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7 Surprising Ways To Turn Audience Members Into Clients

Aug 17, 2007
You've just received an email from a local business networking group. They want you to give a talk next month.

Your first thought: "A great way to attract clients for my professional service."

But your next thought: "How can I make this work?" Speaking engagements can be more powerful than simply attending a networking meeting. You want to make the most of each one.

So you can't just show up. You have to plan ahead. Talk to the program director, event coordinator and some of the members. Tailor your talk to the group. You know you're ready when you have answered these 7 questions.

(1) What is the goal of the event where I'll be speaking? And what do members want?

Generally it's dangerous to assume you know what a group wants. They may have hated the last three speakers and be ready for a change. Your meeting coordinator will have feedback and will be able to point you in the right direction.

(2) Describe the members. Who are they? What are their challenges?

Now you can organize your talk so they'll be eager to learn from you. If you're giving a longer speech or workshop, ask if you can call a few members to get a sense of where they're coming from.

(3) Am I talking to newbies or fellow professionals in my field?

Tailor this question to your expertise. For instance before I give a talk on website marketing, I will ask, "Do most of the audience members have websites up and running, or are they still in the thinking stage?"

If you're giving a value-based talk -- anything from law of attraction to laws of astrology - ask how the group perceives your topic: serious belief, light enjoyment or outright skepticism?

(4) How long do I speak? Does that include questions?

Let's say she says 30 minutes with another 15 for questions. Time your speech for 15-20 minutes and leave more time for questions.

About 50% of the times I've spoken to lunch and dinner groups, my time gets cut by "announcements" from the group's officers. Or they start late.

(5) How can I promote my services?

You probably want to bring handouts. And most likely you would like to pass around a list for people to subscribe to my ezine. Maybe you want to offer a special discount to the members.

Some organizations allow you to set up a table in the back of the room. Others will give you time at the end of the talk. But you absolutely need to ask.

I once got invited to address a Continuing Ed class. I was asked to sign a contract promising I would not promote my organization and that I would not do business with any attendees unless I gave the university a piece of the action. Needless to say, I declined the invitation.

You get paid two ways: directly through a substantial honorarium or fee, or indirectly by gaining a platform to promote your products. Otherwise you're selflessly donating time and energy. Make an informed decision.

(6) Will the group be formal?

Unless you know the group, tactfully ask about what you might wear. Once upon a time you could show up in a suit and be safe. But now you could be marked as naive. Recently I heard an experienced speaker say, "Nobody would show up in a suit - not here."

Suitless in Seattle? Yeah, I know, bad joke. But we're almost done...

(7) Will the group be willing to participate in a brief hands-on exercise?

Come up with an exercise that will showcase your talents, get audience members engaged and leave them hungry for more. They'll remember you because you jogged their kinesthetic senses as well as their brains.

If you're like me, you're the one who will get hungry...for more speaking engagements! Each time it's a new and fun experience.
About the Author
Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is the Copy Cat who helps service solo-preneurs get ready to Pounce on their Profits. See http://www.copy-cat-copywriting.com"
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