Written by: Rowena Figueroa
As an advisor, you’re not only the product, you’re also its seller. One of the best ways to build your visibility and authority while developing a market for you as a product is through speaking engagements. In our recent survey of more than 200 Visible Experts®, 67% of respondents said speaking engagements were the most impactful of all marketing techniques, outranking writing a book (61%) and overtaking by an even wider margin referrals and recommendations (54%), the centerpiece of many professional services marketing strategies.
So what makes speaking engagements the most effective marketing technique in any professional services marketing strategy? And what can management consultants do to unlock its benefits?
1. Boost referrals
Let’s address the bombshell about referrals. Have they lost their luster? Not necessarily. The issue with referrals is that 52% of them rule out an expert even before speaking with him or her.
If fewer than half of referrals come through, what makes the rest sour on an expert? One is relevance. When buyers obtain recommendations from friends and colleagues, they conduct their own due diligence by checking out the expert’s online footprint. More often than not, referrals are left scratching their heads about how the expert can actually help them, find poor quality content or a combination of these.
Another factor is your authority. Are you recognized by third parties in your industry as the expert you say you are? Since we’ve moved our lives and businesses online over the past year, your digital brand is now more essential. Anyone can call themselves a thought leader. Few can show they’re recognized as one.
Whether you want to establish your relevance or authority, speaking engagements are an effective way to do either. In fact, speaking engagements account for 30% of the way referrals are convinced you’re an expert or authority in your niche.
The key to a successful speaking gig is to deliver educational, differentiated content that showcases your expertise in your audience’s pains and desired gains. Content that combines sound research and a case story your audience can relate to will turn event participants into followers and, over time, clients.
2. Improve your SEO ranking
Speaking engagements drive more traffic to your site from the submission to post-event phases. This increase in traffic alone will help give your SEO ranking a nice push. In addition, pre- and post-event promotions that mention you, your firm, and your topic also build your authority, which is key to driving up your ranking. Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines instruct raters to check whether people have spoken at events in determining the authority of the latter’s website.
Even if you’re relatively new to the speaker circuit, don’t limit your speaking engagements to in-person keynote addresses. Today’s event producers are planning more online-only or hybrid events that can draw larger audiences while lowering both the cost of producing and running events, and, for their attendees, the cost of participating. Online events – webinars, podcasts, virtual conferences – are just as effective in growing your audience and giving them a taste of your expertise. Think of your time behind the podium or with a panel of speakers as an audition for being the expert they need and want to work with.
3. Fuel your lead generation efforts
As a contributing speaker, you may have access to other perks that can enhance your firm’s lead generation efforts. Try these strategies:
Ask for a list of registrants/attendees. If you can get this in advance, it will give you time to do your homework. Identify those you already know and would like to connect with; see if you can schedule a time in advance to meet during the event. Identify other prospects or strategic partners you would like to meet and be sure to make these connections while at the event.
Ask to advertise your firm in conference collateral. Similar to a paid sponsorship, conference organizers may be willing to let you advertise your firm in the conference collateral in return for speaking. If not, you may still want to consider paying to advertise if the attendees closely align with your target audience.
Meet (with) people. Being present offstage as much as onstage is a big part of making the most of your speaking engagements. Make sure to take advantage of all networking opportunities outside your speaking slot. These opportunities offer a unique chance for you to learn and share helpful information, building up relationships in the process with current and prospective clients, partners, and press contacts.
For online events, deliver interactive sessions where you can see attendees, conduct polls, and answer their questions at any point. You could also suggest–when the platform permits–setting aside time during or after your presentation for session participants to break into discussion groups that you can easily join to form stronger connections with participants.
4. Position yourself as a thought leader
Speaking slots at events add credibility to your standing as a thought leader while enabling you to get your message across to a broad audience. That audience consists not only of prospective buyers but also bloggers and journalists looking for key sources. Well-attended industry events tend to draw buyers as much as they do bloggers and journalists on the hunt for trends and hot topics.
The simple fact that a SME from your firm has been selected to speak at a virtual industry conference or in-person training helps position them (and your firm) as a thought leader or Visible Expert. Once on this pedestal, it’s easier for Visible Experts to grow their reputation, attract better business, and command higher fees.
5. Generate new content for prospects, clients, and media
No doubt, preparing for a speaking engagement absorbs time and effort. However, you can easily repurpose the presentation you create as a webinar, a short video, a guest article, or even a guide. You can also pull key information and spin it off as infographics for sharing on social media or pitching to bloggers and journalists, especially if your topic is hitting the headlines.
If you repurpose your presentation in any or all of these ways, it will keep your audience of prospects, clients, and the media engaged.
6. Deepen relationships with clients and partners, broaden your audience
Many event organizers today are interested in presentations based on case studies highlighting proven solutions to widely shared problems. If you’ve had success with a client, pitch your success story. If you and a strategic partner have a unique, proven solution, pitch it.
Co-presenting with your clients and partners helps everyone shine. And, when everyone presenting does their fair share of promoting the event to their audience, everyone benefits from a lift in audience reach.
Speaking engagements are not easy to come by. As I’ve written before in an earlier article, they are more of a marathon than a sprint. You need to have the right tools–a media/press kit, a compelling pitch, proof of performance, and media lists–and persistence, especially if you’re starting out. However, the time you invest will be well worth it, and is part of the journey to becoming a visible expert.