Speaking engagements are awesome opportunities for leaders to connect with people within their industry. You might get invites and even paying gigs at local counsels, organizations, and conferences.
Generally speaking, these events are great for your community. It's an excellent way to educate your marketplace.
Some of the most obvious benefits of presenting at events include:
- Expanding brand awareness with a relevant audience.
- Showcasing your thought leadership and establishing authority.
- Networking with influential people in your industry.
Of all these great advantages you can expect from speaking, one of the most prominent ones is your ability to generate leads.
But you need to pay close attention to how you prepare, how you manage your time during the event, and how you stay on top of mind following the presentation.
How to Prepare for Speaking Engagements
When you agree to speaking engagements, you're committing to a significant time investment. Many leaders might try to cut some corners and simply deliver a boilerplate presentation.
But your audience deserves better. And when you put the time into preparation, you can achieve your ultimate goal – helping your audience solve their pain points.
Let's look at a few ways to prepare for speaking engagements.
Research Your Audience and the Event.
This is an essential starting point. You want to gather as much information you can about the organization that invited you.
Who is this event for? What kinds of companies and people are going to be in the audience? What are they expecting from your presentation?
Doing your homework ahead of time gives you and your team plenty of information to help you tailor your presentation to the audience. Plus, if the event coordinator assigned a topic for your speech, you can ensure you're staying on track and meeting their expectations.
Set the Foundation for Following Up.
Aside from shaping your content, you also want to think ahead and plan for how exactly you'll generate leads. This starts with a list of the attendees.
Sometimes, the event coordinator will supply this list for you, but if they don't, either request the list or research who is attending. This way, you can create a branded content offer specifically for those in attendance.
As you build your list of attendees, start adding them to your customer relationship management (CRM) suite and build out workflows that will start sending them targeted emails following the event. These workflows will encourage them to check out the content offer you created for them.
The end goal is to get them to raise their hand at the end of the workflow. Remember, you're not pitching them. You're being helpful first, delivering free educational resources and walking them through the buyer's journey.
Another aspect of your branded content offer is setting up a smart list within your CRM to capture those who download the offer. This way, your marketing team can create a workflow for them separately to thank them for downloading the offer and to add more value related to the offer.
Also, if you have the resources on the day of the event, plan on bringing your sales and marketing team to the event as well. This way, if you're too busy after your speech, the attendees can speak directly with your team to ask additional questions.
Promote and Generate Interest.
Another vital aspect of your preparation strategy is actually promoting your speech in your own network. If the event is big, consider distributing a press release to generate buzz.
Otherwise, promote the event via your social media profiles. You can even target specific people within your network and invite them personally to attend. Send a short InMail message or email, highlighting the benefits they would get from attending your speech.
What to Do During Your Event
The big day can be overwhelming, no matter the size. You're likely going to be setting up your presentation materials and running through the technology with the event coordinator to ensure your slides and clicker work.
Aside from that, you're going to be around a ton of people. Even smaller conferences have a lot moving parts. Vendors. Sponsors. Media. Other speakers. There are a lot of people walking around.
In other words, there is plenty of opportunity to start building meaningful relationships with attendees. A big crowd means more people to impress and talk to after your speech.
Here's what to do when you arrive on the day of the event.
Network With Attendees.
Aside from testing your tech, this is the most important part of your day-of preparation. The best way to start generating leads at speaking events is becoming an authority figure by addressing the attendees' unique pain points.
Although you already researched who will be there and looked into some challenges they share, you also want to hear it directly from them. As you shake hands and introduce yourself, ask questions about what they're looking for at the event.
Then, you can make ad hoc references to specific people you met during your presentation. This will impress the people you reference because it shows them you actually listened and care about their challenges.
But it will also resonate with the audience because they likely share similar concerns as the ones you reference.
Establish Your Company's Resources.
By the time you hit the stage, you already have an introduction slide and likely know what you're going to say about yourself and your company. At the point where you're introducing yourself, you also should highlight how attendees can get in touch with you and your organization.
Introduce your team members you brought with you and have them stand up and raise their hand. Tell attendees to either come to you or your team to ask more questions about the topic you're presenting on.
At the end of your presentation, remind the audience where you and your team will be and share your personal contact information to emphasize that you're available to help them, even after the event.
End the presentation by promoting the branded content offer you made for attendees. On the last slide, give them a URL they can go to. This URL should lead to a landing page specific to the event offer.
Balance Content with Stage Presence.
The content of your presentation is vital to the impact you can have. You obviously want to deliver targeted, helpful information aimed at solving the audience's challenges.
But content is just a small part of the entire speaker experience. Your audience will tune out if you're speaking in a monotonous manner and standing still the whole time.
Get yourself excited! Think about how much you can help, and express your passion for the subject through your stage presence. Your energy actually carries more weight than the subject matter itself.
In fact, research shows that effective presentations are 38 percent your voice, 55 percent non-verbal communication, and just seven percent your content.
Bottom line: Enthusiasm makes or breaks the impact you can have, which in turn can hurt the amount of leads you generate.
In my personal experience at speaking engagements, I always feel fired up. I'm excited to talk about how inbound is transforming the world of business and to highlight how certain technologies give you a big advantage over your competition.
My excitement and optimism about fixing problems shines through and can positively affect the audience's behavior afterward.
You nail your speech. You get some laughs and make insightful points. Now you're walking off stage to a round of applause.
There are a couple of things to do immediately after and during the following months.
Always leave time for questions after your presentation. This gives your audience the time they need to pick your brain a little more. Remember, you're establishing yourself and your team as an educational resource they can rely on in the future.
So shake hands and share some knowledge, but don't forget to collect contact information. Grab business cards, write down email addresses, and get phone numbers. No matter the method you prefer, focus on getting their information.
Connect with attendees immediately on LinkedIn so you can stay top of mind and create a channel of communication for both parties. Follow up the next day, thanking them for attending.
Also, gather additional resources you can send their way to address their specific pain points. And make sure you explicitly invite them to reach out in the future.
This is one of the hardest parts of generating leads at speaking engagements. Remember that you're playing the long game.
It's not the late 90s anymore. You don't just spout out a presentation, then set up a table to sell your products or services. You're being helpful first.
This is not just an inbound approach; it's common sense – treat others how you want to be treated. Provide value first to earn their trust.
But don't expect your phones to ring off the hook the next day. You're likely going to wait weeks, months, or even years before some of these leads enter your sales cycle.
For example, I gave a presentation at a Microsoft event and spent a lot of time afterward answering questions and connecting with people. This resulted in some new followers of Bluleadz, and one of those leads turned into a client over a year after the event.
Even for people like me, who's been giving speeches for years, the impact an hour long talk can have is impressive. I saw Jim Keenan deliver a sales training at Inbound 2018. His passion and excitement, along with his insightful content, got me thrilled for the release of his book, Gap Selling. I eventually purchased his book, and now I give it to my sales team.
In other words, ROI and lead generation results are not immediately seen. But when you're patient and staying top of mind with your leads, you will see results.
Bottom line: Speaking engagements are excellent lead generation opportunities. When you put in the time to prepare, you can have a huge impact on your audience and create lifelong advocates for you and your company.