Hands down, the best way to build your practice is to deliver a killer seminar. Can you think of a better way to showcase your skills, value, smarts, and market your business? Just as important, seminars are fun. I have an absolute blast when I deliver presentations as part of agency kickoffs, corporate initiatives, new hire trainings, top producer roundtables, recruiting focus groups or sales meetings. I meet people that actually want to listen to me, learn from me, work with me and refer me – and they’ll even invite others to my next seminar. In fact, if I were a financial advisor, I would deliver presentations to audiences on a regular basis. And when I say regular basis, I mean up to three talks a week!

So why don’t all advisors deliver seminars? What gets in the way?

I asked similar questions at a firm yesterday in a public speaking seminar I was delivering. The attendees were advisors at all levels ranging from brand new to conference qualifiers. Here are some of their responses.

  • I need to overcome my fear of public speaking.
  • I lack the knowledge of my topic.
  • I don’t know how to make my topic interesting.
  • I don’t know how to begin and end my presentation.
  • I’m not sure how to engage the audience.
  • I have a fear of being asked questions I can’t answer.
  • I’m not sure how to ask my audience to hire me without being too salesy.

Do any of these sound familiar? Here are a few concepts that may put these concerns to rest.

Overcoming your fears

Public speaking is ranked as the No. 1 human fear according to The Book of Lists. Death ranks seventh. So, as Jerry Seinfeld says, at a funeral you would rather be lying in the casket than delivering the eulogy. But I digress.

How can you overcome your fear? First, you have to know your material backwards and forwards. Insurance, retirement, annuities, long-term care – whatever it is, you must know your stuff cold. If you don’t, you have no right to be speaking to an audience. It’s a waste of your time and theirs. To solve this problem, you may want to co-present with an advisor that knows more than you, to help you learn the ropes. Once you know your content, practice, get feedback, and practice again. Getting feedback is important because if you just practice, you could be rehearsing your mistakes repeatedly. Not good. Get feedback on your material, delivery and rapport with the audience. Toastmasters is an excellent resource to get your practice swings in.

The elephant in the room

One of my favorite approaches to speaking is introducing the elephant in the room upfront. By “the elephant,” I mean concerns that may be on your audience’s mind, which can create tension and prevent listeners from being more engaged. In most seminars offered by financial advisors, the audience knows that you’re looking to sell them something, so that may be your elephant.

To remove the elephant, simply address these concerns at the beginning, right after your big opening (discussed below). You may say something like, “Let me be up front. There are two reasons I’m delivering this seminar. First, I love to teach people about financial matters because I’m good at it and it’s important – especially these days. This event gives me the opportunity to do what I love. Second, I’m a financial advisor and businessperson, which means that I’m always looking for clients that I can help. I’m not here to pitch or sell you anything. I will remind you again at the end of our time together, but if you think I can help you in any way and you’re interested in discussing that with me, I invite you to do so. However, if you’re simply here to learn, get your questions answered and get a cup of coffee out of the deal, that’s great, too. I only request that you refer others to my monthly seminar if you think it’s of value and it can help someone.”

Beginning and ending your presentation

It’s important that you share only as much information as your audience can digest. If you’re speaking for an hour, limit your talk to five components: your open, three main points and your close.

Make sure your open is about the best thing you can deliver for your audience and for you. It should be a message that you know you can deliver flawlessly. Confidence is key here. One good approach is to open with a compelling quote, statistic or “did you know,” such as “Did you know that 68 million people in the U.S. are uninsured or underinsured according to LIMRA?” I also like to open with stories or a question that I can pose to the audience to make things more interactive. Something like, “There are only five reasons why people network. What are they?”

Next up, your three main points should be succinct and important (e.g. 1. Why do you need life insurance? 2. Different types of life insurance 3. Best life insurance coverage for you). Your close should be powerful and all about inviting your audience to take action. Do NOT demand that people hire you as their advisor. I know advisors that do this and it compromises even the best presentations. Simply invite them to do so. If there’s value, they will!

The truth is, if public speaking were easy, everyone would do it. But it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work and a lot of practice. Of course, being a successful financial advisor isn’t easy either – but delivering a great presentation almost guarantees you of succeeding at both. So, get practice, get booked, and get good!