To get an audience, you need to sell your programs, and to effectively do that you have to create a need in the customer, and to do that, above all else, you need to be informed and be creative!
To conduct effective fire safety presentations you need to be giving the appropriate presentations and speaking to the right audiences. This does not come easy, as most people do not perceive a need to request a fire safety presentation, especially the people who need it the most, and view fire trucks and firefighters merely as decorations and attractions to a bigger event, or someone to talk to only in October. What better way to get people to come to your social event than to have a fire truck parked outside? Many people view firefighters in this fashion, and while this may mean that your "fire prevention" audience numbers are high, and while on paper it looks like you have an expansive fire safety program, your messages may not be getting to the people who need to hear them. Thus, fire continues to be a problem in our nation.
To get an audience, you need to target them. Targeting an audience means just that, pick them out and go and get them. That may mean starting in your own department and under your own roof with your own people. Targeting an audience means going from the defensive, or waiting for the requests to come in, and going offensive, and searching them out and selling them on setting up a presentation. Keyword: selling!
To get an audience, you need to sell your programs, and to effectively do that you have to create a need in the customer, and to do that, above all else, you need to be informed and be creative! Fire safety messages can be tied into any presentation and request. If a school teacher asks me to talk to her class about why, "Little Bo-Peep lost her sheep," you better believe it was because she didn't practice fire drills with her sheep! Get my point?
Develop and maintain relationships. Don't be that salesman who pesters them once a year in October trying to sell them something they do not feel they need nor have the time for. This will not have the long term affect that you need to effect a fire safety change in your community. Having successful programs means developing and maintaining relationships all year long. Not every request is fire safety orientated, but it is very important that whenever possible, those requests are fulfilled. By being creative, you can tie a fire safety message into everything you do, and by your department being known as a "go-to" department the public can count on, doors will open and the requests will start to pile in. You might be just helping to untangle a flag with your ladder truck from a flag pole in front of the school, but while talking to a now grateful Principal, you can put in a plug for one your programs. The Principal at this point is now in a position to be receptive to what you are saying, and compelled to assist you, because you are helping her. This is more effective than playing phone tag or trying to catch her during a busy day.
Do not be afraid to solicit. When a group comes to our department for fire safety, or has requested a presentation, we maintain their information in a data base, and the next year we send them a reminder or a follow up phone call, that we are available and would love to host their group or visit them again this year. This personal touch really goes a long way in developing those relationships. We often read the "Local Happenings" section of the paper to learn of events and potential audiences, and call to offer our services at their event. Many haven't even thought of including us.
Always keep in mind that every event, regardless of how many people are in attendance, will offer an opportunity to spread your message, and that by delivering that message, you may speak to that one person in the small crowd who will listen and use that information to prevent a fire or to save a life. When scheduling or conducting an event, think in terms of "one life at a time."