Can You Actually Generate Business From Speaking at Conferences?

Yes, speaking at conferences can be a powerful way to market your company. But first you must know what to do to make the most of this unique opportunity.
February 27, 2018

Speaking at conferences is a prime opportunity to show the value you can bring to prospective customers.

It can help boost your credibility, strengthen your brand and may even help you stand out from the competition. Speaking at conferences can also give you visibility to hundreds of people at once, helping you find qualified leads and gain new customers. It can even attract media attention. Best of all, it helps your prospects see you in action.

Speaking at conferences is like a live brochure of you and your business. Following these tactics can help you promote your brand when speaking at conferences.

1. Research the right forum.

When looking for conferences to speak at, think about your target customers. Which conferences are they likely to attend?

Try looking for speaking opportunities related to your expertise. You can do this by searching "call for speakers small business" or "request for speakers (and your subject matter)."

You can also check out industry associations, trade shows, Rotary Club meetings and Chamber of Commerce events. There are even conference directory websites such as Lanyrd, AllConferences and ConferenceAlerts, to name a few.

2. Educate your audience—never sell to them.

People come to conferences to learn and to be inspired. They don't come to listen to sales pitches.

Give them what they came for, and then some: Wow them with tips, techniques, strategies or best practices they need to succeed in their industry. Your generosity in sharing your expertise and your insights or advice may help get you noticed and remembered.

Sharing your know-how can be a powerful sales pitch when speaking at conferences. After you've written your talk, carefully edit out anything that sounds self-promotional. There's a fine line between promoting your company and sounding "salesy." Use your intuition to help you respect that line.

3. Publicize your speech.

Capitalize on your speaking event by publicizing it before and after the event.

Getting the attendee list before the event can help you customize your message. If the event organizer doesn't want to share the list, ask for it without names and email addresses.

Get the word out on social media by using the conference's hashtag to create some excitement about your presentation. You can create a buzz for the event by writing a blog about what you will cover. Ask the conference organizer if you can write a relevant article to include in the event's promotional materials.

After the event, you can post your slides on Slideshare. If there's a video, post it on YouTube and Vimeo.

4. Partner with a customer.

If the conference format allows for this, consider inviting a customer to take part in the presentation as a case study.

Partnering with a customer in a presentation can enhance credibility and boost interest when speaking at conferences. You can then write a white paper and post it on your website as part of your marketing strategy.

5. Follow up on potential leads after the event.

Not all conference organizers supply the list of attendees. One way to get around this is to have a sign-up list where people can provide their email address to receive a special download such as a copy of your slides, a checklist you promised, a related case study or any other useful document.

The sign-up list can be on a small table at the front or by the exit, if the venue or production team permits this. You can also ask people to sign up through text messaging using a service such as Joinbytext or Constant Contact's Text-to-Join.

There will likely be some hot leads among those who sign up. These are people who are interested in what you have to offer.

6. Hang around after your talk.

When speaking at conferences, some presenters leave right after their talk. Instead, consider staying at the conference to mingle with attendees. This is an opportunity to answer questions, have a more in-depth discussion on the topic with interested parties and collect business cards.

Some of the biggest customers I've gained came from the personal connection I made after my talk. Walking around the conference with a speaker tag prompts some people to connect with you to discuss your topic. I was approached by people who said they were interested in my talk but attended other sessions. I was able to give them the extra handouts from my talk.

7. Track mentions of your presentation.

Monitor social media for mentions of your talk before and after the event. You can retweet or share these comments with your network.

Consider collecting all the social media mentions and posting them on your website. These can be useful as testimonials for other event organizers who might consider you in the future.

8. Keep it fresh.

Try not to recycle a presentation. Although the core messages may be the same, each audience is different. Consider tweaking your presentation to connect with a specific audience.

Getting the attendee list before the event can help you customize your message. If the event organizer doesn't want to share the list, ask for it without names and email addresses. Just the position titles or company names can help.

Customizing your presentation is a fundamental aspect of good communication. It's noticeable and it can help boost your profile and credibility in the eyes of the audience.

9. Develop your stage presence.

Whenever you speak, there are two conversations going on at the same time. One is your content—what you say. The other is your body language.

Make sure that the two conversations are aligned. Are you passionate about your product or service? Show it not only in what you say, but in how you say it.

You can achieve this alignment when you're fully present, in the moment, excited at the opportunity to share your know-how in order to help your audience with no regard for what you can get in return. It's a powerful place to be.

10. Create effective slides.

When speaking at conferences, you might consider omitting the slides.

But PowerPoint can be an important sidekick, if used well. Most conferences today use a widescreen 16:9 format, so make sure you don't show up with a 4:3 standard format. (Or ask what format will be used so your slides don't stand out for all the wrong reasons.)

Whatever you do, avoid using all-text slides. We live in a very visual world, so create visually-appealing slides that reinforce rather than detract from your message. If you need help in designing your presentation, check out online resources such as Canva, Haiku Deck and Emaze, to name a few. You can also consult presentation design books from specialists in this area.

When speaking at conferences, style is as important as substance. Like it or not, the slides you use are a part of your style. Don't leave this to chance.

11. Start and end with a bang.

Grab the audience's attention immediately with the first words you say. You can do this by eliminating platitudes and starting with a hook such as a brief, relevant story to engage the audience from the get-go. There are many other tactics you can use to hook them in the first 30 seconds, such as a startling statistic relevant to your topic.

The same goes for your conclusion. Nailing your presentation in the last 30 seconds can leave a memorable impression. You can do this with a powerful sound bite. A sound bite is an attention magnet. It distills your central message to a few choice words and can leave the audience with the most memorable learning from your session. Ask yourself: Is your sound bite tweet-worthy?

There's no shortage of opportunities for speaking at conferences throughout the year. Don't let these prime customer-attraction opportunities pass you by.

Read more articles on presenting.

Photo: Getty Images