Public speaking remains one of the most effective ways to connect with potential clients, demonstrate the value you offer, and show that you’re someone that they would enjoy working with. Yet so many business professionals don’t get all their possible benefits from their public speaking program.

One reason is that they don’t pick the right audience.

The right message, presented in the right way is important. But none of that matters if the right people aren’t in your audience.

What’s the “right audience”? That depends on your business plan.

Furthermore, I suggest you read through Blog Post #5, which covers the idea of an “avatar” or “persona” – generally speaking, a mental image of your ideal client. My own mental landscape is peopled by several imaginary friends, who represent the people I’d like to reach. They are based on real people, most of whom have no idea of the role they play in my imagination. But it’s all good.

I suggest that your own mental landscape should also have a clear idea of your target personas/avatars. As Post #5 indicates, you need a solid understanding of their problems, opportunities, hot buttons, concerns and worries. Otherwise, you’re solving problems they don’t have (okay, NOW willya go ahead and read that post!!? Here’s another link).

Focus on your target personas

You want an audience that is filled with people who match those target personas. They might be:

Potential clients for your practice: These are people with capacity to hire you directly

Referral sources: People who can send you business indirectly. For example, I recently worked with a Chartered Business Valuator, who establishes the value of closely held corporations. He gets a lot of referral work from lawyers, so we published an article in a legal publication.

Presenting to your peers – test-driving your ideas

Whether you’re an engineer, a wildlife biologist, a chartered business valuator, an intellectual property lawyer or whatever your focus might be, you can find an audience of your peers.

You might ask – why would you give your best ideas away to audiences that contain potential competitors? Several reasons.

It can be an easy, forgiving place to learn – it’s only natural to feel more comfortable presenting to people you know and who think like you. On the other hand, these presentations can also be a good place to test-drive your ideas, as some of your peers will be eager to show off by pointing out what they believe to be your mistakes.

Peer presentations can be a great place to practice your speaking skills – to engage an audience, tell stories that bring your ideas to life, and explain difficult concepts (if your audience looks puzzled, or show by their questions that they don’t get the point, that’s your cue to find a better way to explain).

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

Audiences of potential clients – your best audience

While it’s comfortable to stay within your own professional group, you also need to spread your wings wider, to reach potential clients. There are three ways to segment your market:

Industry: some business professionals focus on meeting the needs of a specific industry, whether it is retail, manufacturing, power generation or hospitality.

Profession or occupation: It could be that your clients are focused on a specific profession – like, maybe you develop ways to make human resources professionals’ lives better, or perhaps even though you’re not a dentist yourself, you serve the dental profession.

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

Reach difficult markets through referral sources and influencers

Some markets are hard to reach directly, in many cases the senior people you want are too well-guarded by receptionists, personal assistants and voicemail. So, go indirectly – to the people that they trust, and who you can reach.

As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his book “The Tipping Point,” in many communities (which would include business communities) there are people who are naturally “connectors.” Many business professionals get work through people who are often asked for advice – people such as business coaches and the managers of co-working spaces

I went into the question of “indirect content” in blog post #2, which discusses the special needs of “influencers” and what would cause them to refer you to the people you want as clients. For example, recently, I worked with a Chartered Business Valuator, who establishes the value of a closely-held corporation. He gets a lot of referral work from lawyers, so we published an article in a legal publication.

Some business professionals get most or all of their business through influencers and referrals, some get almost none. But I’d urge you to think of your own practice – are there potential ways to build your business that way? If not now, could there be people who can steer business to you?

Those three target markets – peers, prospects, and referral sources – each have a role to play in building your business. I find that many business professionals don’t get past the “peer” type of audience. An engineer who helps design solar-energy projects might be reluctant to approach a power-sector conference organizer with a presentation idea – or going further, a conference for the financial sector that provides the money to make wind projects happen.

Step outside your comfort zone and the rewards can be immense.