I have yet to find a better way to attract great clients than positioning myself as an expert within the AEC Industry. The two best ways to demonstrate expertise are speaking and writing. With speaking, you can make a deeper connection because your audience can see and hear your thinking in real time. This is akin to the increased emotional impact of seeing your favorite band in concert versus simply reading their lyrics.
Speaking is harder than writing so fewer people travel this path. This is an opportunity for you to stand out. I empathize that standing alone on stage may freak you out. I still get nervous every time I speak. It’s a primal fear hard wired into our collective consciousness. We relate standing alone on a podium with hundreds of eyes looking at us to standing alone on the savannah with saber tooth tigers eyeing us for their next meal. To shield you from harm, I’ve outlined how to get started, what to speak about and where to speak. Develop this skill of public speaking and you will attract clients that value your brilliance.
How To Get Started
Speaking is a learned skill. In the eight years I’ve been involved with Toastmasters, I’ve consistently seen guests attend their first meeting and sheepishly stand up to say their name while staring at their toes. Within a few months, the very same people are delivering 5–7 minute speeches to great applause.
Find and join a Toastmasters club. I’m a member of two clubs. SMPS San Diego even has it’s own club. There is no better return on investment for your career. You’ll improve your speaking, listening, self-esteem and leadership skills in a fun and supportive environment. I recommend visiting a few clubs in your area to “date before you marry.” Each club has it’s own culture and traditions.
What To Speak About
As an excuse to avoid speaking, I frequently hear people say “I don’t have material that people want to hear” or “don’t I need to be a book author or PhD to be a speaker?” Nonsense. We all underestimate how much expertise we already have. You can speak about a problem that you recently solved for a client. If you want to get fancy, call this a case study. Speak about patterns or trends in your client’s industry. Then take a step further and offer some suggestions on how to respond to these trends. Give a “how-to” speech on something you know clients are struggling with. You could also create a humorous speech about common mistakes that clients make when working with a firm like yours.
Where To Speak
You are not going to be invited to speak at the TED Conference right away. But there are many venues to practice your craft. Speaking is like a muscle that you need to exercise regularly. Find as much stage time as you can. I’ve spoken at talent shows, conferences, luncheons, breakfast meetings, weddings and funerals. A great place to start is on a panel. Not all eyes are on you and you can distribute the workload among the other panelists. Good panels feel like a candid conversation (with the audience listening in).
People don’t buy your services, they buy what you believe. Speaking works as a marketing tool because it is an opportunity for you to share what you believe in a non-sales environment. People don’t like to be sold to. So use speaking as a tool to build trust with your audience, and then enjoy potential clients handing you their business card.