With all the talk these days about marketing via social media, community presentations may seem outmoded. After all, why go through hours of preparation and give up an evening of your time to talk to 30 people, when you could simply post a tweet to hundreds or thousands on your Twitter list, with a fraction of the effort?

The answer is simple: target audience.

Those 30 people are also spending an evening of their time. They are a self-selected audience who are interested in your topic, and are likely to need help or know someone who does. Unlike your twitter followers, they are prepared to pay attention for a good hour, and to remember what you said.

Over the years hundreds of people have contacted me after attending one of my presentations, or were referred by someone who had. But no one has ever said, “I’m here because I read your tweet!”

How soon can I expect referrals?

Sometimes people will come up to you after your talk and ask to schedule an appointment right away. But this is rare.

More likely you’ll hear from people weeks, months, or even years later. Recently a woman who came to her first appointment at my office noted that she had seen me speak at a community presentation twenty years ago. Back then she decided she wanted to see me for therapy, but somehow never got around to it until now.

Thus, you never know how long the idea is going to incubate in people’s minds until they give you a call.

The important thing is to stay on the radar of your target audience – those who are most likely to need the services you provide. That way, when they are finally ready to get help, your name will come to mind.

How to maintain professional visibility in your community

  • Seek opportunities to speak to community groups – service clubs, school groups, religious community groups, sports clubs, etc. The more groups you speak to, the more people you will connect with.
  • Concentrate on people in your target audience. For example, if you want to do a presentation on autism, it’s better to talk to a group of parents who have autistic kids. On the other hand, a talk on depression can appeal to almost any group, since it’s such a common problem.
  • Prepare handouts – one page summaries – that people can post on their fridge or bulletin board. The handouts should be easy to digest, and include your contact information. Much better than a business card to remind them who you are and what you know.
  •  During your presentation invite people to sign up for your mailing list to get more information on your topic.
  •  Get to know media reporters in your area. If you can comment from a mental health perspective on an event in the news, contact them. They may interview you for their report, and quote you as an expert.

Does this mean I should forget about social media?

No. Social media helps you maintain an online presence. When people Google you and see a lot of search results - especially if these results relate to the topic they're interested in, it enhances your credibility as an expert.