But if you can manage that fear and get in front of that crowd anyway, you can find a truly gratifying way to build your writing business.
If you are looking for an effective tool to add to your marketing mix, then speaking might be just the thing.
1. You have a captive audience. Whether you’re speaking to a group of 25 or a crowd of 2,500, speaking lets you maximize your time by getting in front of multiple people at once. Even if you’re speaking to a small group of say, 25, that means 25 people get to hear your message (well, 25 minus the couple who are playing on their phones or thinking about dinner). Ordinarily, you might have to send out 25 different queries to get 25 people to hear your message. Here, you get to deliver one presentation.
2. You control the message. You get to craft a presentation in the way that works for you — folding your message into the information you share. You get to position yourself as the go-to person for help or more information dealing with a certain issue. If you speak to a group about managing their online reputations through the use of social networking, for example, then you can position yourself as the person who can help them do that. Of course when speaking, you want to be careful to give genuinely helpful information and avoid an outright sales pitch. But craft the presentation the right way, and you can do both.
3. You get to use the presentation again. If you’re smart about it, that one presentation can be multi-purposed into other products: CDs, training videos, podcasts, etc. I used to do a lot more speaking than I do now, and that is one thing I didn’t do — record my presentations to use later. Now, if I set speaking engagements, I certainly consider this.
4. You can build a mailing list. People who hear you speak and are interested in what you have to say are highly likely to join a mailing list, if given the opportunity. So be sure to collect email addresses at your presentations and send follow-up emails. A mailing list is the most important tool you have when it comes to building long-term relationships. You must have long-term relationships and repeat business if you want to make a living writing.
5. You can land more gigs. Do a good enough presentation, and there is a really good chance you’ll leave the room with a couple of new projects, clients, or prospects. It’s always great to leave one speaking engagement with the names of people who are practically begging you to do work for them, whether that’s another speaking engagement or a writing assignment.
I’ve gained new clients and projects as a result of speaking engagements, so I know how effective speaking can be. You can create and host your own events and you can look for speaking opportunities in your local community and, when you gain enough experience and confidence, elsewhere. You might find that you enjoy speaking — even if it does scare you a little bit!
What about you? How have you used speaking in your writing business?