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Gini Dietrich

Seven Tips for Gaining Business from Speaking Engagements

By: Gini Dietrich | February 22, 2012 | 
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More than three years ago, I decided I would go on the speaking circuit to see if we could drum up some business that way.

The first year sucked.

I did 40 speaking engagements in 2010 – some free and some paid. And not one brought us any business. I was getting high scores and great feedback, but the business wasn’t coming.

You see, I’m not a salesperson. I don’t get up there and talk about how great we are. Instead, I deliver speeches that mean something to the audience.

If someone doesn’t walk away with at least three actionable items from an hour presentation, I feel like I didn’t do my job as a speaker.

And I thought that was enough to drum up some business.

I was wrong.

We scaled way back last year. I did only 24 speaking engagements. And guess what happened? We started to gain clients for Arment Dietrich from them.

I’ve been thinking about why that is, and I’ve come up with seven ways for you to gain business from your speaking engagements.

  1. Don’t spend time on your bio. No one cares. In fact, when people ask me how I want them to introduce me, I always say, “Set the expectations low so I can over-deliver.” That always gets a chuckle, but it’s true. People will get a good sense of who you are and where your expertise lies without having to hear someone drone on and on about you. So nothing more than your name, where you work, and one (just one) thing you’re working on. Right now, I have them mention the forthcoming book. That means I’m introduced within 30 seconds and I can take the stage.
  2. Use relevant case studies. You want to use case studies that are relevant to the people in the audience. For instance, this weekend I’m speaking at the Retail Packaging Association trade show. I’ve discovered, of the hundreds of attendees, only five (!!!) use social media. I have created case studies on what they’re doing really well so their peers can learn. Not only will that make them heros of the conference, they’ll be more inclined to want to work with us when they need some help.
  3. Use your own case studies. While you want to make sure most of the case studies you use are relevant to the audience, I’ve found when I talk about results we’ve had for Spin Sucks, it draws a lot of attention. The reason being is that I have access to the analytics and the ecommerce and I can show real results that are meaningful to my audiences. I have one slide I use in every presentation that shows how I link to a Spin Sucks Pro product in a blog post, the in-page analytics from Google, and then the ecommerce. This shows them how I talk about a product in a blog post, how many people clicked on the link, and how many of those converted to sales. People. Love. This. And it demonstrates to them the kind of work you could do for them. Without selling.
  4. Get the audience involved. I like to do things such as ask the audience to stand up. Then I ask them to sit down if they don’t have the following social networks. I start out by naming Facebook and then LinkedIn and then Twitter. And then I start to drill down until there is only one person standing. That person becomes my teacher’s pet and I say so, by using his or her name (see #5) throughout the rest of my presentation. I also know this person is going to be the one I can say, “George, how would you answer Cindy’s question?” when I’m not sure of the answer.
  5. Use people’s names. I like the settings where table tents are used so I can see people’s names beyond the front row. If you call on people, by name, they’ll remember you after you leave. But, if you’re in a large audience, get off the stage and walk around. Look at people’s nametags. Talk to them, specifically.
  6. Provide a leave-behind. Give the audience something they can take home. The main purpose of this is so they have your contact information without having to hunt for it. But if you give them something of value (I always leave them with an eBook that you’d otherwise have to pay for), they’re going to feel like they really got a lot out of your presentation.
  7. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Depending on where you’re speaking, you can negotiate the conference give you a list of attendees. If they won’t do that, there is one easy thing for you to do. Tell the audience you’d love to send them something – it can be a keychain or a flash drive or an eBook or a link to a webinar – and ask for them to leave you their business card. Or you can have a giveaway during your presentation to one audience member by having people leave their cards in a bowl on the stage. Or you can simply say, “If you’d like to join our newsletter (or blog) list, leave me your card and I’ll make sure it happens.” Of course,  make sure you’re abiding by the CAN SPAM Act when you do this.

There are probably an infinite number of things you can do, but this gives you a really good start.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

128 comments
Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

Over deliver, over deliver, over deliver and over deliver.

Do that and you'll never have to sell a thing. People will want to willingly work with you. Also agree with your point about follow up... What I used to do was promise to email attendees a copy of my slide-deck and/or I put together a 1-2 page PDF with a list of notes on my main talking points and tips. With a shout-out to how we could work together if they should want to learn more about that. Worked like a charm!

