Have you ever considered getting in front of an audience and talking about B2B writing or copywriting?
If the thought is terrifying, don’t worry, it was terrifying to me many years ago too — really terrifying.
So if you have a fear of speaking, put that aside for just a moment. Give me a chance to explain why I think speaking is such a great technique for building your business and attracting great clients. And then later on, I’ll give you some tips that will make any type of speaking much easier.
Let me tell you about my first speaking engagement.
When I initially built my business as a freelance copywriter back in the 1990s, I didn’t do any speaking to grow my business. I did cold call and I did use direct mail. Direct mail was huge for me. I also did some online networking and a few other things.
The idea of getting in front of an audience of prospects and speaking absolutely terrified me. I’m a naturally shy person and an introvert. So I never thought about speaking as a way to grow my business.
But then one day, I got an email from an event planner in Vancouver. She was working for an organization that was planning a one-day conference on direct mail.
They already had several speakers scheduled for the conference. They had speakers to talk about printing and mailing, direct mail design, and direct mail strategy.
The event planner invited me to do a one-hour talk on direct mail copywriting. I would cover how to write postcards, sales letters, and other forms of direct mail.
I was both thrilled and terrified. Thrilled that I’d been invited to speak at such an event, and terrified because I was going to be speaking to between 50 and 100 marketing directors, my target audience at the time.
I’d had very little speaking experience. In fact, the only experience I had speaking was in front of group of fellow freelance writers and copywriters. And although that was terrifying, it was a friendly group because I was one of them.
This was different. I would be speaking to a group of senior marketing professionals, marketing VPs, and marketing directors of big companies. And it just absolutely terrified me.
But I said yes.
I put together my slides, read a couple of books on public speaking, and I practiced and practiced. Looking back, I probably did about 20 times the preparation that most speakers would do for a one-hour event. I wanted to make sure I was prepared and knew my presentation cold.
And, I remember flying to Vancouver feeling like I was flying to my execution because I was flying there to meet my number one fear in life — speaking in front of a group.
When it was time for my presentation, up on stage I went, and I did my one-hour presentation. I don’t know quite how well I did. It went by in a bit of a blur.
Marketing Directors, Lining Up for Me!
When I finished my presentation in front of this group of about 50 to 100 marketing professionals, several of them came down immediately after I finished and started asking me follow-up questions.
They wanted to exchange business cards with me, and talk about projects they were working on.
I was standing there thinking, “Wow! It doesn’t get any better than this.” I’ve got a crowd of potential clients lining up waiting to speak with me. I mean, this is phenomenal!
And sure enough, I ended up working with several of those companies on copywriting projects over the years.
In fact, I’ve had inquiries that I could trace back to that speaking gig two, three, four years later.
I remember three or four years later, getting a call from a marketing director who didn’t even attend the event. She said, “I downloaded your slides from Vancouver Direct Mail Day and went through your slides. You seem like you’re a real expert, and I want to hire you for a direct mail campaign.”
So, the payoff from that one speaking gig was tremendous.
I don’t know exactly how many new clients I got, but it certainly made all the prep work I did more than worthwhile.
And, it taught me a very valuable lesson — speaking is an excellent way to get new clients.
In fact, I often read surveys and studies on how clients find experts and how clients hire experts. For example, how does a client find a consultant to help them with a particular issue? Or how does a client find a B2B copywriter to help them with their next white paper?
As you might expect, clients will use Google or ask someone for a referral to a good copywriter.
But always in the top five is speaking. I’ve even seen it in the top three.
A client will hear someone speak and then when they have a need, they’ll think of that person as the expert to contact.
That’s how speaking works. You consider that person who’s speaking an expert at what they do simply because they are speaking.
You also get a sense of who they are simply because you heard them speak. It’s almost like meeting them in person. In fact, you might very well have met them in person if you spoke to them after their event.
So, that’s the power of speaking and that’s why clients will often hire someone they’ve heard speak. They consider them an expert.
Speaking Opportunities for Copywriters
Now, how do you leverage this skill in your own B2B copywriting business, especially if you’ve never spoken before or if you have a fear of speaking like I did?
Well, first of all, let me demystify the whole idea of speaking to grow your business. When you think of speaking, you’re probably thinking of a traditional presentation where there’s a conference or an event, you’d go up on stage and you’re behind the podium, and you have a big PowerPoint presentation you have to go through.
Well, that sounds pretty scary if you haven’t done anything like that before.
But that’s not the only type of speaking you can do. There are many ways to step into speaking where you can start small and still be very effective.
For example, you can speak on a panel. You’ve probably seen these at conferences and events where they have three or four or five different speakers, and they each speak for five minutes on their topic of expertise, and then the rest of the session is essentially a Q&A session.
It’s a great way to tiptoe into speaking because you don’t have to prepare a big formal presentation. Instead, you’re simply speaking for 5-10 minutes and answering a few questions.
You could also speak to a small group such as the chapter of a marketing association in your town. It’s very possible to get clients from a small group — it doesn’t have to be a big presentation in front of a big audience.
You can also be a guest on a teleseminar, webinar, or podcast where the host is asking you questions, and you’re simply answering the questions.
I know someone who wanted to get into speaking to grow their business and they were terrified of speaking. When they went to conferences, they would volunteer to introduce the speaker, so they only went up on stage for a couple of minutes. And of course, in the process of introducing or thanking the speaker, they told the audience a bit about themselves and their services.
Far too many copywriters and B2B writers don’t pursue speaking as a business-building technique simply because they’re afraid to get up on stage and speak.
I’m sure you’ve heard that speaking is the number one fear many people have — even greater than the fear of death. I don’t know if that’s actually true but it goes to illustrate how common the fear of speaking is.
Getting Past Your Fear of Speaking
Let me give you some tips and ideas on how to get over your fear.
First of all, there’s a great organization that can help build your confidence as a speaker and help build your skills as a speaker. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s called Toastmasters.
It’s very affordable. It’s mostly volunteer-based and very supportive. Check for a chapter in your area. I highly recommend it.
Another thing to consider is that you don’t have to be a great speaker if your content is good. I have heard presenters before speak on their topic of expertise and their content is so good, you forgive them for being a not-so-good speaker.
I know one speaker for example who has fantastic content. But when he gets up on stage, he stands behind the podium like a statue and reads almost entirely from a script.
He’s not a great presenter but his content is so good. In fact, he often gets top marks from his audiences for speaking. I’ve heard him speak many times and I’m captivated, and yet, he’s the most wooden speaker out there.
Remember, you’re an expert at what you do. You know more about B2B writing and B2B copywriting than your target audience. Even if your target audience is marketing professionals, you probably know more than they do on the topic of copywriting.
My last tip is to get past your first speaking gig. Speaking is a little bit like riding a bike. It’s terrifying at first. But once you get going on your bike, suddenly, you just know how to ride.
Speaking is a lot like that. Once you get past the fear of your first speaking gig, then it becomes easier and easier. You may even find you enjoy it.
Give speaking a try. It’s a very powerful way to get good clients for your B2B writing or copywriting business.
Next week, I’ll explain how to get speaking gigs, who to approach, what to say, and how to leverage speaking even further to grow your business.