Establish yourself as a small business leader with speaking engagements

For a small business owner, having your voice heard in your community and building your sales pipeline through inbound marketing efforts depends on your ability to offer unique perspectives and engage with other professionals in your industry.

Especially if you’re running a small business, you need to employ every tactic to build your reputation within your industry and your community. Too often, small business voices get drowned out in the noise. It’s more important than ever to put yourself center stage—literally.

Trade shows, seminars, panels, and lectures can help. Via speaking engagements, you gain brand awareness, build credibility, and work on expanding your local network while gaining leads for your small business.

But how do you book these engagements, and what level of effort goes into maximizing these engagements for your thought leadership efforts?

How to find speaking engagements

First things first—you need to book speaking engagements. You might opt to hire an agent or reputation manager to help you book events and build connections, but pounding the pavement can often get you started with minimal financial investment.

As a small business owner, engage with your local chamber of commerce and any networking groups in your area that might be relevant to your area of expertise. Take your involvement with these organizations to the next level, and volunteer more of your time. Offer to host a mixer or an event, and ask if you can speak at a meeting in order to start establishing your name in connection to your small business.

Don’t underestimate the value of your existing network connections. Reach out to fellow business leaders, event organizers, and anyone you know who might be responsible for education or training. Let them know you have availability for speaking engagements, and directly ask if they have anything available.

A good way to get started with larger-scale speaking engagements in your area is to actively participate at a trade show. Present your thoughts, take part in expert panels, and schedule interviews with industry publications. Host a breakout session or participate on a panel in order to establish expertise and start building connections with professionals and potential prospects in your area.

Hone your expertise

The more of these engagements you get under your belt as a small business leader, the more likely you’ll be invited to participate as a keynote speaker and at higher profile events. At the same time, your name will become more recognizable in your community and your industry.

As you work your way up to becoming a full-fledged thought leader, consider working with a brand partner to host a webinar that gives insight into a specific aspect of your business or trend relevant to your industry. Webinars offer a great, easy-access opportunity for speaking engagements that anyone can attend, from anywhere in the world.

Because they’re generally free, webinars typically require more marketing to get decent attendance, but with an effective pre-event plan, webinars can be just as effective as face-to-face engagements.

Before the event

To ensure that people turn up to hear you speak, create buzz around your appearance.

  • Once you book the engagement, start planning a content campaign.
  • As soon as tickets to the event are made public, kick off your campaign.
  • Post on social media on both on your personal and business accounts.
  • Tag the official accounts affiliated with your speaking engagement and see if they’d be willing to cross-promote or share your posts.
  • Write a press release and one or more blog posts leading up to the engagement. Post this long-form content on your website and syndicate it on social media and various digital channels.

As you prepare for the event, make sure your brand voice is consistent across all collateral related to your appearance. Polish your speaker’s bio and headshot. Match them to any professionally branded materials and takeaways you provide at the event. Any slides accompanying your talk should be designed to match your brand, and should only contain the most impactful visuals and statements to support your talk.

During & after the event

Like all good marketing, your speaking engagements should contain a call-to-action. Invite your audience to continue the conversation with you after the talk has ended─on social media, at your company’s booth, or face-to-face at a breakout session or other Q&A opportunity.

Post to social media during and immediately following your speaking engagement. Monitor social media feeds to connect directly with your audience.

When collecting contact information, provide a value-add downloadable asset─like a whitepaper, infographic, or worksheet─that supports the topic you’re speaking about.

All in, speaking opportunities can help you to establish yourself as a small business thought leader, widen your customer reach, and drive qualified leads to your brand.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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