uerrilla marketing is about brains over brawn. Guerrillas use energy, ingenuity, and effort—rather than big bucks—to win. And no matter what business you’re in, public speaking is one of the most potent guerrilla marketing tactics.
The demands of speaking are substantial, but so are the potential rewards. Research shows that, in selling, a demonstration is 50% more effective than the most glowing testimonial. A speech demonstrates what you and your business can do. It also lets your audience see first hand how you think and work.
Whether you’re leading a seminar or delivering a keynote address, you have the rare chance to meet people who want to learn about you and what you have to say. And you don’t have to find them—they come to you.
Remarkably, too many business people fail to capitalize on the real marketing potential of public speaking. They go to an event, present their speech and ride off onto the sunset. To reap the full benefits of speaking, the guerrilla manages a speech, not as an event, but as a marketing process.
Of course, you must hone your public speaking skills before you jump in with both feet. But being a great speaker is just one piece of the puzzle. To ensure that a speech delivers a marketing ROI, keep these five tips in mind.
It’s a Marketing Process from Beginning to End
It could be months from the moment you identify an opportunity to speak until you finish the event. Use all of that time to solidify your presentation and build relationships that will turn your speech into a worthwhile marketing investment.
After you’ve been hired to speak, meet with the event planners, including the host organization’s executives and the event staff. Usually, they know who will be in the audience and what the audience wants. Test your ideas on them and ask for their insights on how to customize your presentation. This is a chance to meet the event planners when they are most receptive. After all, it’s in their best interests to help you deliver a great speech.
Continue to network as you polish your speech. Interview other experts in the field, including those in academia. Also try to meet with your clients’ customers. Discuss their problems and elicit their opinions. That will produce richer and more perceptive information, including first-hand experiences, on-point stories and real-life solutions.
Obtaining such input will forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones. By asking others to pitch in with your speech preparation, you’re likely to boost your visibility in your industry.
Landing a Speech
The word is out. The advantages of public speaking are no longer secret and the competition is fierce. Thousands of wannabe speakers are now vying for a limited number of slots, and many are accomplished performers who put on highly entertaining shows.
Industry associations, corporations and non-profit organizations regularly need speakers. Check Web sites for events and look for directories with information on groups. For example, the Directory of Associations, which is published by the Concept Marketing Group, provides information on over 35,000 organizations.
Organizations frequently issue requests on their Web sites for proposals (RFPs) from speakers. They will be looking for speakers on various subjects, and will ask you to submit your biography and a brief summary of your speech. While you’re looking for RFPs on Web sites, also check schedules of upcoming events for other opportunities.
Referrals remain the best way for you to get speaking engagements, especially recommendations from people who have heard you speak. Therefore, it’s vital to build a network of people who will recommend you as a speaker to their contacts.
Watch the Yawn-o-Meter
Audiences have heard it all, so you must stretch to keep them from scurrying for the exits. You’re not putting on a Broadway musical, but the audience members won’t find out what you can do for them if you don’t command their attention.
- Avoid fact-intensive presentations. Business people tend to give audiences more statistics than they can absorb. Limit statistics to a few high-impact facts and figures that breathe life into your message.
- Best practices are passé. Audiences want to hear about innovative approaches, cutting-edge ideas and techniques they haven’t tried, not the warmed over “best practices” of yesteryear. When explaining a new solution or idea, point out potential benefits and risks but encourage your audiences to think creatively.
- Your speech is not a commercial. Sell your ideas and know-how, not your company. You can present one slide of your qualifications, but that’s it. Let the person who introduces you blow your horn. Audiences turn off as soon as you start advertising, so avoid it until the end of your speech.
- It’s about value. Audiences appreciate hearing about tools, processes or systems that will help them solve their problems. Give them solutions that they can apply right away. Usable solutions should be a prominent feature of your presentations. Translate your knowledge and experience into understandable and actionable steps for your audience.
- Once upon a Time So much has been written about including stories and humor in speeches that you’d think we’d all be master storytellers by now. Sadly, we are not. Yet stories are critical to connecting with your audience. Grady Jim Robinson, premier storyteller and author of Did I Ever Tell You about the Time, advises speakers to use personal stories that “contain just enough self-revelation that your audience will begin to feel comfortable with you, understand a bit of your past history, and sense where you are coming from.” If you can effectively weave a story and a little humor around your core message, it will resonate with audiences and stick with them.
Spread the Word
As the date for your speech gets close, publicize your appearance by alerting your clients, inviting peers, potential clients and the media. Request passes for your guests from the event sponsors. Highlight your speech on your Web site and in other publications.
Plan your schedule so you can spend time at the event itself, not just to deliver your speech but to take part in the event.
Attend as much of the event as you can, including receptions, dinners, exhibits and other presentations. Find out what issues concern attendees, your peers and the other speakers. Ask their opinions and discuss possible solutions. Listen and learn.
Plan to give your audience extras: survey results, white papers, recommended reading lists, how-to articles, and Web site addresses that are relevant to your topic. Don’t give attendees souvenirs or trinkets—give them something useful. Include your contact information, but don’t hold the materials hostage by requiring recipients to give you their business cards or other information to obtain them.
Many speakers leave events as soon as they’ve given their speeches. But in doing so, they lose valuable marketing opportunities. And, occasionally, a scheduled speaker cancels unexpectedly. If you’re still around, the sponsors might ask you to step in, which will win their gratitude and gain you more visibility.
After your presentation, answer any questions and swap contact information with attendees. Be generous with your time. If you don’t have the time or the information to answer a question, make arrangements to do so later.
Within two or three days after your speech, send handwritten notes to event planners and key members of the host organization thanking them for their hospitality and the opportunity to speak. Try to personalize each note.
Call the people who asked you to contact them regarding their business or to answer deferred questions. Strike quickly, while memories of the event are still fresh. Plan how to regularly keep in touch with both the attendees and those who hired you to speak.
Viewed as a marketing process instead of a one-hour session, public speaking can become a workhorse of your marketing program. And given that 75% of speakers hired today are industry experts, now is the time to add speaking to your marketing program. So, take advantage of the opportunity, but heed the speechmaking advice given by Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”