public speaking reaps big benefits for gardeners

Public speaking at garden clubs, nurseries and more can reap big benefits for garden coaches.

This is a guest post from garden coach and author Colleen Dieter.

As garden coaches we are targeting DIYers, which requires a different type of marketing from other businesses in the green industry. Your town may have a number of garden clubs, neighborhood groups and garden centers who are looking for speakers. Many of these groups actually struggle to find interesting, qualified speakers in an industry that is full of people who love plants but aren’t always very social.

Some of my customers have said that they wanted some advice for their yards but they weren’t sure who to turn to. So they decided to attend one of my talks at a local nursery to see if they liked me.

Doing talks at local nurseries and for garden clubs gives potential customers a chance to meet you in person and connect with them personally in a way that is very special and unique from other types of marketing. They get a first-hand experience of your expertise and they get to see that you are approachable and friendly. Sometimes people who attend these events may not know what a garden coach is. They don’t realize that they need that service until they get first-hand experience learning from a garden expert. During the talk many people think “Wow, this person is really knowledgeable. I should have them come to my yard”.

To get speaking gigs I network with people in local garden clubs. When I finish an event at a garden club I will email the person who invited me to speak and ask them to send my contact info to their membership. I will also mention during my talk and in the follow up email that I do a lot of public speaking and that I am available to talk on a variety of topics.  That way if one of the members of that group are in other garden clubs or neighborhood groups they might invite me to speak to those other groups. Public speaking naturally leads to more public speaking.

Sometimes those neighborhood groups will also have a neighborhood newsletter and someone will write a blurb about my talk in the newsletter. I’ve gotten some customers who didn’t even come to the speaking event but saw my name in the neighborhood newsletter.

The important thing for you as a coach is to make sure that the group you’re speaking to is well organized so that you don’t waste your time. If you’re speaking to a new group that is loosely organized or at a garden center that’s never had speakers before, there’s a risk that very few people will attend. That has happened to me a few times.

Keep in mind that often you’ll be speaking outdoors with limited access to technology. PowerPoint presentations are not optimal when speaking to gardening audiences.

I prefer instead to do “show and tell” talks. For example, one of my favorite talks is about garden tools. I bring a large variety of tools to show and do a tool sharpening demonstration. I ask participants to share their thoughts on their favorite tools and the talk becomes more of a discussion than a lecture. This takes the pressure off of me to “perform” and the event becomes more like a  conversation among friends.

This type of interactive experience has a stronger impact on an audience. They really get to know you more than if you show them slides and just lecture to them. Plus you don’t have to make time to put together a presentation or spend resources on technology that might not work anyway.

I often do talks about various types of pruning. I will use a dry erase board to draw sketches of the plants and show which branches to cut.

If design is more your thing, you might laminate some photos or diagrams and pass those around to the audience as visual aids.

Be sure to take some time to explain your services in-depth at the start of the talk when folks are still paying full attention.

Give the participants a little “take away” with your contact info on it and a short explanation of your services. I hand out a sheet of paper with a list of plants that I recommend. No matter what the topic of the class, people like having that list and it engages them more than a business card or a brochure. It demonstrates my expertise and everyone walks away with my contact info in their hands.

Keep in mind that all of this is free! Many garden clubs and venues will pay you to speak as well. Just ask if they can pay you when they invite you. Those paid gigs are pretty sweet!

Colleen Dieter is owner of Red Wheelbarrow Landscape Consulting, and is a passionate and pragmatic horticulturalist. Colleen enjoys sharing her expertise while addressing each client’s specific needs. Her primary goals for every job are to establish a comfortable rapport with clients where they feel their voices are heard. She believes that our yards are an extension of our homes, financially and emotionally, and takes to heart her role to help increase each property’s value as well as enhance the client’s peace of mind. Learn more at www.redwheelbarrowplants.com.

Photo credit: JBLM PAO on Flickr via the Creative Commons License

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