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The Secret to Award-Winning Corporate Speaking Programs: Start Smart and Finish Strong


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A strategic speaking program can be an effective way to build awareness for a company, its products and services, and the vision of its leadership team. But with an overwhelming number of conferences all vying for the same audiences, cutting through the clutter to pinpoint the events that will have the greatest impact in advancing your company’s goals can be a challenge.

From evaluating which opportunities to pursue, to preparing your presentation, to measuring the effectiveness of those speeches, there are multiple ways a speaker program can go awry. Here are some tips for formulating a smart strategy to guide your speaker efforts.

Start with Clear Objectives and Discriminating Filtering

 It’s crucial your speaking program has clearly defined objectives. Come to an agreement with your team on what you’re hoping the program will achieve. It could be: 

  • Building company awareness and defining your thought leadership
  • Developing strategic relationships and partnerships
  • Fueling sales
  • Attracting new employees
  • Establishing your company’s place in its local business community
  • All of the above

Keep these criteria top of mind and start the filtering process:

  • Carefully look at each event and determine if it will enable you to connect with the right audiences. Reviewing other selected speakers and attendees -- even from past events -- will help ensure you are on the right track.
  • Consider the central theme of the event and ask yourself if it aligns with your core business messages.
  • Look at past media and social coverage of the event to help determine its industry reach and cachet.
  • Evaluate the different types of speaking opportunities at each event. For instance, a pre-event workshop or one held simultaneously with 10 other workshops is not going to have the same type of attendance as a stand-alone conference session and might not be worth the time and effort.
  • And finally, the cost and logistical details of the event should be factored in to determine if the tradeoffs of time out of the office and travel expenses are worth the potential payoffs.

Nail Your Delivery

Once a speaking opportunity is secured, commit yourself to delivering a fresh, informative and memorable presentation with a specific call to action. Great speeches require preparation. As you prepare your speech, think about your audience persona. Consider these questions:

  • Why do you think they are there?
  • What questions do you think they are seeking answers for?
  • What can you teach your audience to make the session worth their time?
  • How can you empower them to take your message and do something to impact their lives/jobs for the better?
  • How can you convey your story in a memorable way?

Think about how you can convey your key messages without turning your presentation into a company sales pitch, which no one wants to hear. Making an investment in key visuals to support your concepts and drive home your message is always well worth it. And finally, practice until you think you’ve practiced enough, then practice some more. Take your speech prep work seriously because without it, you risk squandering the investment your company has made in securing and promoting your speaking appearance. Worse, a poor performance can actually damage your brand and personal reputation in your industry.

Finish Strong — Measure for Impact

One of the most common, yet egregious mistakes companies make in terms of their speaking programs is they frequently fail to measure their impact. You have to finish strong. Don’t get distracted by the glory in the chase of the speaking opportunity and fail to measure if it was even worth the effort in the end. Taking the time to measure each opportunity will help you refine and improve your performance and in the end build a stronger, more successful program.

Use the following criteria to determine if the opportunity is “a keeper” for future speaking activity.

  • Target Audience - Did the speaking opportunity enable you to communicate with the audiences you were hoping to reach? Was the room full? Were the people in the room asking questions representative of your target audience? Did they seem interested and engaged? Were they asking smart questions?
  • Leads - Did you gather any sales, partnerships or funding leads by speaking at the event? Did you come home with business cards, meeting requests or inbound inquiries through the website? If so, record how many.
  • Networking - Did the speaking opportunity come with valuable networking opportunities only available to event attendees?
  • Share of Voice - Did participating in this speaking opportunity lead to media coverage? Did it generate positive, on-message conversations about the company and its vision socially? How often were you and/or the company mentioned socially?
  • Traffic/Followers - Did you notice an increase in traffic to your corporate Web site during the conference? Did you and/or your company gain new social followers during the conference? Did any of that traffic move through the funnel to become useful leads?
  • Recruiting - Did your involvement in the conference generate interest from prospective employees?
  • Marketing Assets - Did your speech generate valuable marketing assets for the company? Were you interviewed as a speaker? Was your presentation videotaped or covered by the media? Do you have rights to those interviews?
  • Investment - What was the cost for you to attend the conference? (Days out of the office, airfare, hotel, meals, etc.?)
  • Fit - Was the speaking session the best opportunity at the event to reach your target audience? Was there another type of speaking opportunity (keynote, expert panel, moderator role, etc.) that might be more appropriate? If so, make note, so you can pursue that opportunity next year.

An award-winning speaking program supports a company’s business goals in a meaningful way, and true success comes from careful planning, executing, measuring and refining. Having the right processes in place will ensure your program not only stays on track but grows stronger and more successful with each speech delivered. 

Marian Hughes

About Marian Hughes

What motivates me? Challenging the status quo. I love stepping back and analyzing a PR program to determine if there’s a better way to move our clients closer to their goals. I'm constantly scouting out innovative new approaches, tools and technology – anything that holds the potential to really deliver. And, when I discover one with merit, there's nothing more rewarding than getting up to speed, putting it into action and generating big results – that, to me, is hitting it out of the park!