For all the talk, strategizing, planning and daily execution on thought leadership that organizations and individual thought leaders around the world do every day, I see so many talks, speeches and presentations go unnoticed by the very audience that the thought leader is targeting simply because they fell short on promoting their upcoming speaking opportunity in the days and weeks leading up to the event. Now, I’m the last guy who can throw stones on this. I do it all the time. You get so busy preparing the presentation, you think that the host organization is doing all the marketing, the event sneaks up on your calendar while you weren’t looking and a host of other obstacles stand in the way of a perfectly promoted presentation.
Where lots of speakers fall down is they don’t promote their appearance.Speaking at a conference is a huge opportunity to build your reputation and your business by giving your peers something they can really use. If no one knows you are there, then you just blew that opportunity and you are probably not going to be asked back or get a good recommendation from that organizer. Conference organizers certainly have a responsibility to promote their speakers but they have an entire event to represent. No one is going to promote your appearance as well as you can. Unfortunately at least 70% of speakers completely fail here.
In the spirit of the checklists that I’m such a fan of for everything we do (including the thought leadership self-diagnostic checklist), the following is a checklist for promoting a speaking engagement that should help any thought leader make the most of the most tangible touchpoint in the thought leader’s marketing toolkit.
- Post in the events section of your website (you have one, right?) and create a discreet blog post for the event, linking people to the registration form for the event. Ideally, when a would-be attendee visits your site, they can clearly see where you’re going to be speaking next.
- If you’re hosting the event, create a landing page with an RSVP form on it and direct people to it.
- Meet with the event organizer to outline all of the communication vehicles that you could partner on to drive traffic to the speaking engagement. The event host has just as much, if not more skin in the game and wants to see great attendance numbers as well. Take a partnering approach with them and you can’t go wrong.
- Leverage the event sponsors’ communication channels. If the event has sponsors, they alway want bang for their buck. Locate all of their social channels and do smart things like mention them on Twitter when promoting the event. Contact them directly to see how you can also partner with them to promote the event and your talk. Perhaps you could guest blog/tweet/Facebook for them as well.
- Send a press release to local event calendars and business calendars (if the event promoter hasn’t done so already) to get your topic featured in the local business pages and trade publications. When sending a press release to the media, it is important to include the following information:
- Date, time and location of your event
- Admission costs, donation requests, ticket locations
- Full name of your event
- Full name of your organization, the host organization and any sponsors or co-sponsors
- A paragraph or two detailing what the event is about
- Contact name, phone number and email address for the person coordinating the event
- Website address for information or registration
- Personally contact friends in the media, local bloggers, and trade/business magazine publishers to attend your presentation. Ask the host organization about getting comps for a few media attendees – it will provide mutual benefit as they cover you, your presentation, the event and the host organization.
- Invite specific LinkedIn connections. You can send a message to up to 50 connections at a time. Pick your 50 best networked connections and inform them about the event.
- Post your event announcement in local LinkedIn groups. I recommend posting in the following group types:
- Local networking and business groups
- Local trade association groups frequented by your target client
- Local chamber of commerce groups
- Local subject matter groups based on your profession (consulting, insurance, marketing, etc.)
- Any groups managed by your host organization
- Offer to guest blog for the event on their site or blog leading up to the event.
- Create a series (I generally recommend 2-4) of blogs post for your own blog that preview the content of your upcoming talk.
- Schedule tweets starting 3-4 weeks out to share insights from your upcoming presentation or from the blog posts you’ve written about the subject matter in your talk.
- Create a Facebook Event for the speaking engagement and promote on your Facebook page. (or, if the organizer has already done so, join that event and promote on your FB page)
- Run an ad in a local business newsletter (Chambers of Commerce, local business groups, local associations and other such groups often have newsletters that you can advertise in).
- Run social media ads on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
- Create a special whitepaper or bait piece just for the event. Depending on the size and scope of the event, it may be worth creating something unique that you will offer first to the attendees.
- Use the hashtag of the upcoming event (and if the organizer doesn’t have one, offer to help create and promote one) when tweeting to drive people to the conversation about the event.
- Send personal invites to ideal prospects, influencers and friends who you feel would benefit from the event.
- Consider direct mail. If you have some latitude (i.e. you’re the featured speaker/only speaker), you could have a postcard template that you send to a targeted list every time you speak.
- Be sure to notify the leadership (and membership, if you have access) of any associations that you’re a member of that you’re going to be speaking on a topic of relevance to the members.
- Offer a giveaway at the event. This is most pertinent if you’re an author and have a habit of involving the audience and give away several books. Promote the fact that you’ll be giving away books for trivia question answers leading up to the event.
- Create a video trailer leading up to your talk. Don’t tell the whole story or give away the farm, but a teaser or trailer that get’s the audience fired up and intrigued is something that few speakers do.
- Create a podcast. The AMA does this for many of our events and it’s really helped to give fence-sitters a bit more information about the speaker and helps them decide whether or not this is the right event to attend with the right speaker.
- Don’t ignore the simple things like posters. Print up a poster and place it in your office, or secure event posters from the host and post them in your office.
- When you conclude the event, be sure to tell people the following:
- Where you’ll be speaking next
- Offer them a speaking schedule to pick up at the back of the room (if you’ve printed them)
- Point them to your website where your events are listed
- Capture information from post-event surveys and ask for permission to email them about events in the future
- Ask for testimonials, reviews, feedback and LinkedIn endorsements when appropriate
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