Public Speaking: An Accounting Marketing Tool

By Wirtz, Barbara | The National Public Accountant, April-May 2003 | Go to article overview

Public Speaking: An Accounting Marketing Tool


Wirtz, Barbara, The National Public Accountant


* What's more efficient-making 50 separate contacts or meeting 50 contacts at once?

* What's more useful-one person who knows you or many people who know you?

* What's more effective-sending a diluted message or conveying a strong one?

Public speaking is an excellent way to market yourself and your firm. You can reach more people in less time, convey a strong message to a specific market, and influence thinking in a given area. Public speaking can bring you and your firm visibility, respect, and clients-but only if you do it well.

Whether you are speaking about tax changes at a luncheon for a local business group or conducting a seminar for clients about income allocation for physicians, what you say and how you say it matters. No one is impressed or moved to action by a dull, lifeless presentation. So don't squander the opportunities you have to establish credibility, create value, and convey expertise by speaking with power and impact before groups.

Develop skill in three areas: meeting your audience's needs, structuring your ideas, and bringing your ideas to life.

Meeting your audience's needs: Too often, speakers spend too much time talking about their firm, their niche, and their services without tying them to their audience's needs. Audiences don't care much about what you do unless they believe they can benefit. They want to know how they can benefit from what you know and do.

Your first speaking responsibility is to analyze your audience before you speak so you can provide helpful information. For instance, you may be addressing a group of attorneys with the hope of establishing strategic alliances with them. They don't want to know the intricate details about how you go about doing a tax return, business valuation, or estate planning. They want to know why they should choose you over other sources, what you are like to work with, and how you will benefit them and their clients. Give audiences what they want, and you'll come out a winner because audiences appreciate and remember speakers who meet their needs.

Three factors influence your ability to meet your audience's needs: substance, response, and image. Before your next presentation to your partners, associates, staff, clients, board, or business community, be clear in your own mind about what substance you want to convey, what response you want to evoke, and what image you want to project. Then craft your message accordingly. This will not only help you give your audience something of value, it will influence their response and project a positive image.

Structuring your ideas: When asked to speak, accountants are often given a broad topic such as tax law, accounting procedures, or consulting services. It's impossible to thoroughly cover such broad topics in a short time, but it is entirely possible to narrow the scope and drive a few points home with clarity and precision.

The more complex your topic, the more important it is to pare it down into something manageable. Too often, accountants start with details and move to the main point--losing their audience in the process. This creates the "so what" syndrome in audiences: they hear a lot of detail, don't know where the speaker is heading, and think "so what," By the time the speaker gets to the "so what," the listeners have tuned out and thus miss the point completely.

It is more effective to develop a core message that requires you to break your information down into three elements: a central theme, several key points, and an action statement. These are the most important things you want your audience to remember, and everything else in your presentation revolves around them.

The central theme is the bottom-line, most important point you want to make; it is the anchor for the entire presentation. …

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