Early in my career, I volunteered to speak at local business events in my hometown, and I began to build a reputation for myself as a pretty good speaker. One of the vice-presidents for a big national financial planning firm saw me speak at a couple of events, and he pulled me aside after one of my presentations to discuss a problem that he was having. He told me that his company used local seminars as a way to attract potential new clients to their firm, and he had been looking for a person to lead their seminars.
“All my guys are thoroughly trained in securities, trading, financial planning, and even insurance, but when we invite potential customers to our meetings, we need someone who can really build that trust with the people in the audience,” he explained. “We are one of, if not the, most successful financial planning companies in the world, but we really need someone who can portray that to an audience.” His idea was to hire me on a contract basis and have me “Wow” the audience and build the rapport with them. Then we would let his financial planners follow up with the investors after the presentation.
I understood his thought-process, but his plan would have a tough time succeeding, though. One of the main benefits of being a good presenter is that your words carry a lot of weight with the audience, and if you do a great job, you can really build trust and rapport with the audience. So if I were his speaker (someone outside of his company,) his audiences might like me and even trust me, but when I left the room that trust would evaporate. Especially if immediately after I left, the folks who were having trouble speaking to groups in the first place took over. The tradeoff would have been awkward and clumsy.
What I suggested to him instead was to train his financial planners to present more confidently. Public speaking is just like any other skill and can be learned. In fact it can be learned very quickly and easily if you use a step-by-step process. Once that confidence is gained these presenters have a strategic advantage in the marketplace. It took us about six months, but by the end of the process, each of his financial planners were leading their own seminars and building their client list significantly every single month. The words that they spoke in their seminars and the way that they carried themselves now portrayed their expertise in their industry. Keep in mind that they were always the experts, but before they improved their presentations, the audiences that they spoke to just didn’t see it.
This company’s situation was like having a Lamborghini and keeping it in the garage under a protective cover. They knew what they had, but the world never got to see it. If you have one of the fastest and coolest cars on the planet, then you have to drive it. Once they started “driving,” their revenue and client base increased exponentially.
If you have an expertise that the business world or consumers need, then you have to let the world know about it. Public speaking is one of the fastest and easiest ways to let the world know that you are an expert. (Incidentally, it is often a form of either free publicity or in some of cases, people will actually pay you to do it. Literally—customers will actually pay you to market to them!)
Look for places where your prospective customers gather and volunteer to share your expertise with them. For instance, if you are an insurance agent, offer to speak at the local MLS meeting or Realtor® Association meeting, because if someone buys a new house, they will also need insurance for it. You might let these Realtors® know about trends in insurance rates that might cause a sale to stall or how to help their clients combine policies to save to lower their monthly escrow payment which lowers the amount that the family pays their mortgage each month..
Or if you are a banker, you might volunteer to speak at a local Small Business Association meeting or Small Business Breakfast and teach the attendees how write a business plan that is likely to help them get a small business loan . Or a banker might speak at colleges or universities to help young people avoid falling into the trap of too much debt. Or, this same banker might partner with a financial planner and do a seminar for their clients on how to lower their mortgage payment so that the audience members can invest more in their retirement.
Doug Staneart is author of the book Mastering Presentations and CEO of The Leader's Institute . His keynote speeches are very fun and get standing ovations from his audiences.