Maximize the benefits from speaking opportunities
When you are preparing a speech, ensure the content of your speech or address has potential to influence opinion. 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 and social media coverage 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.
Externally, you can target your key stakeholders with a summary of the main points of the speech (most people are too busy to wade through the whole speech). Publicize the speech through the media (you can issue a media release covering your main points), in your external publications, in your website, and in social media – your organization’s Facebook page and its Twitter account provide an ideal opportunity to plug the points you wish to make in the public arena. You should send a summary of the speech with a personal note where possible to very important stakeholders such as customers, shareholders and bankers to demonstrate their importance to you. In addition, you can write a core article along the theme of your speech and offer it to business and professional journals. Don’t forget: if yours is 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.
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.
And of course, you can use social media to promote the speech, internally and externally.
Be proactive – seek out speaking opportunities
It is fine to rigorously review all speech invitations against the evaluation criteria, but that is only one side of the coin, the reactive side. The other side of the coin is to be proactive about speaking opportunities.
Human beings are social by nature. They like to belong to groups. And business people like belonging to business groups. The strategically adept person would actively review the many available forums by checking the conference calendar of their peak industry body, and of business associations at local, national and international level. There are general opportunities to speak at events arranged by business associations such as company directors’ associations, institutes of management, shareholder and investor associations, and the like.
Professional associations usually offer good opportunities to speak and enable you to position your organization and management as a thought leader. There are as many such bodies as there are occupations: marketing, HR, engineering, finance and accounting, administration, information technology, telecommunications, risk management, insurance, banking, superannuation, advertising, management, universities, transport, to name a few, and many subsets of those general fields.
The first step in a proactive speaker program is to decide how many speaking commitments would be reasonable to ask the CEO and other senior executives from your organization to commit to (with their agreement, of course!). Then review the conferences, conventions and trade shows to be held by relevant bodies in the coming year, plus business breakfasts, lunches and other events hosted by newspapers and business publications. If necessary, you can contact them directly to ask for their forward program of activity. You can identify the ones that are likely to provide opportunities to address some of your target stakeholders. Even if the type of audience is of marginal value, you can still arrange external publicity yourself aimed at wider audiences.
Usually event organizers will post a preliminary summary of the theme and program on their website. Quite often they will call for papers, and so you can check this information and decide whether there is fertile potential for you to offer a speech compatible with the broad theme of the event. You should write a thought-provoking working title (keep it short and sharp, not academic!), and provide a short abstract of the planned speech as well the nomination of a suitable speaker from your organization, usually the CEO.
Then contact the organizers to make the pitch. Often as not, especially if you have a respected speaker, the organizers will be pleased to receive the approach and will accept your offer. That’s when the rest of the preparation starts.