Hi All,

In related news, I’m opening up more speaking dates for 2012. If you’re looking for an engaging speaker at your conference, convention, or classroom, you can learn more here. Thanks in advance for spreading the word to your schools, instructors and association leaders! :)  – Dan

A reader recently asked me:

What is the best way to arrange speaking arrangements or workshops, etc. and where is the best place to do them? I’m starting a practice and haven’t done any of this yet. Any insight would be much appreciated.

This is definitely not the first time I’ve had this question–there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the idea of speaking to groups.

There are really two ideas here, though. The first is how to actually find the opportunities. The second is how to turn those opportunities into paying clients. You can tackle both of those with these four steps.

Step 1. Prepare…But Just a Little

Don’t fall for the trap of preparing a talk before you have anyone to talk to. This is most certainly a ready, fire, aim type scenario.

“But wait,” you say. “Before I go looking, don’t I need to prepare my keynote, and shoot some video of me speaking, and create some PowerPoints, and do some research, and find some funny cartoons on the internet?”

No. Don’t do a SINGLE BIT OF WORK on any type of presentation until someone actually wants you to present. The closest you need to come at this point is to ponder a list of topics you might like to speak on – stress reduction, fertility, improving your golf game, boosting energy, treating IBS. Whatever fits your game and floats your boat, with the knowledge that you might well speak on something else if someone asks.

The key: These topics aren’t about what you DO. You’re not going to speak about massage per se – you’re going to speak about stress relief. It’s not about acupuncture, it’s about how you can remove years from someone’s appearance using acupuncture. It’s about your potential audience’s problem first, you second.

Step 2. Find Speaking Opportunities

It turns out there’s a special technique to arranging speaking opportunities. It’s very advanced, and highly secretive:

You have to tell people you want to speak.

Really. There are speaking gigs waiting to be found, and there are ones waiting to be created, but they all come out of the same basic idea–you need to put it out there in the world that you want to speak. (In fact, this applies to most things. Tell people what it is you’re looking for, and you’ll be surprised at how few people you need to tell to find help.)

But…who to tell? Here are a few ideas from our experience:

  • Service Groups. Many non-profits and service groups, like Rotary, have a steady stream of speakers for their meetings. Your local clubs aren’t hard to find.
  • Special Interest Health Groups. There are support groups for everything from diabetes to cancer and MS.
  • Schools. You can often land a gig speaking to teachers on professional development days. (And in our world, they have great benefit plans.)
  • Local Business. Corporations often offer learning opportunities for staff. Particularly if they think it’ll reduce sick days and increase productivity.
  • Grocery Stores & Restaurants. Our local grocery store has a community kitchen space for lectures and cooking classes. All you have to do is make up a topic and submit it.
  • Health Food Stores. Health food and supplement stores would love it if you could speak to a group in their space who might then buy a bunch of product.
  • Partners. Why not team up with a complementary practitioner or business (like the health food store above?). You can both spread the word twice as far, and tap into each other’s client base. How does it work? You call up a practitioner and say, “Hey. Do you want to do a public talk together? Let’s get together and discuss.” Then the details have a magical way of working out. It’s just the call that needs to happen.
  • Existing Clients. Don’t forget them. They might not need you to speak, but they almost certainly know someone who does. Email them all. Put a sign at the front desk.
  • The Rest of Your Local Area. Put a page on your website that says you’re available for local speaking engagements. Post it on Facebook. Tweet.

Sidebar: The Big Secret to Having the Guts to Book Speaking Gigs

Here’s what’s important for you to remember: you don’t need guts or sales skills. You’re doing a favor for most of these places by offering your services. You’re helping them out–I promise. Many service clubs have mandates to bring in speakers, and the poor sucker saddled with the job is always on the lookout for someone. Many workplaces like to offer lunch-bag learning options. Many health support groups are desperate for someone to speak to their members.

You don’t need to feel like you’re asking for a handout. You aren’t. You’re offering a valuable service.

Step 3: Speak. (And One More Thing That’s More Important)

Do your thing. And do it as well as you can. Don’t read slides to people. You can use slides, but remember that most people in attendance already know how to read. The goal of speaking is not to present PowerPoint slides. For a better set of tips than I could ever create, check out Seth’s post.

Here’s the important part, though: your job is to somehow get permission to contact the people you speak to. Not everyone–sometimes not anyone–is going to become a client right away. You need to capture their contact information–likely an email address–so you can continue to speak to them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Offer a takeaway. When we’ve done cooking classes, we’ve sometimes given the recipes out to people. But other time’s we’ve passed around an email signup sheet so we can send the recipes after. That’s smarter.
  • Offer a prize. A door prize or draw is often enough to get people to offer an email address.
  • Offer a free consult/service. We do free 15-minute “meet the doctor” visits. You can do what works for you, but if you ask for email addresses so you can contact people to give them their free service, you’ll usually get a decent response.
  • Offer your slides/handouts. If you’ve got useful content–which I’m sure you do–then offer to email it out, rather than printing it on dead trees.
  • Just ask people to sign up. Just pass around a sheet of paper and a pen and just ask people to sign up. They will.
  • Give people your blog/Facebook Page/Twitter name/ etc. At the very least, make sure you tell people how they can hear more from you.

The key here to just do it. You only need a piece of blank paper and a pen. Write “email address” at the top and pass it around. It’s that simple.

Step 4: Follow Up

  • Contact participants. Contact everyone within 24 hours. Thank them for coming. Fulfill whatever you offered, and ask them to call if you can help in any way. Suggest they take some action – call, like you on Facebook, subscribe to your blog, etc.
  • Contact the host. Thank them, too. And…here’s the important part. Ask if they’d be willing to write you a one-sentence testimonial. You can even offer to write it for them. I find that hosts tend to thank you right back, and offer positive comments. If they do, just ask if you can use their kind remarks on your website. That’s it!

Tips:

  • If your clinic/office space works, consider offering some public talks in your space. It gets people in the door. Beyond that, try your local library for space, or just ask three people. Someone will know where to find something cheap/free.
  • Don’t make this bigger than it is. Just tell people you want to speak to them, and then speak to them. If you’re nervous, then good. You’re supposed to be. The only people who aren’t at least a little nervous are narcissists and people with a lot of experience. You likely aren’t either.
  • If you’re really nervous. Or you think of yourself as a practice introvert, then you have a choice. You can decide that’s just how it is, and market your practice in other ways – you don’t have to speak. Or you can decide that speaking is a skill like anything else and get on with learning it. Including maybe screwing it up a couple of times just to speed up the learning.
  • You might also consider getting someone else to do the speaking. We brought in a guest speaker this year who spoke to a full house on a topic relevant to our clinic. It took some work to fill a whole theater, but we didn’t have to do the lecture. :)
  • Focus on illness, not wellness. You’ll get more interest in a talk focused on problems, then one focused on “optimal health”.

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1 Response » to “How to Grow Your Practice With Public Speaking”

  1. Mandi says:

    Excellent points! Public speaking is undoubtedly the best way for service businesses to bring in new clients. Great list of places to speak at and how to overcome your personal objections to just go out there and do it!

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