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About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.

Written by: Vickie Sullivan  |  January 01, 2012

3 Strategies to Get Buyers To Attend Your Next Speech

Originally published for RainToday.com

Many experts give speeches at industry and association events in search of clients.  The biggest challenge:  filling the room with buyers, especially when other sessions (and hallway conversations) happen at the same time.  Here are three ways to make sure decision makers attend your next presentation.

1.  Publicize Your  Appearance

Too many professional service firms put out a press release about the event or speaking engagement and call it a day.  That doesn’t cut it anymore.  Neither does writing a blog post or announcing it on LinkedIn.  Elbow grease is required.

There are three groups you want to personally invite:

  1. Event attendees.  As a registered guest, you receive a list of everyone attending.  (If the list doesn’t have contact information, get a membership directory and look them up.  Yes, your assistant can do this easily.)
  2. Prospects you have already contacted, especially if they are referrals.  This is a great way for folks to see you in action.
  3. Cold prospects that you want to work with but don’t have access to in any other way.

My favorite tactic for the first group is to send a postcard and then follow up with a phone call.  If you speak at events frequently, get a clever toy or promo item that fits your topic.  (That sounds silly, but it works.  Recipients will remember the toy and you.)  Get the list from the organizer, promising them you will only use the list before the event to publicize the program.  If that doesn’t work, then get a membership list from a colleague who is a member.  And remember, bribery works.  If you have something special for those who attend, publicize that as well.

For prospects in the pipeline, the personal touch is best.  Email them first and then follow up with a phone call.  Explain why you think the program’s content would help them and promise to connect afterwards.

For the cold prospects, focus the invitation on the content of the presentation.  Even if the prospect can’t attend, the door is open to offer them the slides or other material.

2.  Involve the Opinion Leaders

Every group has its cool kids:  the movers and shakers that the rest of the members trust.  If those people attend your program, their friends will, too.  The challenge:  how to get on their radar during a very busy time.

My favorite tactic is to use their perspective to your advantage.  Interview these top dogs and use their thoughts in your presentation.  The key with the interviews is to go beyond the normal questions and drill down into industry challenges.  Specific questions result in richer interviews.  Also, be sure to ask for examples and permission to use those examples in the program.  When they know you will not only mention their name but will also quote them, they will be more inclined to attend your session — and tell others about the session.

It also doesn’t hurt to mention their attendance to other attendees who will be there.

3.  Deploy Your Clients

Most of us get invited to speak at industry events where we already have a reputation.  The best way to leverage that reputation is through third parties, such as your clients.  Some of my biggest (and most lucrative) audiences were the result of my clients talking up my appearance.  By giving the inside scoop about me, they built up buzz that the speech “was not to be missed.”

Your approach to clients depends on your relationship with them.  For the fan club, share your excitement about the opportunity, invite them to the event, and tell them to bring friends.  Stress to them why you are excited about the content, what the interactions will produce, and what the participants will receive.

For clients you may not be as close to, focus on the content and your efforts to get the message out.  If you are unveiling new research or findings, stress that as well.  Again, ask for help in getting the word out.  You’ll be surprised by how much assistance you receive.

The Work Is Worthwhile

Does this sound like a lot of work?  Well, it is.  But the effort is worth it.  You can no longer depend on the audience to get business.  Too many decision makers are standing in the hallway during your presentations talking to their colleagues, or they’re attending other sessions.  You have to “pack the house” to get buyers in the door.  These tactics will help.


About Vickie Sullivan

Vickie Sullivan is internationally recognized as the top market strategist for thought leaders, professional speakers and B2B professional service firms. Specializing in brand and message strategies in crowded markets, she has helped thousands of talented people outsmart their competition since 1987.