By Alain Lefebvre, Great White North and ASCII Group member
The thought of public speaking panics most people, due in large part due unfounded fears of bombing in front of large crowds. The reality is public speaking can be a very effective tool without being a chore or nightmare type task. Leveraging this tool doesn’t mean you must immediately jump into the deep end of a packed auditorium but, with proper preparation and a targeted audience, an impassioned presentation can bolster your reputation and grow your business organically by word of mouth.
Where to start? Choose a topic, build a presentation.
Begin by selecting a topic you are very interested in and create an informative, business language presentation that can be used in a variety of scenarios. For Great White North, it was a general cybersecurity presentation that focused on high-level topics such as ransomware, social engineering, and the importance of robust business continuity.
It’s important to remain neutral and resist the temptation to include exactly how your company solves these challenges — you don’t want to cross the line from informative presentation to a thinly-veiled sales pitch. It’s also important to keep your presentation as flexible as possible in terms of length. For instance, it’s valuable to have a half-hour, hour, and one-and-a-half-hour version to fit whatever timeslot the speaking situation dictates. We’ve found one hour to be the sweet spot in terms of timing to fit a larger variety of venues. Timeslots of two or more hours are rare and it’s usually not worth tailoring your presentation to fit something that long. Cap it off with 10 to 15 minutes of Q&A time at the end.
As for the presentation itself, keep it image heavy and text light. Include as few words as possible; many sections you’d think need a heading or title often don’t. You want to draw the attention to you and what you are saying. After all, you are the one that is providing the credibility behind the content.
The slides in the background are there to help drive the narrative forward. Injecting humor and relatable business scenarios can be helpful in overcoming the often-dry nature of IT related topics. To build an effective presentation with attractive content subscribe to a stock art service (of which there are many available). This will give you a near limitless pool of vector and high-resolution artwork that you are legally allowed to use for this purpose. Unless you have a photographer and art team on staff, this service is indispensable even if you only use it once.
Some additional presentation related tips and tricks:
- Stick to topics you are genuinely interested in. The audience will be able to tell the difference between a presentation you love to give and one you feel you must give.
- Tailor your first slide to your venue; include an image and title that match your specific audience.
- Use your second slide to thank your venue; recognition and appreciation go a long way.
- Our third slide introduces the presenters and our background, explaining why we’re credible.
- Using a few standard slide transitions will make your presentation more fluid and less chaotic.
- Don’t underestimate the value of a flat white background when you have captivating and poignant vector stock art to layer on top of it.
- Get a presenting remote with a timer; it helps keep you on-track throughout your presentation.
- Practice as much as possible; deliver your presentation to family and co-workers to get feedback.
Building the presentation may be time consuming but it is usually the easier part of the public speaking equation. Yes — you do eventually have to present in front of complete strangers but, luckily, you get to select your initial venues. The catch here is you will need to be willing to deliver this presentation “for free” (but there are always side benefits).
One good place to start is with your local chamber of commerce. Many host Lunch & Learn events where they invite speakers from the community to present on topics related to their industry. It’s a great starting point if you feel nervous presenting to larger crowds. There is rarely budget available to pay the presenters at these venues but it is an excellent opportunity to reach potential clients and build your comfort level. If your presentation is interesting you’ll often be asked to present again at other chamber events.
Valuable and interesting (also free) content is a highly sought-after commodity. As your confidence increases start targeting workshops at larger conventions. Here too you will need to reach out to the organizers and fight for your (once again unpaid) presentation slot. Having tailored your presentation using business language, your target audience doesn’t have to be IT specific.
When someone presents on a topic they love in an informative manner it’s easy to exude confidence and charisma. You end up getting lost in the presentation and begin to have fun with the process and the audience. The pressure of getting a sale or convincing someone of your point of view is removed from the situation. You want to position yourself as the beacon of knowledge on your chosen topic and can answer as many different questions as possible as they come up. Research thoroughly and be prepared to defend your point of view during Q&A sessions.
By this point you are probably asking why you are going through all this trouble if you aren’t going to be asking for a sale? How does this benefit your MSP?
With an interesting presentation, the marketing value of your public speaking engagements can be much more effective — and less costly — than simply paying for clicks or mainstream media advertising. You can reach stakeholders directly and convince them you know what you are talking about.
Never turn your presentation into a sales pitch, but you’ll find someone will almost always ask about your services in the Q&A session. This gives you an opportunity to grow your client base organically and skip the awkwardness that sometimes comes with meeting new clients for the first time. After you’ve presented enough times you can eventually start making money to deliver it. Some corporations and not-for-profit organizations hold days of professional development where they do have budget to pay industry presenters if the content is related and useful.
Another way to make use of your presentation is to offer it as a service to current managed service clientele. For example, it may be useful to offer a small discount on the monthly managed service fees if all employees have been officially trained on how to prevent ransomware infection. The client pays for the training session and gains the tools necessary to prevent downtime. The discount may reduce your MRR slightly but will also reduce your cost to support them if it prevents even a single malware infection.
Whatever you do, don’t write off public speaking as a valuable tool to solidify your reputation and grow your MSP. Step outside of your comfort zone and take on the challenge, you’ll be glad you did.
About The Author
Alain Lefebvre is chief operating officer of Great White North and has been a member of The ASCII Group since 2017.
About The ASCII Group, Inc.
The ASCII Group is a vibrant reseller community of independent MSPs, VARs, and other solution providers. Formed in 1984, ASCII has more than 70 programs that provide turnkey cost-cutting strategies, innovative business building programs, and extensive peer interaction. ASCII members enjoy benefits such as marketing support; educational information; group purchasing power; increased leverage in the marketplace; and multiple networking opportunities. These programs enable ASCII members to increase revenue, lower operating costs, and grow service opportunities. ASCII is the oldest and largest group of independent information technology (IT) solution providers, integrators and value added resellers (VARs) in the world. Learn more at www.ascii.com.