In Hinge’s recent Referral Marketing Study, we learned that 37% of respondents would refer someone based on their Visible Expertise. While many marketing activities work together to create such expertise, the importance of speaking engagements must not be overlooked.

Have you decided that you are ready to hit the speaking circuit? If so, there are several behind-the-scenes activities that will be critical to your overall success.


A speaking engagement should never have even a hint of a sales pitch. At the same time, the topics you choose and the presentations you make should always tie directly to the services you sell. Therefore, it is critical you have a clear understanding of what those services are so your speaking engagements support your business development efforts.

Develop a clear list of the services you want to sell and make sure that any speaking presentations you create support these core offerings. You want your audience to become informed. You also want them to identify you as an expert in a particular area.


Issues & Topics

Every purchaser of a service is trying to resolve an issue. (An issue is any unsettled matter.) Good business is matching your service offerings with the issues confronting your clients. In Hinge’s book, The Visible Expert, we learned that one of the top reasons clients seek out Visible Experts is to find help in solving a critical issue.

When thinking about topics for speaking engagements, give careful thought to your clients’ issues and, from there, drill down to topics that will be of interest. Those topics are the foundation for your presentations and speaking engagements.

For example, many professional services firms are encountering the issue of succession planning as Baby Boomers retire. If you are a management consultant who helps firms with succession planning, this is an issue you’ll want to address. Succession planning has many components. Each lends itself to a presentation topic. For example:

  • What is succession planning?
  • How do you develop a succession plan?
  • Why is succession planning important?
  • What are the current trends in succession planning.

These topics can be used to develop presentations that will provide value to audiences—as well as support your business development goals.

Presentation Pitches

Once you identify the topics of interest, create catchy titles that will engage an audience and appeal to program planning committees. Your title must clearly identify the focus of your presentation. You’ll need to be clever, but don’t be cliché.

Most conferences request a presentation summary and 3–5 takeaways or learning points. Conference planning committees know that audiences want information they can act on. Make it clear that your presentation will provide tips and tactics that attendees can put to immediate use.

SEE ALSO: 7 Offline Marketing Strategies that Support Your Online Brand


Every successful business person understands their buyers and knows who the influencers are within their industry. The same holds true for speaking engagements. Know your audience, and know who else is speaking.

Once you’ve identified your topics, brainstorm the pain points of your clients and consider questions on the collective mind of your target audience.

As you research speaking engagements, be sure to get audience demographics. Many conference websites provide the number of attendees, their titles, and their companies. If you can’t find this information online, pick up the phone or send an email. Find out. Pitching your presentation to the wrong audience will be a waste of time.


There is a plethora of conferences and seminars within nearly every industry. The global, national and regional conferences attract experienced speakers who have achieved a respectable level of Visible Expertise. Also, if your target audience is the C-suite, and you’ve never spoken publicly, you’ll need to rethink your strategy.

You can’t expect to compete at that level—at least not yet.

If you are just starting out, start small. If your industry has an association with local chapters, regional conferences and an annual national event, begin by targeting the local chapters.

Within local chapters, there are different levels of competition for speaking engagements. For example, speaking opportunities at the Washington, DC chapter of an association will be quite competitive. Speaking opportunities for the same association, but in a smaller city (such as Richmond, Va.) are less competitive. This is where you should start.

Remember it is a marathon, not a sprint.

Conferences that attract a C-suite audience are going to want video clips, references and a list of previous speaking engagements. Plan for the future by asking friends to record your first few presentations. As you complete each presentation, begin creating a list of references. Also, consider setting a goal to have a certain number of engagements each year or quarter, and track your progress toward that goal.


As you begin securing speaking engagements, you will begin to meet new buyers and influencers within your industry. As your network grows, do not let your commitment to speaking wane.

Hinge’s research shows that, of all the factors that increase the probability of referrals, speaking at conferences and tradeshows is among the top five “must-haves.” Another must-have is being at the forefront of industry trends. Fortunately, speaking engagements provide the perfect platform to demonstrate such knowledge.

Additional Resources

How Hinge Can Help

Want to become an industry thought leader? It’s one of our specialties. With Hinge’s Visible Expert℠ Program, we can help you implement a thought-leadership platform that builds your reputation and visibility in the marketplace.

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