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7 Deadly Sins To Avoid When You’re The Guest Speaker

Speaking about what you do is an incredibly powerful way of marketing your business, especially if you have a service business. I recently had the chance to evaluate some speakers at a conference I attended. As you might expect, every single one of these speakers was either a business owner or was an employee of an organization where they had a role in generating sales for the company.

As someone who has taken advantage of all opportunities to speak about what I do, I was carefully observing not only the content of the presentations but thinking about what I might do differently. That led to this creation of sins to avoid when you’re speaking about what you do:

1. Stand behind a podium or hide behind a microphone and don’t fully reach out to your audience. One of the speakers was great–she knew her material well, spoke without notes, and got the audience fully engaged. This is the kind of presenter you want to strive to be. Another of the presenters spoke from her notes but walked down the aisle and made eye contact with those of us in the audience and spoke directly to people. You need to reach out and touch your audience, to paraphrase an old AT&T commercial.

2. Talk to people for your full presentation time and don’t ask them to participate at all. One of the speakers stayed in one place behind her microphone and referred frequently to her notes. She asked us few questions and had planned no interactive exercises at all–she spoke “at” us rather than “to” us. Think about the workshops you have attended–didn’t you get more out of the ones in which you had to interact with the speaker or with others in the room? Create at least 2-3 interactive exercises that will get your audience pumped up and excited.

3. Spend the entire workshop talking about the product or service you provide. I have attended presentations in which I thought I was going to learn something and it ended up being a long commercial about the company hosting the presentation. If you’re going to ask people to listen to you, have a message to deliver that’s of benefit and value to your audience. Remember, they’re asking “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me?). It’s only in discovering and finding value in “what’s in it for them” that they’ll even care about what you do and the service that you provide. Provide value and begin to create that relationship first–then you’ll start to create a customer.

4. Provide content in your workshop that only remotely resembles what was promised. One of the workshops I attended was supposed to be about selling yourself and your ideas in and out of your organization. It ended up being a workshop on presentation and communication skills, and while I can draw the connecting lines to determine the relevance, there was no bridge given to help me make the connection. Therefore, I left the workshop feeling short-changed. Clearly define the outcomes and benefits you expect your attendees to receive from participating, and deliver what you promise.

5. Keep your presentation somber and serious. One of the deadliest mistakes you can make is to not joke around and have fun with your audience. Granted, if you make really bad jokes, this can bomb on you, but think of ways to interject humor into your presentation. One of the best presentations I’ve ever attended was given by Tony Brigmon, who is the Ambassador of Fun (isn’t that a cool job title?) for Southwest Airlines. He had all 250 people in the room rolling in the floor. His topic was on how to make meetings fun, and he did that and then some. You can read more about Tony at

6. Don’t provide any mechanism for participants to contact you. I was completely amazed during one presentation–only one presenter had any handouts and provided any way to reach her if I wanted to do business with her. Another of the presenters had a table in the back of the room with her books for sale and business cards on it, but you had to be persistent and wade through the sea of 150 women exiting the room to get there. Provide something for your presenters to reach you in the future–a one-page handout, a business card, a special page on your website where they can download materials. Give them some reason to think about you again.

7. Don’t have any way to stay in contact with those who attended your workshop. My second point of amazement was that not a single presenter did anything to collect the contact info of any participant. This is something you should be doing at any presentation you make, so negotiate for the right to do it even if the conference organizers frown upon the practice. My sole goal in speaking is to get participants to sign up for my newsletter. In order to collect that info, I do a drawing and say that if they’d like to sign up for my mailing list, they can participate in the drawing. I then award a door prize or two, depending on the size of the audience. I have a check-off box so they can indicate if they’d like to receive my newsletter or get more info about my coaching gym. If it’s a group with business cards, I’ll ask them to put an N on the back to receive my newsletter and a C on the back if they want more info about coaching. I then enter their names into my contact database (if it’s a large number, I hire someone to do this for me) and then follow up with them by email. If the person doesn’t have email, s/he is probably not an ideal client for me, but I do hang onto the address, as I do about 4 snail mailings per year to my contact database.

The one aspect of the workshops that all the presenters aced was to end their presentation with an uplifting story. Borrow a story if you don’t have one, but make it one that’s happened to you personally or one from your clients that you have permission to share — those are much more powerful. Start speaking locally, and see how your business begins to expand!

About the Author Donna Gunter

Best-selling author Donna Gunter works with successful business owners who are experts in their fields and established in their industry and are seeking a way to stand out from their competitors. Using her Ideal Clients on Autopilot System©, she helps them determine the exact strategies to generate more qualified leads and better-paying clients with automated systems. This proven system makes all their marketing easier and more effective and they find themselves positioned as the only choice for their clients.

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