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Speeches need to be promoted

By Kim Harrison,

Consultant, Author and Principal of

Whether we are an in-house communicator or a consultant, we know a speech isn't worth giving unless it reaches the right audience and directly supports your organization's or client’s mission and goals. Reaching the right audience means reaching more people than those who attend on the day. It means promoting the speech in various ways to maximize the benefits from the opportunity.

Supporting your organization’s mission and goals means you should refer to the mission and goals and consider how the speech will assist. For instance, a goal may be to increase the number of people who are aware of a particular service and product and who go on to buy it. Or a goal may be to increase the organization’s share price. The speech is a way to increase their awareness of the service, product or the organization itself, as long as that information is not perceived by the audience as being blatantly self-promotional. If the audience members do perceive this, you are likely to turn them against your organization because they will believe you have taken advantage of them unfairly as they are a captive audience. 

If the speech is delivered at a conference, you will need to find out what the organizers are doing to promote the speeches delivered at the event. It isn’t wise to passively rely on the organizers to do all the promotional work for the speech; it is probably only one of many they will be seeking to promote. Extra value from speeches should be obtained through your own communication activity.

Firstly, ensure the content of the speech or address has potential to influence opinion or behavior and is fresh and preferably innovative so it can be promoted in the media. Once you are satisfied about this, don’t hesitate to prod the event organizers into promoting the speech. In fact, if you believe the content of your speaker’s address has substantial merit, you should pressure the organizers to maximize the publicity for the event and your speaker. If they can’t or won’t, you should step in helpfully and say you will save them the trouble and do it for them. In this way you can ensure your speaker and/or the themes from their speech get the publicity they deserve.

If the event organizers are doing their job, they will most likely want to promote the key points of the speech ahead of the event in order to maximize attendance on the day. Their promotional plan can be checked to see whether further mileage can be gained from publicizing it further, for instance, in other regions.

Likewise, the speech can be promoted externally after the event. The speaker should be kept available for media enquiries after the speech. Key external stakeholders can be targeted by mail or email with a summary of the main points of the speech (most people are too busy to wade through the whole speech). Important stakeholders include customers, shareholders and bankers.

The speech can be publicized in external publications, in the corporate website and in the media. In addition to major news media, you can write a core article along the theme of the speech and offer it to business and professional journals. Don’t forget: if you are in a public company and it is an important speech that could influence shareholder attitudes, you will need to table the speech with the stock exchange first as part of a full disclose regime.

For major events that are listed in the industry calendar, the organizers will usually post a Web page outlining the requirements for speech proposals. Some tips for ‘selling’ a speech proposal:

  • Use a catchy title for the speech that is likely to draw interest from a prospective audience. Make it provocative without being flashy.
  • Write a short summary or abstract of the content of the speech.
  • In the proposal, briefly explain the takeaway for the audience, ie what they will learn and can use immediately in their workplace.
  • Include other selling angle such as handouts, testimonials and audience ratings from previous speeches.
  • Plus, of course, bio information giving credentials, qualifications, experience and the relevance of the talk.

Being reactive

In addition to taking a proactive approach, a reactive alternative also can pay dividends. No organization can be aware of absolutely every event on the calendar, and therefore it pays to help event organizers find your organization instead. Event organizers usually try to find speakers by doing Internet searches and asking around in their industry. They may also do a search on websites of organizations relevant to the event to see if they can see anything new and innovative.

It is therefore worthwhile to add a “Speakers’ Bureau” or “Subject Experts” page to the website, which provides good information on available speakers and their topics. Some organizations are approached frequently as a result of posting this information. Universities are an excellent case in point.

Also add a section to the corporate website highlighting where executives have presented or will be presenting in the future, and print the abstract of their speech. This will help attract the eye of others. These listings reinforce the status of the executive as an industry expert and they imply to prospects and clients that they can meet the senior executive from the organization face-to-face at the speaking event.

Many organizations tend to forget about the internal stakeholders. You should leverage the speech by publicizing the key points internally within your organization. This can be a valuable way of positioning you with your senior management, peers and directors as well as other employees. You can send an email to all employees drawing their attention to the speech and to a summary or report placed on the organizational intranet or website. It is worthwhile to point out the rationale behind the speech, that it is a direct way to reach key stakeholders and an indirect way to reach many others.

About the Author

Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website,, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.


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