Career Advice

Finding the Right Audience to Share Your Engineering Expertise
Carl Friesen posted on June 10, 2016 |
Public speaking remains one of the best ways to get your ideas in front of potential clients.  Why?

Public speaking remains one of the best ways to get your ideas in front of potential clients.  Why?

There are several contributing factors:

  • The number of slots at any conference is limited. This means getting asked to speak is an honor that attests to your credibility.
  • When you’re wearing a “speaker” badge, even what you say in ordinary conversations over coffee and croissants has more power.
  • During the presentation, you’re able to show what you’re like as a person – so prospective clients have a better idea of what you will be like to work with.

But success in public speaking depends largely on finding the right audience.

For engineers who want to build their profile as speakers, I think that there are three types of audiences you should consider: Peers, Prospects and Referrals.

Unless you’re only doing the speech as a way to practice your presentation skills, you should avoid speaking to audiences who don’t fit into at least one of those categories.


1. Test-Driving Your Ideas: Presentations to Peers

Many engineers start out their speaking career giving presentations to groups of colleagues – within their own firm, at a local or regional association, or to a technical conference. And many of these engineering speakers end there, too, without exploring what opportunities might lie further afield.

Speaking to your peers has its place. It can be an easy, forgiving place to learn and hone your presentation skills. After all, it’s only natural to feel more comfortable presenting to people you know and who think the same way as you. This means that presenting to your peers can be a great opportunity to practice your speaking skills, get past the “nervous” stage and build your confidence.

These presentations can also be a good place to test-drive your ideas, as some of your peers will be eager to show off their own expertise by pointing out what they believe to be your mistakes.

Presenting to your peers can be impressive to potential clients – and it looks good on your CV, resume or LinkedIn profile. These presentations can also help you to build up recommendations from meeting organizers, helping you build your credibility for when you move on to presenting to other groups.


2. Reaching Audiences of Potential Clients

If you want to build your business among potential clients, you’ll need to get in front of audiences that include these prospective clients. What kinds of audiences? That depends on whom you want to reach.

There are three main ways to segment your potential audiences:

Industry: Some engineers focus on meeting the needs of a specific industry. This could be industries such as manufacturing, power generation, mining or something more specific. So, seek out their existing conferences and other meetings, and develop a presentation topic that addresses a burning issue that they’re facing.

Profession or occupation: It could be that many of the people you serve fit into a specific profession or occupation. For example, if you want to manage mechanical systems for buildings, you might do well to give presentations to property-management organizations.

Geography: Alternately, you may want to focus on businesses within your own city or region, which means you need to find audiences with a local focus. Demonstrate your ability to meet local issues – for example, as I write this, just about any region or city with a focus on the oil and gas sector is feeling the pain of low markets and stubbornly high costs.


3. Tapping “Hidden” Markets: Referral Sources

Sometimes, going directly to clients yourself isn’t an option. Instead, you may need to reach out to people who have the capacity to refer business to you.

One of my clients, an industrial hygienist, has developed an intriguing specialty: he manages the remediation of former marijuana grow-ops. He says that locations of former indoor pot plantations feature a host of air quality problems caused by mold due to the high humidity and spilled irrigation water, damaged structural elements and spilled fertilizer.

I spoke with him about the markets he wants to reach, and he said that insurance brokerages and carriers are often sources of business for him. So, I arranged for him to present a workshop on grow-op remediation issues to a conference for insurance brokers.

My industrial hygienist client said that he also receives a significant amount of referral work from police officers who have attended a grow-op “bust.” They often must explain to the surprised property owner, who in many cases were renting out the property and had no idea of how it was being used, the legal requirements for cleaning up the property. To reach this audience, I helped him publish an article in a magazine for police officers.

If you find that you tend to get business through referral sources, think about the people who’ve given you those referrals. Do they tend to be from any specific industry, profession, occupation or other group? If they have places or times where they regularly meet, you may be able to arrange a presentation that will get you more referral work.

Public speaking can be a great way to start a relationship with a new client, as well as cement your relationships with existing clients.

And personally, I just love seeing the lights go on inside someone’s head as I explain a concept that they didn’t previously understand, and which they can use. Makes all those hours walking down airport corridors and in waiting rooms worthwhile.


Carl Friesen
Carl Friesen has 15 years of experience helping engineers to build their professional profile. To access a free weekly resource that can help you reach potential clients and get more of the work you love to do, enroll here. Click here to access an infographic “Four reasons you didn’t get that speaking gig.”

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