Get Clients from Speaking: Be the Guest, Not the Host

Article by C.J. Hayden“I don’t recommend you host your own teleclass,” I told my client.

“Why not?” she asked. “I thought public speaking was a great way to get clients.”

“It is,” I replied. “But hosting your own free teleclass isn’t public speaking; it’s a promotional event.”

Guest speakerYep, there’s a big difference between a self-employed professional putting on his/her own show, and being invited as a guest presenter for someone else’s. When you consider the level of effort to make it happen, the cost of putting it together, and the amount of new business you can expect to get, public speaking — live or virtual — wins out over a promotional event almost every time. Here’s why.

1. Who’s on the invitation list — The reason you see high-profile professionals offering free teleclasses, webinars, and free or low cost local workshops is that they have a substantial number of prospects already in their database. With 10,000 targeted prospects on your email list, you might get 100 to register for a free teleclass or webinar, especially if you also promote it on social media. But if your list has 500 people on it, you’ll be lucky to get five.

When you speak for an established organization, they use their list of members, students, customers, or employees to promote your event. And it’s not just the size of their list that can be significant. When you speak for a regular gathering, as opposed to offering a one-time event, a higher percentage of the invitation list will register. That’s because they will have the gathering already on their calendars, and will have often paid a fee to even be invited.

If you offer the event audience a free gift or door prize, most of them will happily give you their contact information. Then you can add them to your list (with appropriate permission, of course), allowing you to follow up with them.

2. Time and money to promote — Promoting an event requires a considerable amount of effort over a substantial period of time. To do it well, you’ll need to invite people in multiple ways, and do so multiple times. You may have to send emails, post on social media, mail postcards, make phone calls, ask colleagues to invite friends, and more, just to fill the room.

But hosts for your speaking events do all this work for you. They have a mailing list, social media channels, a budget, and a promotion plan already in place, because they host speakers like you all the time. When you show up to speak, the room is already full.

3. Impact on your credibility — When an organization hosts you as a speaker, you get an implied endorsement from that group. The audience automatically thinks of you as an expert, which colors everything you say, including your offer to do business with those who attend. Hosting your own event doesn’t carry that level of credibility. It can even detract from how credible you are if your event attracts only a few people.

4. Potential of new business — In the Get Clients Now! hierarchy of marketing strategies, public speaking is rated the third most effective, while promotional events are rated as only fifth of six. The reasoning behind this includes all the factors stated above. Being a guest speaker makes you instantly credible, takes considerably less effort to achieve, and provides you with a new, larger, and more responsive potential audience, compared to producing your own speaking event.

If this is so, why do so many self-employed professionals try to host their own events? Here’s my guess:

  • They’re copying what they think they see modeled by higher-profile professionals, not considering that those folks may have much larger followings, experience with filling events, and probably some paid staff.
  • It seems easier to set up a bridge line, webinar platform, or conference room and invite some folks than it does to position themselves as experts so organizations will find them desirable as speakers.
  • Landing speaking engagements requires making requests that may be denied or ignored, exposing them to rejection. This brings up fear, resistance, and the inner critic.

“Ah hah!” said my client, when I explained this to her. “It’s the same as when you advised me not to buy a booth at that expo. I wanted to take the easy way out and just write a check instead of working on building my referral network.”

Smart client. You can be this smart, too. Design an attractive speaking topic, write a credible bio, and start reaching out to some potential hosts. Getting booked as a no-fee speaker can be easier than you think. Hosting your own free speaking events may seem like a shortcut to getting clients, but for too many professionals, it has instead been a dead end.

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Reader Comments

You are right on! I LOVE speaking at local networking groups and associations. It’s my most effective marketing strategy. I meet new people and offer valuable content. They decide they (love me or not). Most everyone gets on my list and often I walk away with new clients.

Thanks, Loretta! It’s a powerful strategy, and works much better for most entrepreneurs than trying to fill the room themselves.

I don’t do speaking gigs personally so this is great information to have at hand for clients who do or are thinking about it. Thanks C.J.

Thanks, Joan! I’m glad you liked it.