HLeichsenring
HLeichsenring

Excellent point Gini. Thanks!

Other important points seems for me:

- where and to whom are you speaking

- how to get the right invitations

Kind regards from Germany

Hansjörg

ExpatDoctorMom
ExpatDoctorMom

Gini

This post makes me want to come hear you talk!

Great tips as I am in the speaking for free place... They will help me so I don't spend a year not gaining at least a little something out of this. Another woman and I will present on Social Media at a Women's Business conference. Can't wait to put in place some of the tips you have for engaging the audience and then the call to action at the end!Best,Rajka

KevinVandever
KevinVandever

I think I've employed most of these at least once. I don't get people involved too much in my presentations because I hate when speakers do that to me. I may ask questions once in a while but I don't plan a lot of audience participation. I agree to use people's names where possible and I always leave a leave-behind...behind.

Number 3 was key to my getting business when I used to speak at technical conferences. I shared case studies from my personal experience and that went over really well with the audience. Having a book out, relative to the subject on which I spoke, didn't hurt either, but it wasn't as automatic as I thought it might be. I would sell books so that was nice, but folks wanted to try the material in the book first before deciding whether they needed additional services from me. That's where number 7 would have helped, but I never did that very well (at all).

One thing I would add to the list is to inject your personality into the presentation. The problem with adding this item to a list is that it may become forced. I used to plan humor during my presentations, but I quickly learned that it would often fall flat. I decided to dump the planned humor and inject it more spontaneously. Planned, well-timed humor sometimes works, but I found that what seemed funny at the time I was creating the presentation wasn't necessarily so funny during the presentation. It has to come naturally. Most of the time I am discussing programming how-to topics. Talk about a potential for a snooze fest. So I changed my speaking style, too. Instead of standing behind the podium with my laptop and pointing to my powerpoint with my laser pointer, I now walk around more and sometimes go into the audience. I ditched the laser pointer and now I walk right up to the screen and touch the screen/wall where I want someone to look. Often times, the light from the projector gets into my eyes when I do this, but it has become part of how I present. I do this even when the mic is not wireless as that adds to the fun. I decided to add a little clumsy, self deprecating, Columbo-like (who remembers Columbo?) style to my presentations but never to the material itself. The material has to be of high quality to pull this kind of thing off. This is risky as you may have people who don't take you seriously regardless of the material, but I learned to enjoy this style after watching way too many boring, take themselves too seriously, drones spewing out monotone technical jargon. I don't go overboard. I'm not trying to go slapstick and make the presentation about me, but I have found that if I want future business and want folks to remember me, I can't be like all the other technical presenters before, and after, me.

One other thing I've done is to offer to continue the discussion in the bar. I've even offered to buy the first round. This goes a long way to securing trust and subsequent business with your audience. When I've offered, I've always had at least one person show up for further discussion. This may not seem like a good idea for an 8AM session, but I've offered and that offer has been accepted. The problem is finding a bar that's open that early. OK, I think I've said too much.

Great list. Thank you!

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Oops, forgot this tip/question: speak to the right audience. My limited speaking has been peers (referral network) and small biz managers (w/ no budget), so slim pickins' in the leads department. It's that whole 'where are the fish biting?' thing; as you limited your speaking engagements, did you decide that some audiences were not the right fit to develop AD?

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Have not done many speaking gigs (introvert) or gotten a lot of business from presentations (yet!) but gotta give a big shout out to #1; my last presentation by way of introduction, the headline for my 'about me' slide was something like "the obligatory 'about me' but you don't care so let's move on slide." Got a nice laugh from the group, set the tone.

To build onto points 2, 4, 5: I ask questions of the audience, right from the start. I'll go 'off script' to include more of what the audience wants to hear, add to that what I think they need to hear. Or at least, make note of their requests, and when I get to that point, be sure to single out who asked the question, tell them this is their answer. Plus it helps me make connections, so that when I reach out and follow-up, I can include that in my email or LinkedIn invite, personalize it to make a stronger impression. The rest: leave behind, CTA - I'll have to develop should I get out and speak more. FWIW.

