The need to be present

One of the biggest challenges that small businesses face is getting in front of their customers. Last week, I was chatting to a contact who was interested in my public speaking experience and wanted to know how I’d made a success of it. The truth is that it was entirely word of mouth contacts! Despite having worked in marketing for several years, I used to gain enough business through face-to-face conversations and personal references not to need to worry about an automated marketing system to bring in the money.

For me, it all came back to the need to be present. It was no good simply to exist – I wasn’t well known enough to have business walking in through the door – no, instead, I had to be present and articulate within earshot of my potential clients. When I first started out, I was living in Oxford, and there was surprisingly fierce competition for public speaking coaches.

Two of my biggest competitors were a national award winner and a lady who ran courses costing hundreds of pounds (which rumour had it were always fully booked!). Back in those days, I had nothing more to my name than, well, my name!

Winning clients

The first thing I embarked on was a personal programme of ‘being present’. I made it a goal to attend as many local speaking events as possible – to network with as many local entrepreneurs as I could find and simply get my name and expertise in front of as many people as humanly possible.

The second challenge I set myself was to present a credible, considered public image. It was no good saying that the key to public speaking was, say, confidence if the next day I turned around and said it was preparation. No, I had to be consistent in what I was telling people was the key to unlocking their public speaking potential.

Finally, I decided that I couldn’t afford to tell the world that I’d not done this before – I simply had to start doing it. Now, this didn’t mean that I set about pretending I’d won awards, or that I’d been running coaching for years, but simply that I’d make it clear that I could do it. I’d talk about the benefits of my approach and let them make the decision as to whether to engage me, rather than putting them off with a half-hearted “Well, I haven’t actually ever coached someone before”.

At first, it was little more than basic conversations with people, but as weeks went by and I bumped into them time and time again, the interest began to build and I started to build a real pipeline of potential clients.


Last month, I released an article on LinkedIn about the fearful producer. I won’t get into all the details here (interested parties can see the original article here) but the crux of the article was essentially saying that unless you’re consistently present in front of your audience, you stand no chance of getting your message across.

This might sound a little obvious, but so many marketers fail to recognise the truth in it – to win work, you first have to be present!

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