Given today’s competitive business climate and challenging economy, marketing and PR efforts should be front and center for your professional services firm. But how can marketers help their firms rise above the noise? One way to do this is through public speaking by the partners or principals. By speaking at public forums – at conferences, seminars and forums held by independent event organizations, associations, and professional and industry trade groups– enormous exposure is created and thought leadership is demonstrated.
Many professional service firms recognize the value of holding their own events at which their partners and principals make presentations. The problem with these seminars is that, more often than not, the attendees are existing clients or individuals who are already familiar with the firm. Since firms need to expose their expertise to prospective clients, they need to look at events outside the firm. Presentations about industry trends or “how-to” talks can make a large impact on the audience.
Speaking opportunities for firm partners and principals represent a strong marketing/ public relations, business development, and thought leadership vehicle for the following reasons:
- Attendees get to learn about a firm’s expertise firsthand and can interact directly with the speaker immediately before or after the presentation. An attendee asking for a business card can be the first step to obtaining a client. The media in attendance also present opportunities for added exposure.
- Gaining increased visibility in vertical/industry sectors or broad-based areas that the firm has determined needs greater exposure.
- The firm attains “advertising” by having its name and the speaker’s name published in the agenda, seen by hundreds or even thousands of people online.
What should a firm be doing to get its partners and principals out on the speaking circuit? Take the following eight steps:
- Decide which service area(s) the firm should be targeting for increased visibility. This can be an established line of business where the firm speaks from a position of strength and is known as a “go-to” firm for a particular area. Conversely, presentations can cover an area that is just getting off the ground or at an early stage in its development.
- Get the right speaker on board. Proposed speakers should be experienced partners or principals in their area of expertise, which is more important that speaking experience in most instances. Make sure that the speaker candidates are 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 in order to maximize the time and expense associated with speaking. Identify speaking engagements whose audience represents the clients and industries your firm 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 firm.
- Decide on the geographic area to target for speaking engagements — locally, regionally, nationally or even internationally. There are hundreds of speaking opportunities held worldwide every year.
- Create high-impact presentations. Audiences want to acquire actionable information 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 is purely educational and does not promote a company 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.
- Learn the process for submitting a speaker proposal — follow the format established by the organizer for writing a presentation abstract, submitting bios and speaker expertise and, of course, meeting 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 many other firms for the same speaking slot.
Even if speaking engagements are successfully attained, be sure to maximize the engagement by ensuring that the presentation has a shelf life. Always come armed with “takeaways,” including handouts, such as an article written by the speaker or a white paper from the firm. Press releases, either before or after a speaking engagement can attract potential clients, especially when the release contains information that demonstrates the firm’s expertise in a particular area.
By developing an effective speaker placement program for you or your organization, you will have taken a big step in meeting its marketing/public relations, business development and thought leadership objectives. Share your questions/thoughts in the comment box below.
Steve Markman serves as a Guest Blogger for SDA and was a recent presenter for EDConnect19 .
With over 30 years of experience in the speaker and conference business, Steve Markman is the President and Founder of Markman Speaker Management, LLC, a full-service speaker agency based in Boston, USA that focuses on helping professional service firms and companies in all industries gain exposure through public speaking. He conducts training for company marketing and PR/communications staff to develop or improve the firm’s speaker placement process designed to boost visibility and generate business leads for their organizations. Prior to launching his own firm in 1994, Steve headed up the conference divisions of leading organizations, including COMDEX and The Conference Board. Contact Steve firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website: www.markmanspeaker.com.