So you’re a loyal regular at all the networking mixers and business builder groups…you’ve handed out your cards at more events than you can count..but have you stood at a podium to offer an educational talk about your field of business to the general public, and fielded their questions?
If not – why not?
I’m not talking about presenting your products and services in pre-set sales appointments. One of the best-known ways of forging a personal connection with your local target audience is simply to show up in person and share your expertise as a friendly, approachable local expert.
But how would you know what to say? Well, if you’ve ever fielded volleys of questions from confused prospects, you have material for a public presentation. You’re not there to prove a point, preach a sermon or to sell them on your services – you’re giving them information you know they need, while you imprint your face, voice and company name on their memories in the process.
But wouldn’t a strategically-placed ad or local Google campaign do just as well? Indeed not! When those local prospects need a service like yours, who are they going to remember – the faceless company name in the Yellow Pages, the plain-vanilla listing on a Google search page — or you, who made such an impression by showing up and speaking directly to their questions?
But what if nobody comes to hear you? Well, that’s always a risk. However, you can take some simple steps to ensure that you have a ready and eager audience…
- Begin promoting your talk as early as possible. Even before you schedule it, you can put a teaser on your website or blog: Be sure to come and hear me answer your toughest questions on (name your topic) – watch this space for details!
- Base the title and topic of your talk on your customers’ most urgent questions, using their language, values and priorities. If you are reaching for a skeptical, not-yet-green audience, for example, don’t plan a lecture on “Cutting 20 Tons of CO2 From Your Carbon Footprint” – instead, title it “Three Simple Tips to Save Hundreds of Dollars on Your Annual Energy Costs.”
- Gear the time and place of your talk to attract the largest possible number of people interested in your topic. If you run a nonprofit offering services to veterans’ families, see if you can book space at an Armory or VA hospital around Memorial Day or Veterans’ Day. If you’re a nutritionist advocating organic/seasonal/local foods, check to see if you can speak at your local weekly farmer’s market.
- Along the same lines, piggyback your talk on a larger event, such as a conference or expo. Yes, you’ll be one of many speakers – and you’ll have a captive audience, and a ready-made promotion for your exhibitor table. Plus, you can develop all sorts of collaborative and joint-venture possibilities with the other speaker/exhibitors. Speaking opportunities at such events are gold – don’t pass them up!
- Use all possible media to announce your talk, well ahead of time – press releases to the newspapers, TV stations, and PRWeb.com; Facebook events, calendar items for your local Chamber of Commerce, community associations, churches, and schools, and so forth. Not to mention a special announcement for your email list if you have one!
- Set up a page on EventBrite.com or a similar service to let people register for your talk, even if it’s free – this allows them to opt in to your list to learn about later events, while you get a general ballpark figure for attendance.
So you’ve decided on the title and topic of your talk, you’ve got it scheduled and it’s on the community’s radar – now how do you plan what you’re going to say?
Focus on the problems that you’re in the business of solving. Your audience doesn’t want to know the technical details of the latest whizbang gadget – or even how to use it. They want to know how to solve a problem. As Internet marketing guru Perry Marshall says, “Nobody buys a drill because they want a drill. They buy a drill because they want a hole.”
For example, if you’re an electrician in a community of vintage houses, you might want to speak about avoiding the dangers of pre-1950s knob-and-tube wiring. If you’re a plumber in the same neighborhood, you might want to talk about solving the problems caused by old cast-iron plumbing.
What’s the purpose? Simple – you’re establishing yourself as an authority on the topic, warning Do-It-Yourself renovators about the genuine risks they can face, and giving them an alternative: you! Such talks contribute significantly to public awareness and safety, while also building your business.
Remember, your audience isn’t just coming to hear you deliver abstract information – they could get this on the internet or in a Rodale manual. And they’re not coming to hear formal speechmaking with finely-crafted turns of phrase – they could get this by tuning in to a Congressional hearing.
They’re coming to hear you as the driving force behind your business – your personal expertise and teaching stories, your solutions for your clients’ unique problems, your concern for their well-being. Your passion for making their lives safer, healthier, happier or easier through the work you do.
Show that knowledge and passion to your public, and they’ll never forget you.