How to turn public speaking into new customers

Flickr user Victor1558
Flickr user Victor1558
(MoneyWatch) Getting paid to connect with prospects is the perfect sales and marketing "crime."
In other words, keynote speaking is a great way to get paid while meeting prospects. Speaking contracts can be secured at a lower price, and those connections can turn into further consulting contracts at a higher fee.

A marketing research consultant I once coached complained that he wasn't getting any consulting business for the past six months from his Fortune 500 client. There are more ways to get paid than straight consulting, I told him. Companies that don't have money for consultants in their sales budgets often have money in their training budgets.

So he organized a seminar, held the event near the company's headquarters, and sold 11 seats for $600 a piece to that same Fortune 500 client. After the event, several attendees found some room in the marketing budget, and he landed about $75,000 in marketing research consulting projects. Later he charged another client $1,500 (he is worth much more) for a 90-minute talk at a company meeting that will net him consulting contracts in the five figures.

Promoting your business with training events that prospects would pay for is a great way to build credibility and keep your pipeline filled with qualified leads. Here are some ways to use speaking opportunities to land larger deals:

Breakout sessions. A keynote is typically 30-90 minutes and usually focuses on a broad topic of interest to attendees. A breakout session is a more in-depth side session at a meeting and generally lasts 45-90 minutes. Breakout sessions allow you to make a deeper connection with attendees and secure the role as consultant. This is how you can begin to be seen as a trusted advisor, instead of a featured speaker.

Corporate training. These are typically half- or full-day seminars conducted for a private client, usually a corporation, for a group of its employees. This might be the most lucrative field for speaking because there are many companies that have training budgets. Several of my clients, who make hundreds of dollars speaking for an executive coaching organization, make thousands of dollars when they deliver the same presentations to companies.

Sponsoring your own public seminars. This is typically a full-day seminar or workshop where registration is open to the public. You market the event and earn a profit (or loss). This business is about putting fannies in seats. It is often a break-even proposition getting the attendees there, but if you make the topic specific enough it can lead to attendees wanting more. That, in turn, can eventually lead to larger contracts with the individual companies attending.

Speaking for a sponsored event. An alternative to running the seminar yourself is to find a sponsor. This might be for a company like Career Tracks or The Learning Annex. Or you might find an "executive summit" with several featured speakers. The point is to get in front of more people who can buy more later.

A great proactive lead-generation strategy is to regularly demonstrate your expertise by giving informative and entertaining talks in front of targeted groups of potential new customers. The trick is knowing who to contact to get booked as a speaker and developing a topic that will draw the right audience.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Victor1558