Your 2006 Resolution: Become a Widely-Noted Lecturer

By Heather Baldwin

It’s January again, the time of year when millions of people are making millions of resolutions. Whether you’re a fan of this long-held tradition or not, consider making a resolution this year to give one speech a month to business or civic groups. The benefits are two-fold: You willl get practice delivering presentations, which will make you a better, more confident presenter, and you will introduce your product or service to large groups of people. Moreover, you will gain a reputation as an expert in your field, which could lead to more speaking engagements and thus more presentation practice in front of more potential customers. You can’t lose!

Don’t worry if the audience isn’t one in your industry. “Just about any audience will do the trick,” says Stephan Schiffman in his new book, Stephan Schiffman’s 101 Successful Sales Strategies: Top Techniques to Boost Sales Today (Adams Media, 2005). Schiffman makes the case for salespeople presenting to business groups by pointing out that salespeople are already experts in their field. “You know your subject. You talk about it all day long. Once you can make the minor adjustment of being able to give a lecture about what you do, you will be a lecturer,” he points out. “Get someone to note you and you will be a ‘noted lecturer.’ Pretty soon, there may well be a lot of people noting you. Then you will be a ‘widely-noted lecturer.’ And deservedly so!”

All this lecturing will not only hone your presentations skills but will bring new prospects your way. Schiffman cites studies that show when salespeople and consultants give speeches, an average of one out of ten audience members will seek them out afterward to ask about their services. “What this really means,” he says, “is that 10 percent of any given audience will end up qualifying itself and entering your prospect cycle.” And even if they don’t, you still have the benefit of another public speaking event under your belt.

So where to give your speeches? First investigate the channels that exist in your industry – trade shows, conferences, conventions – and inquire about speaking opportunities. Next, contact your Chamber of Commerce about local round tables. Also look into your area’s Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, Lion’s Club and so on – any group that seems relevant to the economy of your community or tied in somehow to your company.

The key to any presentation is to tailor your speech to the audience and to ensure you are educating and informing them on a topic, not making a sales pitch. For instance, if you sell computer repair services, don’t get up and start talking about what great repair work you do. Instead, prepare a talk on a related topic, such as eight hot new computer technologies that users should be aware of, or five ways you can protect your laptop against computer viruses. Your expertise and likeability will come through much more effectively in these kinds of educational speeches.

Once you hit on a relevant topic that resonates with listeners, go to the target organization and state your case. Then see what happens. “It may take some effort on your part to get to the point where you feel comfortable addressing a group, but I assure you the effort will be worth it,” Schiffman concludes.