Whenever I’m at a conference, and I see a poor speaker, I think to myself: “What the hell was he thinking when he accepted the invitation to speak?!” And when I look at the event’s agenda, and it says that he represents a company, I add: “Does this company have no respect for its own PR?!” Sure, you can say that a representative of a company that produces e.g. electronics doesn’t have to have good public speaking skills because that has nothing to do with their product’s quality. Sure, you’re right, but then your argument is invalid, because… Steve Jobs.
Of course, Steve Jobs is just an example of a speaker whose presentations supported company’s PR. With big companies, one bad speech will probably not do much harm, but it can make or break a small business. Think about it – how many times have you approached a bad speaker at an event? How many times have you recommended their company? And on the other hand – what about good speakers? You see the difference, don’t you?
So delivering speeches can be the beginning of the end for your company, but it can also be a great way to improve and support its PR. Let’s take a closer look at the possibilities and then at how to use them.
Speaking at Conferences
That’s a no-brainer. Whether you are a small business owner or a part of a big corporation, speaking at conferences could potentially bring you more clients. Obviously, not everyone in the audience would be in your target group – unless you produce toilet paper – but depending on the event, it could still be worthwhile.
There’re a couple of options of what kind of content you should present at conferences. At some events, they’ll want you to inspire or motivate. In most cases, you will share a piece of your knowledge, and on some occasions, it’ll be your product. If invited to a TEDx conference or similar you’ll be asked to present an “idea worth spreading.” Although not all of these will showcase your business, they are all great opportunities.
Presenting Your Knowledge
If you’re an expert in your field, you can apply to speak at conferences – and if you’re already recognized you’ll be invited. In most cases, you won’t get the chance to present your product, and you shouldn’t push it, but depending on what line of business you are in, you either are the product or support the product.
If you’re an IT trainer and you’re invited to deliver a talk about programming, there’s a chance that some company will later ask you for training or consultancy.
If you’re a programmer working for a software house, there’s a chance that a potential client will see the expert in you, and this will raise the credibility of your company along with the chances of getting a deal.
If you’re a manager working for a car manufacturer, there’s a chance that someone will see you as a sign of a great working culture at your company, and they will want to apply for a job.
If you’re a dog breeder and show a photo of a puppy in your presentation, there’s a high likelihood you will sell a lot of puppies.
Speaking About Your Product
On some occasions, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your product. It will happen when it is useful for the audience (like Brand24 for marketers) or when your company is the partner of the event in which case you should still make it relevant to the listeners.
Never sell from the stage.
Even when you’re presenting your product, you should not sell it from the stage. We live in the times when people hate that. It’s better if you emphasize its benefits and what problem it solves – in a way, create the need in your public.
Of course, you can also organize a separate event for your product launch, invite the media, your most dedicated clients and record and live stream everything. And it doesn’t have to be organized with the magnitude of Apple’s WWDC. You can always start small and build on it.
Presenting at a TEDx Conference
Being invited to speak at a TEDx conference is a great honor. It means that what you do is meaningful. Not all TEDx events are equal and of course, with an average of 8 events happening every day it’s hard to ensure the quality of each of them, but you will always get some benefits.
At a TEDx event, you’ll be asked to deliver a unique idea, an emotional story, some hidden knowledge or simply something inspiring that should be shared with a wider audience. Selling is not allowed, and barely any speaker gets a chance to present their product – only if it advances humanity or solves some major social problem, so why should you still accept the invitation to speak there? TEDx as part of TED is a strong brand itself, and simply being allowed on its stage strengthens your own brand. Also, many companies who partner up with TEDx events brag about it to their prospect customers. TED became a synonym of innovation, open-mindedness and being at the forefront of the industry, so if you want to be associated with these, become a part of a TED/TEDx event.
On top of it, you get a recording of your talk which you can also use to spread the word about you.
What Should You Do When You Get a Speaking Engagement?
Rejoice! Then get back on the ground, because there’s a lot you have to do. What exactly? Well, it all depends on your skills and the company you work for.
For sure, you have to prepare yourself well. That’s absolutely the most important element. When you are speaking at a conference, the audience wants you to succeed in being a remarkable speaker – nobody wants to listen to boring presentations after all – so you don’t have to be scared. However, if you do a bad job… Well, don’t count on forgiveness. Public speaking mastery is a topic for a few-week-long training course, a couple of books supporting it and years of practice, but every adventure requires a first step, so you can start by reading some of my other articles. You can also check out any content, including books, created by Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds, Carmine Gallo and Nick Morgan.
You don’t need to be a master public speaker to deliver great content in an interesting way. And you can cheat. Kind of. You can hire a public speaking consultant like myself and have them help you with preparing your talk. A consultant will work with you on the particular talk you are about to deliver and will help you prepare it from scratch, including writing the speech, designing slides and practicing the delivery.
Anyway, if you think you don’t have to prepare yourself, let’s consider this simple example and two speakers in separate scenarios:
1. “We produce ketchup, and it tastes very ummm… good. Buy our ketchup, ummm… you won’t regret!”.
2. “Close your eyes. Imagine you are in your grandma’s vegetable garden, the sun is shining, and you can smell how fresh the air is. You are in between green vines with red juicy tomatoes on them. We make our ketchup from this kind of tomatoes.”
This Is Obviously a Simplification Because I Wanted It to Be Short, But What Difference Do You See?
The first speaker was not well prepared (the “umms”) and simply said what the company does, which is kind of correct, but… boring. The second speaker tells a story which is related to your emotions (and most probably your childhood) and uses descriptive language (“juicy” and “fresh”). That’s how you want to present your products and your company – using storytelling, emotions and vivid language. You want to catch the audience’s attention at the beginning, maintain it during the speech and end with a bang – and an exciting call to action. And most of all, you want to resonate with your listeners, make an impact.
It’s a Wrap
You can share your knowledge, show your products, inspire, motivate and most importantly – strengthen your credibility. Public speaking is hands down one of the greatest ways of supporting your brand, PR and marketing. Of course like most things, it has to be done right. People from your company will be speaking at conferences whether you like it or not, so why not to give them a hand and make sure that it’s not a liability but an opportunity for your business?