How do you gauge the effectiveness of a presentation you’ve given? Some people might say it was a success if they got through the whole event without an anxiety attack, or if they finished on time, or if they got through all the points they planned to cover. They might say it was a success if there were a lot of people in the audience.

I’m different that way. I say a presentation was a success if I was able to gain new clients, or more work from existing clients, as a result of that presentation. It’s a narrow metric, and sometimes it’s not possible to tie a new piece of work or client relationship to a specific event. But, I find it a useful metric. It focuses the decisions around the presentation down to factors that are most likely to build a client relationship.

I’ve found that one of the most important factors, for increasing the amount of business gained from the presentation, is around whether there is at least one person in the audience with a problem I can help them solve, or an opportunity I can help them access. I don’t need more than one new probability from each presentation, because I tend to hang onto my clients.

From this, I’d say that it’s not the size of the audience that matters. Presenting to a small group of highly qualified prospects, who are likely to become clients, is better than a whole ballroom full of people I’m not able to help.

If you’re a business professional with a niche practice, you will likely find that quality trumps quantity as regards audiences too. So, what are the best ways to reach a distilled-down audience of people who are most likely to become your clients?

One way is to seek out organizations that are most likely to contain potential clients, as I’ve discussed in Post #29 of this blog. See here for an “Action Guide” that will help you sign up your next (or first!) speaking gig.

But, the problem is that sometimes your ideal clients don't subdivide themselves according to professional or industry associations. Also, I’ve found that people tend to join associations, much less get involved, a lot less than they used to. So, while you may be able to get a speaking engagement, its potential to meet my criterion for success – new or continuing business – may be low.

Why it’s now easier to organize your own events

The alternative is to plan your own events, invite the people you really want as clients, and make a presentation that answers a burning issue they’re facing, to show them your understanding of their world and how you can help them.

This used to be really, really hard to do. It involved mailing lists, printed invitations, phone calls, and a whole lot of work.

But thanks to current technology, it involves a few keystrokes (well, a lot of keystrokes) and an Internet connection.

I’ve become familiar with two online platforms that will help you set up and run your own events. There’s and I have no financial interest in either of them, although I’ve used both. There are differences between the two platforms, but the functionality is about the same, and in my experience both of them work without problems.

I expect that there are other programs out there; and I expect that some of these are dominant in various markets. But Meetup and Eventbrite have both worked well for me, both for organizing events and attending them.

Easy-to-use interfaces allow you to create an online notification of an event, choose the price you want to charge, provide people with a link to register, plus a few other bells and whistles such as the ability to send updates including reminders to the people who’ve registered. They can pay online by credit card or Paypall, and can un-register too.

Some people search through these sites to find events that might interest them, and I’ve had at least one person show up at one of my workshops, who just found the event via Eventbrite.

These services are to meetings what services like Createspace are to book publishing – you can easily create your own as I discussed in Post #12, but then the marketing and success are entirely on your shoulders (maybe not entirely, as we’ll see). Developing your own events means that you can ensure that the people who are there, exactly match your ideal client profile.

The group you get may be small – just enough to fit around a boardroom table, and that may be disappointing. But remember the points about the advantages of quality over quantity, where “quality” means “likely to become a client.” The advantages of working with a small group are:

You can provide more personal attention to each member, so that they can get insights that help them the most
They get a chance to interact with the learning, and this improves utility and retention
They are each able to work with you directly, and can get a better idea of what you’d be like to work with in a real consultant-client situation

I’d rather make several presentations to small groups, than make one presentation to a larger group, just to access these benefits.

Success factors for your own events

Here are some success factors I’ve found to be important in self-organizing events:

Have a really good platform already

If you have a sizeable platform following for your regular online presence, you’ll have a better chance of getting the right people to your event. This might include a blog with a good “open” rate (people actually read it), a YouTube channel with plenty of followers, or maybe a well-regarded audio podcast. These not only show that you have people who are interested in what you have to say, you have a vehicle to announce your event and invite people to register.

You’re able to help with a pressing problem

As I write this, public companies in Canada are tangled up in the need to meet changes to the international accounting regulatory standards from the IFRS. I haven’t spelled that out, because if you don’t know about IFRS already, you probably don’t need to know. But business owners, and particularly the Treasurers and Controllers of Canadian companies, do need to know, so they’ll be interested in a presentation that will help them meet the legislation. If your presentation offers a solution to a pressing problem, you’ll have greater success in attracting qualified attendees.

You have good keywords and search terms

Further to the point above, it helps if there are easily-designated terms that potential clients will be searching on – for example, IFRS. One of the problems of my own consulting practice is that I have trouble isolating effective search terms. If there are specific regulations that you help your clients meet, be sure to include them in the title, headlines and if possible the URL (Universal Resource Locator, the unique set of letters, numbers and symbols at the top of each Internet page).

You can team up with likeminded groups or people

One of the most important success factors in going it alone is to not go it alone. Many of the events I’ve run have been hosted at the Centre for Social Innovation, a shared workspace in Toronto. They have a listserv that goes out to all their members, and I’m able to get most of the signups for my events there. You can also do this if you have a colleague or friend with a bigger platform than you have, who will put your event out on their list.

Running your own events probably isn’t the place to start, in your thought leadership program. You’re better off getting a lift off other peoples’ events at the start. But eventually, running your own events can become a source of leads, and should you choose to charge for the information, a source of revenue too.