It’s a sight that always attracts attention. After an effective speech discussing a topic on which the speaker combines passion and expertise, in front of a relevant audience, look to the front or side of the room and the after-speech gathering.
Audience members approach the speaker, maybe provide their business cards, ask questions, and — significantly — initiate business relationship inquiries, sometimes leading to tens of thousands of dollars (or more) in sales.
I know. I’ve experienced it. And (I admit) I’ve experienced the opposite.
The speech concludes off schedule. There’s lukewarm applause. And virtually no one lingers (and as a speaker, I don’t expect to be invited quickly to return to the venue for another engagement.)
What went wrong?
Here, the answer may be a bit surprising, because I thought I had prepared more carefully for the second speech than the first, incorporating visuals and some nifty survey/audience reaction evaluation tools — and the topic on which I was speaking had immediate relevance and was based on thorough research of a topic relevant to the audience.
After the second speech, on doing my post-mortem, I thought about why the first speech worked so well, and the second one failed. Both were at the same venue; an annual Canadian construction industry conference.
Success: Knowing the topic well enough, with direct relevance to my business/service
I discussed the themes underlying my book: Construction Marketing Ideas: Practical strategies and resources to attract and retain profitable clients for your architectural, engineering or construction business — a topic clearly aligned with my underlying news and website publishing business serving the AEC community. The topic relates to expertise and insights so deeply engrained that I “know” it inside and out. And I could effectively promote the speaking engagement through my media to the relevant audience, so people were ready for it when it happened.
Result: About $30,000 in direct business
Failure: A discussion on strategic alliances for the AEC industry
I built this speech on the foundation of a white paper I had published by the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) Foundation. The topic proved to be challenging — the white paper went through a number of drafts and revisions and almost received a “write off” from the foundation, before I pulled it together and completed the job.
So the topic, inherently, was difficult. Then I tried to play around with visuals and graphics and survey tools. Fair enough, but they weren’t aligned with the industry/audience’s interests and there were technical glitches. It turned into a sweaty, unsatisfying ordeal.
Failure: Topic not really aligned with the viewer’s interests, lack of preparation to truly test out the technical stuff, and lack of correlation between the topic and my actual business (so even if there was interest, it couldn’t translate to meaningful business leads.)
Result: No business, and probably some black marks on the speaker evaluation forms, meaning a greatly reduced opportunity to return to speak to the venue again.
We can of course learn from our failures. Lessons learned: Don’t skimp on the preparation, and consider carefully the topic’s relevance and alignment with audience interests (and from a business development perspective) the correlation between your topic expertise and your market/business development opportunities.