For any financial advisor, finding qualified prospects is a never-ending challenge. One smart technique involves getting out and speaking at local organizations -- Chamber of Commerce, business networking groups and civic organizations -- to reach a greater audience.

As an estate planning specialist, I have been giving presentations for the last 23 years; I speak two to three times per month for 10 months out of the year. In the process, I have learned how to effectively use these speaking events to expand my own business.

For advisors who say they just don't know how to get started, here are a few key ways to jump-start your speaking efforts and use them to prospect clients.

1. FIND THE OPPORTUNITIES

Every community has numerous groups that are in need of speakers for their meetings. Make a list of the organizations in your area -- a list that can include your local Chamber of Commerce (and any of its subgroups -- for women, young entrepreneurs, etc.) as well as Lions Club, Rotary Club, BNI networking groups and any business-oriented Meetups.

Local colleges and adult education programs also tend to have financial and business classes geared for adults who are seeking specialized knowledge, and the instructors of these classes often bring in guest speakers. Additionally, state universities often have business development centers onsite that provide management advice, training and information to local business owners; these also tend to run specialized workshops or seminars that require guest speakers.

The key in targeting colleges is to ensure that the group you'd be addressing consists of established adults seeking targeted information, rather than students taking the class for credit.

2. IDENTIFY YOUR TOPICS

You don't have to create an entire presentation yet, but jot down some topics that you feel you could comfortably talk about to a group. Not sure what to talk about? Reflect on your most recent interactions with clients and prospects. What questions do they routinely ask you? What areas do they seem most concerned about? Bingo: Those are your topics.

If you're really stuck and can't think of anything, ask the practice management team at your custodian or broker-dealer whether they have any pre-made presentations. They often do, complete with slides and talking points.

3. REACH OUT

Now that you have a list of local organizations and some speaking topics in mind, look up each organization online to find out the name and contact information for the group leader. If the organization is large enough, you can also look for a title like "educational coordinator" -- someone who is charged with finding speakers for the meetings.

Reach out to these people and let them know you're a local financial planner who has information that will help their members. For example, you could say something like:

"I'm a local financial advisor. I'm sure many of your members are wondering what steps they should take to ensure they'll have enough money to retire one day. I have some strategies I'd like to share with them that will help clear some of their confusion and ease their financial worries. For example, I'm often asked … [then list some of the questions/topics you came up with]. May I do a free informational presentation on one of these topics to your group?"

The key is to highlight how you'll help their members, rather than touting how great you are.

4. CREATE THE PRESENTATION

Only now do you have to start nailing down the details of your presentation. (And of course, once you've done this a few times, you'll have an existing presentation that should only require minor revisions.)

First off, keep in mind that most presentations are short -- 20 minutes or less. Start with a catchy opening, such as a story that your audience can relate to or a shocking fact or data trend. (Unless you moonlight as a standup comic, avoid trying to open with a joke. Humor often backfires.)

After your opening remarks, move on to focus on three main points related to the topic. And allow some time for Q&A at the end -- I'd suggest five minutes for a 20-minute presentation.

After the final question, close your presentation with a call to action -- I like to create a bulleted list of takeaways for the audience. Make sure your contact information is on the sheet.

As you create your content, make sure you are sharing information -- not selling yourself. Give your audience valuable tips that will really help them. That's what will engage them and encourage them to work with you.

5. COLLECT THE LEADS

As you wrap up, give your audience a reason to connect with you. As you present your list of takeaways, for instance, say something like, "I have a longer tip sheet of 10 common financial planning mistakes" -- or something else related to your topic -- "that I'd like to give you. If you're interested in receiving it for free, just give me your business card and I'll email it to you after today's presentation."

In most cases, you'll get lots of takers. Be sure to send them what you promised and then add their information to your list for future marketing efforts. You now have an email list of prime prospects.

Kris Miller is an estate planning specialist and certified senior advisor in Hemet, Calif.

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