Not So Free Speech: Top 5 Considerations for Your Brand’s Speaking Engagements

Consider the 5Ws before getting up to that mic.

Alongside media relations, seeking out speaking forums and engagements for a company’s thought leaders have long been part of the PR practitioner’s toolbox.  A good speaking engagement can elevate a company’s brand awareness, build credibility, and enlarge your network.  With resources on the line, it’s important to be strategic when pursuing speaking opportunities – make sure it’s worth it.   Here the 5 Ws to consider when reaching out to conferences and other speaking forums:

1. Who. Ask yourself: will you be suggesting someone who, first and foremost, has something to say?  Also look to personality – have they been presentation trained?  Make sure to plug in the right person for the job – not necessarily always a CEO; look at your company’s top marketing, branding or CSR masters, or perhaps someone from the R&D side of the house too.  You want charismatic, competent and trustworthy experts addressing the audience and speaking to your brand.

–  Who Part II. Take into account the audience at the events you target.  As with most communication tools, the goal is reaching both those interested in your products or services (prospects), and your key stakeholders.  Consider the networking opportunities.  Speaking engagements and conferences attract a variety of professionals, and the possibilities for collaboration, investing opportunities and partnerships and even hiring are great.

2. What. Once you find the right person, look closer into what content they can offer.  Identify a speaker who adds value and speaks from  experience (even better if they’ve done similar events before).  This is the biggest selling point for conference organizers.

3. Where. Now look to target events.  *Fraser Seitel’s recent article “Where to Speak?” from this month’s O’Dwyer’s magazine offers the top 5 “superior” venues for impactful speeches (among them the Detroit Economic Club).  Don’t always look in the traditional places – some of the best opportunities might be within industries outside of your own.  Also, many publications such as Forbes and local business journals offer speaking forums – as well as local chambers of commerce and other associations.  Just keep in mind: is the presentation content something the presenter is qualified to speak to?  Is the content relevant to the conference?

4. When. Get practical.  Look into when the event is and also to #4 for location.  This is a key factor when budgeting and allocating time for travel.  Add in the prep time.

5. Why. Take a look at the benefits to your brand and see if the benefits fit in with the opportunity.

This man could teach speakers a thing or two.

Finally, if your company’s representative or your client is accepted for a speaking engagement, don’t forget to work with the event’s coordinators to ensure your contribution delivers the biggest impact (send them an outline of your speech or the PowerPoint beforehand).  They want it to go just as well as you do.  If you are on a panel, discuss with other panelists beforehand.  Our CEO Peter Morrissey often points to the old Winston Churchill rumor:  Churchill practiced for one hour per one minute of  the speech he was delivering.

As far as a marketing and branding tool for your brand, speaking engagements aren’t a one-off.  To leverage the time invested, utilize the event’s pre-promotion and follow-up (feedback is key and once again, the event coordinators are your best friends).  Network before and after with fellow speakers or panelists, audience members, even sponsors.  Remember: there is usually the same event next year (if you’re lucky, somewhere like South Beach in February).

*For more from Mr. Seitel, check out his last piece on “Steve Jobs’ Schizophrenic Approach to the Practice of Public Relations

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