Speak Smarts

A women’s book club reading Girl with a Pearl Earring asks you to give a presentation about pearls. Your Rotary Club requests that you speak on a jewelry wardrobe suitable for successful businessmen and businesswomen. A nearby church suggests they’d appreciate a lecture on gemstones mentioned in the Bible. Speaking engagements such as these are an excellent way to strengthen your image and to increase sales. The key is to work with the host group to create both a buzz of excitement and an atmosphere for success. Here’s how:

Advance publicity. Keep at the ready both black-and-white and color photos of yourself that the host group can use to publicize your upcoming seminar. Include with your photo a single 8½ x 11-in. fact sheet that briefly describes you and your business—for example, “Jan Jeweler opened her fine-jewelry business, Jan’s Jewels, in 1997, shortly after earning her Graduate Gemologist credentials from the Gemological Institute of America. She has been a resident of our town since 1970, when her parents relocated here to teach at the university. Jan’s Jewels specializes in fine-quality diamond and colored gemstone jewelry and award-winning custom design.”

On-site support. Arrange with your host to have access to the room where you are speaking at least one hour before your presentation is scheduled to begin. On your way in, check for good signage; if you find it inadequate, ask the host to station a greeter outside who can help direct attendees. In the seminar room, make sure the seminar attendees will be physically comfortable. That may mean opening or closing blinds to create comfortable lighting, repositioning materials in the room so that they are not a distraction while you are speaking, or even picking up litter left in the room. Additionally, do what you can to reduce outside noise, such as closing windows or doors into the room or repositioning your lectern away from a restaurant service area.

Audio-visual equipment. Audio-visual support can be very helpful in making an effective presentation, as long as you are in charge of your technology. Of course you are your own best visual—dress the part of the successful businessperson, including jewelry. Choose clothing that will allow you to wear a microphone unit without compromising your appearance. (See “Step up to the microphone” below.) Depending on the group and your insurance requirements, consider asking a few members of the audience to wear some of your merchandise for the event. It’s best to try to arrange this in advance so that your jewelry becomes the focal point around which the attendee/models dress.

Get to the point. Beware of the temptation to use Power Point. It may seem like a good idea, but consider that the way you present yourself personally is really going to be the basis for relationship-based sales. A jeweler can’t do better than provide attendees with personal eye contact, engaging movement, and a voice of credible authority. Unless you plan to be very practiced and to have someone else run your Power Point presentation, consider going lower-tech for visuals and keeping the focus on yourself. Another consideration for jewelers using Power Point is that you will probably have to bring your own laptop computer to the session. Generally, the speaker leaves the laptop unattended while talking informally with attendees and potential clients after the session. If you maintain business records and client records on your laptop, you create a business risk as well as a security risk for your clients when you leave your laptop unguarded and vulnerable to a quick theft.

Sliding home. A short slide presentation is quite suitable for most groups interested in jewels and jewelry, but limit the slides to one-quarter of your presentation time. Slides allow you to discuss the content requested while making the beauty of gems and jewelry evident. (Just be sure to lock the locking ring on the slide carousel so that you don’t lose your slides in case one becomes jammed and someone in the audience leaps in to “help.”) Use your early arrival to make sure the equipment works, and make sure there’s a spare bulb on hand.

Step up to the microphone. The size of your audience is one factor in determining how—or whether—to use a microphone. A major consideration is the possibility that you have attendees with some degree of hearing impairment. Many speakers assume they can be heard or may ask the audience to raise their hands if they cannot hear. Yet audience members are seldom willing to draw attention to themselves to suggest that they can’t hear when others seemingly can. If your purpose is to create the start of a relationship that may lead to a sale, you’ll do better to use the microphone provided. You may be given a microphone attached to a lectern, limiting your movement, unless you request a lavaliere microphone. Your hosts may not have an A-V budget, so be prepared to offer to pony up the $40-$45 to rent one ahead of time if you’ll be addressing a group of 20 or more. You’ll need a belt or waistband to which the control unit is clipped, and a suit coat or blazer to which the microphone itself can be attached. Choose your outfit for the presentation with these requirements in mind.

Two important tips on using a lavaliere mike: Once the unit is on your body, assume it is broadcasting. Consequently, refrain from private conversation, remarks you don’t want overheard, and trips to the washroom. And once your presentation is over and you are ready for conversations with attendees who come up to the podium to speak with you, remove the whole unit.

Cell phones. Cell phones are a plague for speakers. Decide on your strategy regarding cell phones before you begin the session: request that they be turned off, suggest that they be placed on “vibrate,” or ask that anyone planning to take a call sit near the door so that he can leave the room with a minimum of interruption. Some speakers are inclined to embarrass the person whose cell phone is ringing, but if you want to gain customers from your presentation you’ll do better to help the audience feel they can trust you to treat them respectfully. An announcement regarding cell phones reassures the audience that you are creating a positive environment in which they can learn from you. And, of course, make sure you turn off your own cell phone before you begin to speak.

Door prizes. If your purpose in speaking is in part to generate new contacts and potential business, consider giving a door prize for which you collect business cards or contact information. Make the gift consistent with the potential you see for business from the group. You might give polishing cloths with your logo to everyone in the audience, or hold a drawing for a $300 (or higher-ticket) item from your store. Whatever you choose, use the opportunity to demonstrate your particular commitment—for example, to serving the individual, to artistry, to unusual colored gemstones, or to watches. A well-chosen door prize is an enticing reward for the attendees who give you their contact information. What may be more important is that it provides attendees with a visual indicator of how you do business.

Follow up. You can’t stop after the presentation. Follow up with a letter of thanks to those who attended. How you do business determines whether you opt to simply thank the recipient for attending or whether you enclose some item that will bring them into your store. Some examples are a $25 coupon (with an expiration date) good toward a purchase at your store; a certificate for a free jewelry cleaning or watch battery; or a “Please Remind Me” card that the attendee can return so that you can call him or her when the birthday or anniversary of a loved one is upcoming.

Speaking to community groups is a valued tool to increase both short- and long-term business potential in your community. Make your speaking commitments work for you by treating them with the attention they deserve. In a way, they are as important as the displays in your store: An invitation to speak is a chance for you to take your business into the community … and entice the community to bring its business to you.

Charlotte Preston is president of Charlotte Preston Catalysts, an industry education consulting firm based in White Bear Lake, Minn. Its clients include The JCK Shows in Orlando and Las Vegas, the AGS Conclave, and the AGTA GemFair in Tucson.