Speaking at conferences as an expert is a proven means of introducing yourself to new prospects. These engagements must yield business; otherwise, they are merely costly marketing efforts—considering the real and opportunity costs of preparation, travel and out-of-office time.

Here are 10 tips for how to maximize the business results from your next conference speaking engagement.

1. Stick to the topic

Conference planners carefully develop and advertise their sessions with the expectation that speakers will actually speak on the assigned topic. Being an expert in the field does not entitle you to arbitrarily change the conference program. Attendees choose to attend sessions from a list of options and expect to hear you present on the chosen topic.

If you are unsure of what you are expected to deliver, read the promotional material and, if need be, check back with the conference organizers. Even if you are delivering a relatively stock presentation, tailor it for your audience.

2. Speak within the allocated time

If you are speaking on a panel of industry experts, stay within the allotted time. If you are told that you have 20 minutes, don't give a 10-minute or a 25-minute speech. Members of the audience, your target market, may perceive a very short presentation as unprepared and may feel cheated. If you speak too long, you will be perceived as grabbing the limelight. This is particularly dangerous if you are on a panel with competitors who may later use this against you.

3. Check the audio-visual equipment

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Amanda G. Watlington, Ph.D., heads up Searching for Profit (www.searchingforprofit.com).