I walked into the mostly empty restaurant and immediately saw the gathering of women around a table at the back. Since it was only 7:30am, the only business going on at this lunch and dinner spot was this networking event and a lot of glass and plate clinking during table set up. I walked up to the registration table and said “Hello” to the lovely woman handing out name badges. As I pinned my badge to my sweater, a bright light of a woman greeted me.
After a kind greeting, we shared about our kids, where we live and, eventually, about our businesses. When I told her I'm a speaking coach, she gave me this look that has become quite familiar. It's a mix of “oh dear, she's going to be analyzing my speaking…” and “ooh, a speaking coach! How unusual!” This look is usually followed by something like, “Well, I'm the speaker today so I can't wait to hear what you think of my presentation!” Which is essentially what this woman said to me that morning as well.
So, as I always do when this happens, I reminded her that she clearly has beautiful, bright energy and she obviously came prepared (supplies for an interactive exercise were already on the table). I suggested that she simply take a few deep belly breaths and enjoy sharing her awesome expertise, just as she planned. I invited her to talk with me afterward if she had anything she wanted to debrief about the presentation but that I was already certain we were in for a fun, engaging learning experience.
As the morning session drew to a close, I approached her and told her what a lovely time I had. She asked me for my feedback on her presentation and I gave her very specific things that I thought went beautifully. (It really was an excellent, engaging presentation.) I asked her what she thought of her presentation. We talked about it for a few minutes and I thanked her again for her wonderful interactive exercise.
Then, I asked if she thought this group would enjoy a presentation on how to use speaking to attract clients. Before I even finished my sentence, she flung into scheduling action. “Oh my gosh, absolutely! When do you want to speak – April, May? That will be perfect!”
By the time I left, I had secured a spot as the presenter at the April meeting of these passionate business owners, a room full of my ideal clients. Needless to say, I was giddy happy!
Let me tell you, though – I haven't always been this good at securing speaking opportunities with rooms full of people who are my ideal clients. Frankly, it's not easy to get the opportunity to speak – even for free – when you are just getting out there with your message.
So today I wanted to share with you three things that will increase your chances of getting to speak to rooms full of your ideal clients.
Before I dive into the specifics, though, let me say this very important thing:
Nothing I do or recommend that you do is intended to manipulate anyone into doing something that is good for you but not good for them. In fact, the entire story I share above happened completely naturally. It wasn't a “strategic” approach I took to getting a new speaking opportunity. It was the result of my wholehearted desire to be helpful, useful and meaningfully engaged with people doing beautiful work in the world.
I am certain that is how you approach your business, too, and that's why I want to make this very clear. The energy we bring to our work is as important as any specific strategy or approach we utilize.
Now, on with your three ways to help meeting organizers book you to speak.
Above all, you've got to make it clear to the organizer that you deliver a high-value, rich content totally non-sales-pitchy presentation on a topic that their audience is really wanting to hear about. This is what they want in their speakers.
How do you let them know this when they don't even know you yet?
First, you be totally real and delightfully engaging at the meeting(s) you attend beforehand.
You listen well to others and offer to help where you can (like I did with the organizer's presentation feedback request and encouragement). You take your moment in the spotlight to introduce yourself with confidence and grace and then you help others shine, too, when they are doing their introduction or sharing their input. You show that you are a confident communicator and a team player (you want her to trust that you won't turn on a sales pitch as soon as you have the spotlight for a long period of time). All of this shows the organizer that you “get it” about how to contribute to the overall success of a meeting.
Have your Story of Transformation soundbite ready to share – and share it whenever you can.
Especially if your topic is based on your own personal growth story, have that story distilled down to a quick and powerful summary that you can share in your formal introduction. It might sound like, “Hi, I'm Sarah. I went from a completely frazzled and cranky Mom of three kids who was, I am not kidding, daydreaming about running away to start a whole new life because I was so miserable – to a peacefully productive and loving mom and wife who spends her days doing work I love, enjoying a home life of ease and beauty and doing the unthinkable – drinking tea while reading a novel on Sundays. I want other moms to know it is really possible to be a loving mom, a driven career woman and also a happy, peaceful person.” (Don't you just want to hire her immediately?! I do.)
Offer a custom talk for that particular group that reflects their wants and needs as well as your expertise.
When you feel you understand the group's real needs well enough and feel confident you can offer a talk that will truly make their lives better, approach the organizer to offer to speak. Be sure to suggest a topic that will delight and serve this particular audience. This might mean tweaking a talk you usually offer. For example, if this is a service-oriented organization, you might shift your talk about “healthy meal planning for moms of small children” to one on “meal planning to maximize energy so you can make a big impact in the world.”
I can't emphasize enough how beautifully speaking has increased my own place as a thought leader in my niche, especially on a local level. When your ideal client gets to experience you as a confident speaker generously sharing your expertise with a room full of people, her own uncertainty about whether to hire you is decreased. She gets a sample of your style and has already received value from you before even hiring you!
I have literally had people hand me their business card on my way back to my seat after speaking and say “call me.” This is such a beautiful way to start a client relationship.
So go forth and offer up your speaking! With these three strategies in place you are sure to get way more “YES!” responses than you might imagine.