On my holiday in Thailand, I was thinking about something. Something I’ve seen way too many times in the past 10 years. I was thinking about businesses struggling to make money out of conference speaking.

After my holiday I would be speaking at Brighton SEO. It’s a great conference. I was looking forward to being there. It’s a place to see friends, to meet new people and a place to do what I love most: speaking.

For many businesses, it’s much more than that. For them, it’s a place to connect to potential clients and to showcase themselves. When conference season starts, you know that businesses get nervous again about the conferences.

Of course, they want to make the most out of it! For me, it’s a lot simpler. I’m not looking for new clients at conferences. For them, it sometimes is a matter of life or death. They need to get clients from a conference to make it worth it.

So it’s understandable they want to be at their best at conferences. Either by sponsoring, networking and often speaking as well.

Speaking is the most direct way to get visibility. And leads. If they see you speaking on stage, it’s much easier to come up to you. And you can showcase your knowledge. It’s a win-win situation.

In the ideal scenario, a business has one or more of its employees speaking at a conference. They speak about case studies and teach the audience. After the conference, the leads will come pouring in. Because they made a big impact.

As with ideal scenarios, this hardly ever happens. I’ve seen from up close that businesses actually struggle with this. And I’ve seen many in all the years that I’ve been speaking around the world.

More than often you can hear businesses talk about if a conference ‘was worth it’. And most of the time the answer is “no”.

Why is that?

There are several reasons why conference speaking isn’t ‘worth it’ for many businesses. Sometimes they are targeting the wrong audience. Sometimes they are too sales driven. Sometimes it’s just not their day.

A lot of the times, it has to do with the speakers.

Don’t get me wrong. The speakers work hard for it. They make an effort to create great slide decks. To tell a story.

Yet so many speakers can’t deliver. They don’t connect to the audience the way they could. They lack experience, confidence or just that little bit of professionalism.

And you can’t blame them. It’s not their job. At least, not the main part of their job. Even though it’s part of their job. Often the speakers are practitioners sharing their experience.

This would make for an ideal talk. Because it’s always better to hear from those actually doing the work. The problem is that being a practitioner is one thing. Getting the message across is a completely different story.

If you are a great footballer, it doesn’t mean you will make a great coach.

But we would like the practitioners to get that message across, wouldn’t we? Because of that, it would be the ideal mix.

So why aren’t we helping them?

Often inside agencies, vendors, brands, a list compiled. On this list are the events where the company should be present and speaking. It’s one of the reasons we have created our events list. To help businesses find the right events. When they have the list of events, they add names to each conference. Names of employees who will be trying to get to speak there. Those people get the assignment. But they are lucky if they get time to prepare their talks. Usually, they expect them to ‘just do it’. Or at least with a short amount of preparation time.

Hardly ever you hear about a company actually helping their practitioners become better speakers. Better at delivering the story they build. Better at presenting.

Why? It’s just plain stupid they don’t. Because now chances are the talks will not get the attention they deserve. The speakers will work hard, but won’t have the result for it. All they get is the applause after a talk. But actually ROI, there isn’t one.

If you think a bit more about this you realise something. It is not just at conferences where this is costing the businesses money. It is costing a business money elsewhere as well.

How is a pitch decided for example? A big part of the decision is based on how the company presents themselves. If they have bad speakers presenting the pitch, they are less likely to win. Imagine how much money gets lost there…

Why do businesses not care? Why aren’t they spending time and effort on this? It could make such a big difference in the outcome of a conference. They could actually make a LOT of money on

Why aren’t they spending time and effort on this? It could make such a big difference in the outcome of a conference. They could actually make a LOT of money on conferences. If they would only care.

Start helping your staff become better speakers for crying out loud!!!!

Or do they care?

Maybe they do care. Maybe they just don’t know how. Maybe it just takes away too much ‘work time’ from those within the business to help the speakers. Maybe managers want to focus their efforts somewhere else.

Or maybe they lack the knowledge themselves.

During my holiday I was thinking about this problem. So many times I’ve wondered what on earth those businesses were thinking.

And I realised it was just that: time and knowledge.

They don’t know how and they don’t have the time to put the preparation into it. So they just let it slide. And hope for the one employee that is a natural at speaking.

Are you going to help your staff?

With a little bit of effort, a business can help their speakers become better. And can help them get actual ROI from talks.

What about your business? Are you helping your staff become better? Do you train them?

If you are not, you have a choice.

Do you choose the path of least resistance? Stick with the way of working you have been doing for so long? Are you willing to keep losing money on conferences? Or are you one of those companies that dare to help their staff become better at speaking? One that will make a difference?

Let me know!

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