No matter what your profession, whether you're a doctor or a dry cleaner, you can use your speaking skills to get information into the marketplace that can help your potential clients. How? By organizing and conducting public seminars on some topic of your expertise.
Holding a public seminar conveys to future customers what you can do to meet their needs. Realize that public seminars don't "sell" people on what you offer; rather, they get the word out about what you can do. They're a vehicle for you to communicate options and opportunities, acknowledge the challenges your clients may be experiencing, and show how your products or services offer the solution.
It's a simple principle: If you can help people by providing them with valuable information, they will come to listen to it. And, if you deliver that information with expertise and authority, then the individuals who attend will realize they have a need and someone to go to who can meet that need, whether it be curing their back pain, making their car run better, installing their hot tub, or helping them with retirement investments.
Again, it's not sales; it's delivering value. If you showcase yourself as confident, articulate and trustworthy, people will come back to you to buy your product or service. Follow these steps to use your Toastmasters skills to bring in new business through public seminars.
• Decide on a location. Depending on the goods or services you offer, you may want to have the presentation in your place of business, or you may want to rent a room at a conference center or hotel. For example, if you have a home improvement business, and you set up a room in the store to do the presentation, your audience can go to a showroom after the talk and look at some of the products you offer.
Apple computer is another example of a company that does in-store seminars. Each month they have software demonstration days that include free software training. Afterward, you may want to invest in some software or hardware, or just continue to invest in the relationship. On the other hand, financial services industry seminars are often at a restaurant or hotel meeting room, and they offer refreshments. Do what works best for you.
• Choose your topic. In Toastmasters, you must narrow your topic precisely. For public seminars, you must do the same. You don't want to overwhelm people with too much information. Therefore, look at your industry and pinpoint your target audience's greatest need. Do not assume you know why your customers do business with you. Ask them!
Consider surveying current customers, asking them "Why did you come to us? What was the greatest need you had that we were able to meet?" This knowledge can direct your efforts. If a big percentage of your customers come to you for a specific reason, there's a good chance you've uncovered your brand in the marketplace. And if your current customers had that need, other people will too.
• Create a catchy title. You know how critical a compelling title is to grab your audience's attention and get them into the seminar. What would you respond to? For example, if you prepare tax returns for a living, imagine for a moment that you didn't. Wouldn't you want to attend a free seminar called "Tax Tips: How to Avoid 10 Costly Common Errors"? Or "Always Avoid an Audit: Secrets the Pros Know." Think about your potential clients' pain, something they would seek to avoid or that they desperately want to achieve.
• Stretch a little. You certainly have the speechwriting skills, but you're used to writing five- to seven-minute speeches, so you'll have to flesh out your speech somewhat. Give all that detail you've always wanted to include in one of your weekly Toastmasters speeches. Plan on the program lasting 45 minutes to an hour, with 30 to 40 minutes for the seminar itself and 15 to 20 minutes of questions and answers.
• Don't give everything away... Use Toastmasters presentation techniques; know your topic and communicate it in an informative and entertaining manner. Your goal is to deliver value and give your audience some useful ideas. Show them their needs and then how you can satisfy those needs. Deliver more of the "what" than the "how"; the how is what you're going to sell them, eventually, whether it's information or products.
• ...But do give something away. Sample giveaways, door prizes, coupons and hands-on demonstrations all add value. A live demonstration of a massage technique is guaranteed to motivate everyone in the room to want what the volunteer received. A free oil change is a good motivation to bring a car in when it also needs a more costly maintenance procedure. A free evaluation of their current investment situation could very well turn them into clients of your financial services.
• Deliver a call to action. It can be soft or hard, depending on the industry and what your comfort level is. The coupon or other giveaway is part of that call for action. Maybe you ask your audience to fill out a form for additional information or have them sign up for a free evaluation. Maybe you allow them to request a free estimate or to come by the store and try this or that. It doesn't have to be for the final sale, but your call to action must ask these potential clients and customers to move to the next step, whatever that is in your business or industry.
• Use a follow-up system. Through the registration process, you will capture everyone's contact information. Take advantage of this opportunity so you can target potential clients. Thank attendees after the event and then regularly follow up, moving them into a buying situation. If you collect the registration information properly, you will get an idea of the attendees' current and future needs. Then when you run promotions, you can address those needs specifically.
For example, if you did a seminar on "winterizing" your home, and you have learned that a couple has recently replaced their windows but might eventually want siding, you won't send them a mailing promoting a window sale. However, when you run a promotion on siding, they've already told you they might be interested, so you can target them based on the information you gathered at the seminar registration.
• Plan your next seminar. The first one or two seminars may not have a big turn out, but if you keep doing it, the word will spread as you build name recognition. Set up a budget and commit to a certain amount of time to build word-of-mouth exposure and then evaluate as you go along. Be aware that if you do seminars too often, you may dilute the effectiveness of them, but if you spread them out too far apart from each other, then people tend to forget about you and what you have to offer.
Toastmasters + Trend = Success!
Most businesses would get a major bottom-line boost from public seminars. Many are already using them
to build their customer bases. If your career would benefit, you need to tap into this trend. Here's your chance to let your creativity and Toastmasters training help you become a market leader.
Sam Stein is a Toastmaster in California.
"If you showcase yourself as confident,
articulate and trustworthy, people will
come back to you to buy your
product or service."