This is a guest blog by Carl Friesen
How can one speech transform your life? If you’re the one giving it, on the right topic, and to the right audience, it can. That’s what it was for me. In 1999, I jumped out of the best job I’d ever had to fulfill my goal of having my own business before I turned 40. Now my attention turned to building a base of clients for my business. I liked the idea of public speaking, as I’d heard it’s a great way to build personal rapport with people who might become my clients.
As a marketing professional seeking to work with engineering firms, I knew that my best audience would be marketing staff. So, I found an organization of marketing people and booked myself as a speaker. Doing that speech involved flying halfway across Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver.
I picked a topic for my speech to serve two purposes. One was meeting the informational needs of my audience — how they could build the professional profile of their firm’s members. The other purpose was to show that I was someone who could get results for them, without it being a sales pitch.
At the end of the speech, two people from different firms came up and introduced themselves. They both became clients. One was a firm that I’d never heard of before, but it turned out to be a global environmental and geotechnical firm that has been my core client ever since. Many of the people I’ve worked with at this firm continued to work with me when they left for other jobs, so my business grows.
That’s why I say that one speech in Vancouver transformed my life.
Five Key Steps for Success as a Speaker
Here are some ideas you can apply from this story for getting speaking gigs that lead to client relationships. These ideas also apply to remote events like webinars and podcasts.
Get Good at Presenting
When I started my business, I knew I had to get good at public speaking. I’d heard of Toastmasters, an international organization with chapters in many cities around the world. So I looked online (Toastmasters.org), found a local club, and went through their program for learning how to present.
Pick an Audience of Potential Clients
You may be more comfortable speaking to groups of fellow engineering professionals, but you need to “fish where the fish are.” So, if there’s an industry you want to reach, pick organizations in that industry, and find out what presentation opportunities they have. Increasing numbers of organizations have gone to online learning through webinars and audio podcasts. They welcome presenters with value to offer.
Choose a Topic That Will Be Useful to That Audience
Choose a topic that will be useful to that audience and that deals with a pressing issue they’re facing. Your topic shouldn’t be on what you want to get across — it should be based on what your ideal audience member wants to know about. So, think of the issues that are pressing on people in your intended market, and offer a solution to one of those issues.
Be Willing to Invest in Preparation, and Possibly Travel
I was willing to fly, at my own expense, halfway across the country to do that speech. COVID has shut down a lot of in-person speaking, but you still need to invest in developing your presentation, your slide deck, and a way to build engagement after the event — maybe an e-book for anyone who signs up for your mailing list.
Many organizations put together their event schedules and content calendars up to a year in advance, so get in touch early. Even organizations looking for guest presenters to do webinars, or for guests for their podcasts, plan their calendars well ahead of time.
As one key takeaway, to borrow an advertising slogan: Just Do It. Many people think of “getting on the speaker circuit” but don’t actually make it happen. Be the person who does.
About the Author
Carl Friesen is a former journalist who helps business professionals get recognized for their expertise. To learn more about how you can get speaking engagements and other ways to show thought leadership, see ThoughtLeadershipResources.com.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about how public speaking has enriched your career and life.
Please leave your comments, feedback or questions in the section below.
To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success