Strictly speaking

Public speaking is a common fear, but it can be an effective way to build profile and connect with clients, existing and potential

Advisers generally have a niche or particular type of client they want to attract: this is often a good audience to start with when planning a public-speaking strategy, according to business coach and founder of Elixir Consulting Sue Viskovic.

“An adviser I know is very focused on the medical profession and has a relationship with the Australian Medical Association, so they actually get asked to speak at medical conferences,” Ms Viskovic says.

Another advice firm also specialising in clients from the medical profession focuses on students in the final year of their studies.

“They discuss with students how to set up their own finances if they’re planning to practise on their own and what things they need from a financial perspective, such as insurance,” she says.

If advisers want to target wealthier clients, Ms Viskovic says they need to be very clear on the types of clients they want to attract to their business, then seek out which groups run conferences for a particular client segment.

“If they specialise in working with teachers, for example, then they need to think about who runs conferences for teachers,” she says.

She also suggests advisers consider what media groups target a specific segment of clients as they also run conferences.

Once the targeting is complete, they can get in touch with the conference organisers, says Vanessa Bennett, chief executive of Inside80, a financial services business consultancy.

“If you’re with that group to start with, that certainly helps; you can get involved with the organisers and potentially offer your services,” she says.

For advisers new to public speaking, Ms Bennett ecommends starting out with small client seminars or even just with staff.

“Even if you’ve only got a few staff, you can really drill that leadership role in terms of presenting to staff on updates for the business and making them feel included. My general suggestion is to just work your way up gradually in terms of numbers.”

Opportunities to present

1. Client seminars
If a practice principal decides they want to present at a client event held at their own firm, Ms Bennett stressed the importance of knowing and sticking to the aim of the night.

“Is it a client appreciation night or are they looking to get some referrals out of it?” she says. “It really just depends on your client base, there’s no right or wrong answer, but the ones I’ve seen have great success are those with some sort of guest speaker.”

Presenting something like an economic update, she says, may not seem that enticing to clients so incorporating something lifestyle-related may get more people involved.

“I’ve seen people do wine tasting [events] and other things like that where they might have information about the wine, while the adviser or accountants just says a bit at the start,” Ms Bennett says. “The [adviser] doesn’t necessarily need to be the main attraction.”

John Lethbridge, SMSF specialist adviser at Partners Superannuation Services, says his firm has held both formal and informal client events.

“They tend to have a more structured or formal approach because we find our client base responds to that more, or appreciates that format,” Mr Lethbridge says.

2. Public workshops
Advisers may also want to consider conducting a public workshop, Ms Viskovic says.
“Advisers or accountants pick a particular topic of interest for their ideal client group and advertise locally.”

3. Schools and universities
Associations such as the Financial Planning Association sometimes coordinate volunteers to speak with students – either to high school students about financial planning as a career or to university groups on more of a lecture basis.

4. Industry events
Advisers may also be asked to speak at industry conferences if they are particularly good in a certain area, Ms Viskovic says: “It’s a nice way of contributing back into the industry.”

Reaping the rewards
Mr Lethbridge says presentations have been an effective way of generating client referrals. Since starting an annual event focused on superannuation seven years ago, Mr Lethbridge says the number of clients attending has grown from 20 to 300 this year.

“Certainly from that perspective we think it’s definitely worthwhile,” he says.

Holding client seminars he says also “brings back the personal touch”.

“If you’re presenting you’ll be questioned during the presentation or in the debate and you’ll have people come up to you or get a phone call from someone down the track.”

Mr Lethbridge says the strongest relationships his firm has with clients are the ones they have a good personal relationship with – “these seminars attribute to that”.

Tips for presenting
The key to presenting, Ms Bennett says, is practice.

“The more you do something, the more comfortable you feel doing it – that goes for anything, but particularly for public speaking,” she says.

Undertaking an MC role at an event like a wedding, she says, may be a good way of improving confidence, as you aren’t the main attraction.

Ms Viskovic says advisers should also consider practising in front of a group such as Toastmasters to boost confidence.

She also says the visual components of a presentation shouldn’t be neglected, as they can help attendees recall information.

In terms of the structure of the presentation, a good way to structure it is to first establish credibility, then highlight the need to discuss a problem, how it occurred and then present a solution.

“At the end I always like to finish up with ‘well, what are you going to do with the information?’.”

Mr Lethbridge says his firm asks clients to fill out questionnaires or feedback forms to ensure they are presenting the “right topic and right style of presentation”. 

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