T60Productions
T60Productions

Just starting to do more of this... good timing for this post! Thanks Gini.

--Tony Gnau

feliciahudson
feliciahudson

Outstanding post, Gini! This is why I'm addicted to your blog (though I don't always have an opportunity to comment. I should, but you already know I love your blog.) I digress. Speaking is frequently heralded as one of the most effective ways to build a business, but it's not easy for everyone. Even if you are experienced with pitching campaigns or speaking to a group comfortably, the idea of speaking as an "expert"--all the while knowing your goal is exposure and gaining clients--can be daunting. You've just provided us with a blueprint for how to make this a little less intimidating. I think the fear stems from not definitively knowing what will resonate with your audience or what they will favorably respond to. You always so generously share information here that makes me feel like I'm getting special insider info. :-) A colleague and I are going to collaborate on speaking engagements this year. I plan on using your tips and will be sure to let you know how we do. Thanks again for all you share!

TSteps
TSteps

@ginidietrich really liked this post. These tactic could be used in so many other areas as well.

Katie Gutwein
Katie Gutwein

Great tips, Gini. I LOVE (all your points, but especially) #1...and I may steal your, "set the expectations low..." line :).

At the very least, do you tend to gain a lot of Spin Sucks readers, as a result of your speaking engagements?

Latest blog post: What Should I Blog About?

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

Awesome post Gini! I've been thinking about doing the speaking gig thing.

Sorry if someone already asked this, but I didn't see it... How do you find/get the gigs?

Andrea T.H.W.
Andrea T.H.W.

Very interesting Gini, I feel like I'm taking away something from this post. I mean that your way of writing mirrors your way of speaking, which is pretty cool. While PR is not my field of business even if there are a lot of things learned here which become handy in every business, every time I read a post on SpinSucks I learn something more. And that's why someone should read a blog, right? :)

Latest blog post:

TonyBennett
TonyBennett

Hi, I'm Tony and want tell you a little about myself... Oops, you said NOT to do that! Love love love this post because want to smack people just talk about themselves or bring up totally irrelevant examples. Thanks for this, here's to hoping 10's of thousands of speakers read AND implement your advice we don't have to sit through any more crappy presentations!

Is it weird that now want to hijack a presidential candidate's public appearance while they're here in Michigan so I can get on stage and implement this ASAP?

Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

@HLeichsenring I've been a speaker at several real estate conferences. What I did was put together a 5-6 page speaker bio.

- Page 1: my bio and recent speaking engagements.

- Page 2-3: list of presentation topics. I gave session titles and a bio of the presentation as if I was submitting it in a speaking proposal.

- Page 4: a list of previous speaking engagements (names, locations, attendance).

- Page 5: testimonials.

- Page 6: fee sheet (sometimes I included this, other times I didn't).

Then, I made a list of all upcoming real estate conferences in the next 6 months. I also made a short list of all of the local associations that did monthly or quarterly educational events. I called and asked to speak to their event coordinators to pitch them on why I'd make a great speaker and I followed up with my 5-6 page speaker bio.

That landed me several, profitable speaking engagements. That's my process anyway.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@3HatsComm Yes. That's why I don't go to BlogWorld and SxSW and the like. Even though I'd really love to hang out with my friends, our clients aren't there. So if I'm going to spend time away from home, I want it to result in something...and not just a hangover.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Fitzgerald That's an entirely different blog post. Hmmm...I shall write it.

I'd start with your local organizations. The trade organizations, the industry organizations, and any organizations where your potential clients hang out (such as attorneys or real estate agents). Because of what you do, I'd look at the PR, advertising, and marketing associations, too.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@TonyBennett If I didn't know your life goals, I would think that's weird. But no, it's not.

feliciahudson
feliciahudson

@ginidietrich I will definitely report back. Funny that you mention 2010 as being your year that sucked because I returned to Chicago late summer that year and a friend and former colleague had recently heard you speak at a morning event and mentioned how good you were. So she turned me on to your blog. :-)

Griddy
Griddy

 @ginidietrich LOL!

I just finished the first 3 chapters of the comment - getting another glass of wine for the rest ;).

 

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