[IMGCAP(1)]When was the last time you had a speaking engagement? If the answer is “never” or “a long time ago” you may want to focus on finding an opportunity to present to an audience, either in person, through a live webinar or another online option.

Many people ignore these valuable chances to address a live audience, dismiss them as impossible or even avoid them, not knowing the power they hold.

It’s a mistake to write off this type of face-to-face interaction, because speaking engagements hold immense potential to enhance your professional reputation and attract new business. Witnessing your presentation makes a lasting impression on viewers, cementing their awareness that you have useful insights and smart strategies that can help them. They may not require your assistance right away, but when they do have a need for the help you can offer, you’ll still be at the top of their list of experts to consider. 

As an example, our firm was recently approached by an accounting firm partner who had participated in a webinar conducted by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, our president, over three years ago! At the time, his firm was working with a marketer and had no need of additional help. Three years later his firm was ready for a change. He remembered how impressed he had been by Bonnie’s presentation and reached out.

Presenting to an audience offers the best return on investment you can find, and that’s true whether you are paid or not. Some people refuse to speak for free, believing their time is too valuable to give away. Sure, it’s nicer to get paid, but the time you invest in making presentations is pure business development. The ROI for this activity can be so high it’s well worth spending your time on it even with no direct compensation.

Seeing you deliver your message in person, either live or online, is quite different from reading about it. Speaking engagements are so powerful because your audience is able to put a face with the name and feel like they know you. They can talk with you directly, which makes it a far more meaningful experience than passively taking in the information you share in printed articles. You’re proving you know what you’re talking about, answering questions and interacting in real time.

In addition, being a featured speaker gives you the stamp of approval from an organization your audience respects or a group in which the listeners are members. It lends legitimacy to your existing marketing and naturally boosts your status as a thought leader and expert. And don’t forget the group itself will promote you as such, which is better advertising than money can buy.

If you’re sold on the idea but doubt you can find one of these coveted engagements, never fear; you have to do a bit of research, but the opportunities are out there. Start by looking for local groups full of the types of clients you want to reach and checking with groups to which you belong. You can also reach out to various groups that serve accountants or business leaders, inquiring about conferences, individual speaking opportunities and panel conversations. Once you’ve gotten started it builds on itself.

Those who hear you speak to one group will often follow up to bring you in to present for other organizations they’re a part of, so even very small speaking roles can help get the momentum going.
If you’re serious about business development and building a strong brand for yourself and your accounting firm, it’s time to get serious about pursuing speaking engagements. When you present to an audience of potential clients or professional colleagues, you’re presenting yourself with a world of new opportunity.

Sarah Warlick is content director of bbr marketing.

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