Using Speaking Engagements to Market Your Law Practice
If you are comfortable (or getting comfortable) speaking in front of a group, speaking engagements can be a great way to build your practice. That is not to say people will be lining up to hire you once the applause dies down - the path is a bit more winding than that and it does take some effort on your part if you want to see results, but it can be an effective part of your overall marketing plan.
First, there is the distinction of being the speaker. You are positioned as the knowledgeable one and the audience is there to learn from you. A speaking engagement, especially if it is coordinated by a neutral third party, is a huge endorsement of your expertise.
The second is the publicity. A well-publicized event will put your name in front of a large number of people. Even those who don't choose to attend will see your name. Then there is the snowball factor. If you decide that speaking engagements are a good fit for you, it can't be a onetime thing. To really get mileage out from this form of marketing, you need to keep appearing. Think of the seven impressions rule of advertising (you need seven impressions before your name starts to resonate). The same is true for speakers. Your name needs to be touted a few times before the recognition factor comes in to play. That's when you can begin to snowball. The more people hear of you, the more in demand you will become. If you can generate a buzz - "she's a really good speaker. I heard her at the abc group's luncheon last month" - people will start coming to you.
In the interim, you will need to build up your credentials. The number one/never-mess-this-up/ if-you-only-remember-one-thing is this: a sales pitch is not a presentation. Not only will the people in the audience be turned off, they will tell everyone they know how you pitched a topic and then proceeded to pitch yourself instead. Do yourself a favor and assume that your audience is bright enough to call you if and when they need your services. In the meantime, make the presentation about them and their needs, not you and yours.
Public speaking is a talent, so nurture it. Sign up for Toastmasters. Use humor. Practice in the mirror. Do some different things, like role play or interactive exercises. Remember Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off? Anyone? Anyone? You want to avoid that at all costs.
Choose your speaking engagements carefully. There is little point in addressing business owners if you're doing plaintiff workers' comp. Read your city's calendar to get a feel for who is out there. Track down the coordinator and have a written proposal consisting of a few topic suggestions and why you think they are beneficial to his or her group. Maybe even invite him or her to see you in action. Be gracious if your generous offer is declined. I have often declined speakers who were not right for my group, but have passed their name onto others as a possible presenter.
And while you should definitely avoid selling, you should make sure that you have a deliverable with your contact information on it. Whether it is a copy of your PowerPoint presentation, an article you authored relating to the subject or even an outline of the talk, make sure that the audience is able to tuck it away for future reference and can reach you if necessary. Okay, most will toss it later that day - BUT NOT ALL.
Finally, thank the coordinator for the opportunity and for all of his or her work. (Handwritten note is best, but e-mail will do). You may want to ask if you can use him or her as a reference for other speaking engagements or suggestions on other groups who may benefit from your wisdom. If your presentation is any good, he or she won't hesitate to suggest some. If not, have you thought about article writing?
About the Author
Anne Parys is the Director of Marketing for Rothman Gordon, P.C., a Pittsburgh-based law firm.