the forefront of your organization, especially in today's competitive climate and the uncertain economy. Standing out from the crowd, regardless of your organization's industry, is a huge challenge.
How can you meet this challenge?
Many organizations have recognized the value of holding seminars at which their executives make presentations. The problem, however, is that more often than not the attendees are existing customers and clients or individuals who are already familiar with the firm. Companies need to expose their expertise to prospective customers and clients.
What is a proven method of accomplishing this objective?
By speaking at public forums—at conferences, seminars and forums held by independent event organizations, associations, professional and industry trade groups, academic institutions and think tanks—you'll benefit from enormous exposure.
There is much evidence that speaking at public forums often results in attaining business, because an audience of potential customers or clients gains an increased awareness of the company in general and specific subject areas in particular. Presentations about industry trends or “how-to” talks can make a large impact on the audience.
Speaking opportunities for executives and managers represent a strong marketing, public relations, and business development tool for the following reasons:
- Attendees learn about a firm's expertise firsthand and can interact directly with the speaker immediately before or after the presentation. An attendee's asking for a business card can be the first step toward obtaining a customer. The press in attendance also presents opportunities for added exposure.
- The firm gains increased visibility in vertical/industry sectors or broad-based areas that the firm has determined is in need of greater exposure.
- The company gains “advertising” by having its name and the executive speaker's name published in the agenda of thousands of brochures and promotional announcements mailed or emailed by event organizers.
What should an organization do to get its executives and managers out on the speaking circuit? It should take the following eight steps:
- Decide which product or service areas the firm should be targeting for increased visibility. This can be an established line of business, in which case the firm speaks from a position of strength and is known as a “go-to” firm in that area. Conversely, presentations can cover an area just getting off the ground or at an early stage in its development, and therefore needing some quick exposure to let potential customers know about the newly offered products or services.
- Get the right speaker on board. Proposed speakers should be experienced executives and, preferably, experienced speakers. Small-to-medium-sized organizations should nominate the CEO or other senior executive. Large organizations can nominate staff at the director or manager level, depending on the criteria of the speaking opportunity. Make sure that there are executives in those areas committed to the idea of making public presentations. Some will resist the idea of taking time away from other business activities, so make sure that you have their full support.
- Speak to the right audience. Thoroughly research the events for which representatives of your firm can be proposed as speakers as solo presenters or as panelists. There are so many events taking place on so many topics, frequently simultaneously, that you'll need to choose diligently to maximize the time and expense associated with speaking. Identify speaking engagements whose audience represents the customers and industries your organization wants to reach.
- Develop a proactive speaker placement program. It's fine to evaluate unsolicited speaking opportunities. However, having someone dedicated to the task—who will aggressively identify opportunities, develop relationships with event organizers and write and submit speaker proposals—should lead to an increase in the frequency of speaking engagements, and thus increased visibility for the participating executives and the firm as a whole.
- Decide on the geographic area to target for speaking engagements—local, regional, national or even international. There are hundreds of speaking opportunities worldwide every year.
- Create high-impact presentations. Audience members want to acquire actionable information that they can take back to their organizations. They don't want to hear that your firm is the leading firm in this or that subject area. A solid, informative presentation that covers applications or technologies and is not product or company specific will create instant credibility and obviate the need for a sales pitch. A presentation that turns out to be a sales pitch will ensure low evaluations by the audience and a one-way ticket home from the conference organizer. The speaker who gives a sales pitch is duly noted and rarely invited back, often tainting the entire company in the eyes of the event organizer.
- Learn the process for submitting a speaker proposal to the event organizer. Follow the format established by the organizer for writing a presentation abstract and submitting bio, speaker expertise, and previous speaking experience information; and, of course, meet the proposal deadline date. Make sure you tailor the abstract and the bio to each speaking opportunity so that they fit the objectives of the audience.
- Follow up continuously and persistently with the event organizer to help your company stay above the noise, since you will often be competing with several other companies for the same speaking slot.