One of the most powerful ways to position yourself as an expert, and increase the number of clients interested in your services, is to conduct seminars, lead workshops and speak in front of targeted groups. I find that as part of a word-of-mouth marketing plan, public speaking can expose you to greater numbers of people, showcase your expertise and enroll new clients. It works for me, and if your practice area lends itself to this kind of approach, it can work for you.

The first thing to keep in mind is that it’s important to target the proper audience for your speech, presentation or seminar. Many attorneys, for example, market their seminars directly to prospective clients. But the direct approach may not suit you or be appropriate for your practice area. Your target audience may be attorneys with whom you desire to build credibility because of their ability to send business. Or, non-attorney referral sources due to their ability to send referrals. No matter who your target audience is, take time to find the right fit from the beginning. All of your plans — including what content you will teach and how you will enroll your audience — hinge on this important factor.

Once you’ve determined your target audience, determine their issues and concerns. Instead of relying on your own opinion, survey a representative mix of your target market (potential or existing clients, referral sources or other attorneys) for hot topics and issues that currently interest them. Once the topic is selected, create visual aids or a Powerpoint presentation to assist you in explaining it. Develop handouts that participants can take home with them and include your contact information in a prominent location. Give yourself three hours of prep time for every hour on stage if you are presenting a topic familiar to you. Allow much more time if you are tackling a complex or unfamiliar topic.

To determine how to deliver your seminar, consider the four most common types of presentations. The self-sponsored approach, in which you both sponsor and lead the seminar. The partnering approach, in which you co-lead the seminar with one or two other presenters, is another option. Your co-presenters might be partners in your firm, attorneys from other firms or referral sources. This approach gives you the ability not only to market the seminar to your client database, but to the co-leaders’ databases as well. Also consider the third-party sponsor approach in which the sponsor promotes your seminar or adds you as a speaker to an existing program or conference. This approach can give you added credibility and increased exposure. Finally, there is the panel approach, in which you are one of several different speakers. This is easy to do and has the advantage of being more interesting to the audience due to the multiple perspectives presented. Plus, this presentation approach allows the audience to tailor the presentation to their needs due to its interactive nature.

In my next entry I’ll discuss not only how to find an appropriate location for your seminar, but how to fill the room and craft an “offer” which helps you obtain clients from the seminar either directly or through referrals.

Through the years I’ve discovered that doing a seminar or workshop and enrolling clients directly from that event require two different skill sets. It took me years to learn this and a few more years to refine my approach. Learn from my mistakes.

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