Never Pass Up A Speaking Opportunity

Business is built on trust. Whether it’s a brand-new company or a global corporation, the reason customers choose to do business with us is because they’ve decided to trust us.  It may be based on reputation (feedback, service, referral), or personality (of the business owner, team members, shop staff), or just a gut feeling they get, but it’s the critical factor in making purchasing decisions.

How Trust Is Built

In professional services, trust often takes a significant amount of time to build, and results from:

Feedback – these days much of this happens online.  Reviews, comments on Facebook or Twitter, photos snapped by previous customers, and much more information is constantly available. (You might want to google your company name or product, or your own name, and see what you find.)

Reliability – does your service do what it promises?  Was your product developed well?  The more this is true, the more likely it is that people will talk about it well to others.

Referral – by far the number one way that companies get more business, especially for smaller businesses.  “Anyone know of a good Italian restaurant?” – “I need a new conservatory. Where’d you get yours?”  – “Oooh, that’s a nice laptop, how do you like it?” – and the phone call is made or the email sent.

Service – Many businesses think that ‘service’ is what differentiates them from others, but the truth is that purchasers these days have an incredibly high standard, and expectations.  It’s not enough just to deliver on time – you want to impress by being a day or two (or a month or two) early.  Go above and beyond.  Truly follow the adage that the customer is always right.  It benefits your business massively in the end.

Personality – Usually of the business owner.  If you’re the one that prospective customers meet with, and you’re a friendly, helpful, willing person who seems to genuinely care about their needs, it goes a long way for business growth.

Therefore, one of the most massive opportunities you can get to build your business is the speaking opportunity.   When you’re asked to share your experiences, or thoughts, or ideas, or product with a group of people, you suddenly combine most of the above into one single event.  Those who are listening meet you personally.  Depending on the event, they may get to talk to some of your customers or clients.  When you follow up with them afterwards, you establish reliability.  You may set in motion several referrals, when one of those attending your event runs into a prospective customer the next week and says, “Oh, I was just listening to a talk by someone in that type of business. Here’s their card.”  And you can use that chance to display some of the results and reliability of your product or service.

For that reason, if at all possible, never pass up a speaking opportunity.

Because the thing with speaking opportunities is that they come in packs.  If you accept one, more likely than not there will be another a few weeks or months later.  Good speakers are rare these days, and events are incredibly numerous.  And it’s very likely you have twenty or thirty or even fifty years’ experience, which makes you an expert on a massive scale.

But if you refuse the opportunity (outright, I mean, as opposed to saying that you’re terribly sorry but you’re already booked up, and would there be any chance of rescheduling? or perhaps you could recommend someone else?), you’ve lost in a big way.  The person who asked you will be much more hesitant to ask again, or to recommend you if someone else is looking for a speaker.

Bad Reasons To Refuse A Speaking Opp

Just a few of the reasons you may consider refusing a speaking opportunity include:

“I’m not a good speaker”.  This may be true.  It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak.  The single best way to improve your speaking capabilities is not to take  more training courses (although those can be good), but to simply speak more.  Be honest with the person asking you, but be willing.  And arrange some training immediately.

“I tried it before and got nothing.”  This is probably the worst reason you could ever use.  Perhaps your last experience was to the wrong market.  Or with the wrong company.  Or at the wrong time.  Maybe you just weren’t a good speaker, or those organising the event didn’t plan well.  But it’s not just about the last event, or the next one – think far beyond to all the future potential opportunities.  Be available, be visible, be willing – even if things didn’t really work out last time.  Talk with the organisers, and plan differently.  Establish expectations, and be open to their thoughts.  One of the best events I ever organised ended up with only three people in attendance.  I went ahead anyway (and so did our speaker), and the resulting relationships we built, and work we got, was more than we could have gotten any other way.

?”I won’t get paid.” This is a genuine issue – taking an hour out to speak to your local chamber of commerce is a little different than flying to Australia to speak at a week-long conference. Weigh up the pros and cons, and if it’s still a valid opportunity, consider asking for your expenses to be covered, but being generous with your time. Being reasonable doesn’t mean dismissing the opportunity outright.

“It’s not convenient.”  Of course it’s not.  Great opportunities rarely are.  The mark of a good entrepreneur is not just having a brilliant new idea, but the ability to capitalise on it whilst everyone else is just musing on it (or barely aware).  Fit it in.  You’ll be glad you did.

“It’s not my market.”  This is definitely a critical issue, and should have some weight in the consideration.  But it doesn’t mean that you should dismiss the opportunity out of hand.  What if your market is in Europe, but you have an opportunity to speak in the States, or Australia?  Or you generally deal with business owners, but get an opportunity to connect with team members?  Think about what the results could be, and remember that these days, marketing has so many tributaries to it that you could get benefits you haven’t even thought about.  Just make sure that what you say is customised to your audience.

“I’m too busy with work.”  Of course you are.  That’s what you do.  What we’re talking about here is an opportunity to get more business…unless you don’t want more business?  If not, then what are you doing reading marketing tips?

So, if you get the chance, go for it.  It may be one of the most profitable things you ever did.