Even with the growing popularity of digital marketing among architecture, engineering, and construction firms, speaking engagements have endured as a highly effective method for increasing the visibility of AEC firms and attracting new business. They allow you to speak to and network with a highly targeted audience, demonstrating your expertise all while educating prospects.
Just take a look at our recent research on Visible ExpertsSM. We found speaking engagements and keynote addresses were among the highest ranked tools Visible Experts use in terms of effectiveness. More on this in a moment.
4 Benefits of Speaking Engagements
1) As shown above, speaking engagements are one of the top tools Visible Experts use. This isn’t surprising – after all, it’s hard to get more directly visible than speaking in front of a room full of people. However, speaking engagements do more to create experts than simply help them be seen. They also establish authority and give credibility to the speaker as a leader and respected voice in the AEC industry.
2) They help demonstrate your thought leadership. Thought leadership marketing is one of the best ways to establish your firm as a trusted resource and speaking engagements allow you to showcase your thoughts as a leading expert in your niche. They show that the opinions and knowledge of your firm is desired and valued. And, they provide a platform for your subject matter experts to engage in a dynamic exchange of ideas.
3) They provide great networking opportunities. It’s not often that you have a chance to speak to an entire roomful of influencers or buyers of AEC services – public or private. Speaking engagements give you the chance to capitalize on undivided attention from an audience who is unequivocally interested in your area of expertise. Members of your audience will want to meet you and speak with you after your presentation, which can open the door to potential networking and business development opportunities.
4) They can be a source of new business. All of these benefits can add up to the ultimate benefit: attracting and developing new business. By showcasing the thought leadership and expertise of your firm in a venue with accessible face-to-face networking opportunities, you will begin to nurture and attract more leads. 50% of level 5 Visible Experts (the most highly visible, sought-out experts) identified speaking engagements as a top lead source. However, don’t forget that speaking engagements are about helping educate the audience and not direct selling. No one wants to go sit through a sales pitch!
The leads might not come right away, though. Like other content marketing and thought leadership actives, there is usually a lag (think 3-6 months) from the marketing initiative to the influx of leads.
How to Acquire Speaking Engagements and Hone Your Skills
Now that we’ve looked at the benefits, how do you get started with speaking engagements?
If you don’t have much speaking experience, don’t expect paid opportunities to present themselves right off the bat. You may have to work your way up to the big leagues by accepting some smaller, unpaid opportunities first. Don’t be discouraged, though – small venues can be a great way to connect with an audience and build your reputation so you’ll become a desirable candidate for a keynote.
Start local. A great place to start is within your own firm (offering a lunch and learn) or with local chapters of larger national organizations such as AIA, ACEC or NAIOP. Not only will you be speaking to an audience that is part of your local community, but it can be a step toward finding your place in the organization on a regional or national level.
Hone your skills. As you develop your new role as a speaker, take the time to reflect and hone your skills. You may even consider having a colleague or mentor attend one of your events to give you feedback. Remember, strengthening your skills as a speaker on a smaller stage will serve you well as you transition to bigger events and audiences. Consider joining an organization like Toastmasters to help you gain practice.
Choose the right topics. Though this should go without saying, make sure you choose to speak about topics that are relevant to your target audience, addressing the challenges they face. Think carefully about your purpose and direction so you can make the best impression possible. As you speak about topics more frequently, adapt your approach slightly to discover what is most interesting and relevant to your target audience.
Think big. Once you gain traction and build your speaking resume with smaller local or regional events, begin branching out and applying for large speaking opportunities. Figure out where your competitors will be speaking (typically easily accessed on their website) or make a list of events your target audience is likely to frequent. Even if your proposal isn’t accepted this year, you can always reapply for annual events and spend the interim increasing your appeal as a speaker. Along the way, it’s important to keep track of organizations and titles of past presentations, you’ll need those along the way to demonstrate your own speaking experience.
Eventually, you’ll rack up enough speaking engagements to create a speaker bio page on your website with a press kit. As your visibility increases, don’t be surprised if events start seeking you out to appear.
Adding speaking engagements to your marketing strategy can seem like an intimidating task – especially if you’re starting from scratch. However, starting small and taking the time to hone your skills can put you on the path to becoming a desirable Visible Expert in AEC.
It’s worth mentioning that online speaking engagements are also a great place to start. Granted the face-to-face networking aspect is not there, you can build your audience on a digital platform and gain material and credibility for future in-person events.
Most importantly, stick with it. Every year, there are thousands of breakfast / lunch time seminars, one-day summits or weeklong retreats and each of these need speakers. The lessons you learn as you build your speaking portfolio will be invaluable as you become a sought after featured speaker. Remember: all keynote speakers have to start somewhere.
- Download Hinge’s Content Marketing Guide for Professional Services Firms for more tips on creating content that builds credibility and demonstrates expertise.
- Get a copy of our Online Marketing for Professional Services book to learn techniques that will generate more leads and increase awareness of your firm.
How Hinge Can Help:
Hinge has developed a comprehensive plan, The Visible Firm® to address these issues and more. It is the leading marketing program for delivering greater visibility, growth, and profits. This customized program will identify the most practical offline and online marketing tools your firm will need to gain new clients and reach new heights.