So on Thursday, as I am wont to do, I sat down for #B2Bchat. The topic was speaking at conferences. As the conversation wore on, I found myself having my brain expanded. You see, I had always thought that interweaving a pitch (in an acceptable way ) into a speech was not only appropriate, it was to be expected. How else is the audience going to know that you are selling something? I mean, you don’t want to go up there with Vanna White turning your Power Point slides for you, but still…
Well, it seems that I am in the minority when it comes to this belief.
This is kind of funny, because when it comes to blogs and other forms of Social Media, I don’t expect to be pitched. This also puts me in the minority.
What’s the Difference?
To me, speaking is like a 3D, fully interactive Social Media user going out and into the world. Social Media best practices indicate that it is okay to do a very light touch on selling. You need to develop trust first, etc. When doing a speech, it would seem to me like the same would apply. After all, in both scenarios, you are:
In a position to educate your audience
In a context where it would make sense to lightly sell
In the seat of the expert (if you do things right)
In fact, when you are asked to speak at a conference, you are being given “social proof” that it can take months, if not years, to earn in Social Media. Someone is asking you to be the expert at their event. They are putting the fate of their audience into your capable hands. How much more trustworthy can you get?
Those Webinar/Seminar Things
Now where I get really confused is where webinars fall into this pitching schematic. How many times have you sat in on a webinar and heard the introduction of the speaker include information like, “So and so is working on volume 5 of “How I became the best at everything,” which will be covered in part here and which will be available on 11/11/11.” In fact, often times, you find that a person has built a webinar around a book so that the content can be re-purposed. Of course, the mention of that book is a soft sell.
So are webinars not really speeches? Are they Social Media exclusively? Why is it okay to pitch during a webinar but not during a speech?
Lines of Division
A few things were tossed out that indicate that pitching during a speech is bad.
1. If you’re getting paid, that really should be enough of a reward for you. You want to give back by sharing your expertise.
2. You don’t want to do a pitch because the sparks your speech creates will be very shortlived. As my friend Tom Moradpour said, nobody tweets out pitches.
3. When giving a speech, your audience is “captive.”
4. When giving a speech, usually your audience has already paid money, and the expectation is that they will get to learn.
I’ve heard that the Elevator Pitch is dead. Besides, we all should really take the stairs. It’s not really best practice to pitch via Twitter or Facebook, and pitching within a blog takes some finesse. Apparently, pitching during a live speech is frowned upon.
So when exactly is it okay to pitch your business?
I mean, we can all say that we’re totally not pitching anything, but really most people are, aren’t they? In this blog, I am simultaneously striving to educate, striving to learn, and gently reminding you that I work for an agency that can help you do an awful lot of stuff. If a speaker goes to a conference right around the time their book is due to be published, don’t you expect to hear about the book somewhere in the conference, if not necessarily during the speech?
In the end, there has to come a time when you make the ask. When you announce your call to action. When you make your pitch.
Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/hisks