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Inside Dental Technology
August 2023
Volume 14, Issue 8

Take Your Seat at the Table

How public speaking ignited the growth of my small start-up laboratory

Jillian Swafford

Attending my first group gathering after entering the industry was terrifying and exciting. I sat there desperately trying to retain all the information being fed to me via a fire hose, eager to hear more, terrified to say the wrong thing, and desperately trying not to look like a newcomer. But during that first summit, the vision became clear, and goals were set. I would be on that stage at a future summit. That goal was achieved just 8 months later at Lab Day Chicago when I gave my first lecture. It was focused solely on my story of opening a laboratory with the power of digital dentistry. The big takeaway line from that lecture was, "If I can do this in a tomato field, with no previous dental laboratory experience and no traffic lights in my town, then so can you."

This article's goal is to take you through the how and why of public speaking in the dental laboratory industry, highlight the pros and cons, and show how it can impact the growth of your dental laboratory as it has mine. In this industry, the ability to effectively communicate ideas, build relationships, and showcase expertise is essential for professional growth and business success. This is especially true for small dental laboratories looking to gain exposure and compete in the industry. Let's explore the benefits of public speaking in the industry and how it helps drive business growth, particularly for small laboratories seeking to increase their visibility.

Establishing Credibility

 For both small and large laboratories alike, public speaking provides a unique opportunity to establish themselves as credible experts in their specialized areas. By sharing their knowledge, insights, and experiences at industry conferences, seminars, and workshops, they can showcase their expertise regardless of their size. This positions them as reliable and knowledgeable providers in their niche, earning the trust and respect of potential clients and partners. Being recognized as a credible authority in the field can significantly contribute to the growth and success of a small dental laboratory.

This was so important in my journey, as I had no experience outside of 15 years in the general dental office. Instead of focusing on my inadequacies in certain areas, I chose to focus on what made me different from many of the laboratories and laboratory owners I was meeting. I knew the dental office side: how to speak to them, how they operated, and their inner workings. This was my way in, my way to separate myself from the crowd and to build my credibility. Find yours and run with it.

Building a Strong Network

Public speaking engagements not only allow one to connect with industry peers but also provide a platform to connect with potential customers and key stakeholders. Laboratories can leverage speaking opportunities at conferences or industry events to meet like-minded professionals, exchange ideas, and build valuable relationships. By actively participating in these events, laboratories can expand their network, connect with influential individuals, and create opportunities for collaborations, referrals, and partnerships. Building a strong network is especially crucial for small laboratories seeking exposure and working to attract new business.

If you have ever heard me speak, you know that you will be repeatedly reminded not to sit with the same people every time in your safe corner. Utilize the time out of the laboratory to expand your network. This has proved crucial to my laboratory's business growth. By meeting new people, we have been able to have our work shared on social media, and we have collaborated with businesses we didn't know existed, been invited to headquarters, and been introduced to new products before their launches. This wasn't because of my legacy ties or long-standing previous relationships; this comes from sitting at new tables, introducing myself to leaders, and surrounding myself with other visionaries. Often you will learn more networking at the dinner tables than you will attending the lectures. This step is invaluable.

Increasing Brand Awareness

For any dental laboratory, building brand awareness is crucial to gaining exposure and attracting new clients. Public speaking engagements serve as a powerful marketing tool, allowing laboratories to enhance their brand visibility. By presenting at industry events, technicians can reach a wider audience, including potential clients, dental professionals, and decision-makers. This exposure not only increases brand recognition but also fosters trust and credibility. Small laboratories can strategically position themselves as specialized providers, focusing on their unique strengths and competitive advantages. Through public speaking, laboratories can amplify their brand message, raise awareness, and establish themselves as go-to experts in their field.

This is where we started seeing the dividends of our labor. Being on the speaker circuit is tiring. It isn't always the glamorous life that you see on social media or in stories; often it is dealing with lost luggage, computers malfunctioning, and jumping cross country at the last minute while designing cases during a delay at the airport. Still, the benefits of brand awareness by speaking have helped grow our laboratory significantly. When potential clients see the face of your brand collaborating with other well-established brands and companies, they begin to build rapport with you before they even speak to you. Because they trust the company you are working with, they already feel they can trust you. Don't underestimate your brand's influence because it is huge.

Driving Business Growth

Public speaking engagements provide small dental laboratories with a direct avenue to generate leads and drive business growth. By effectively conveying their expertise and unique value proposition, they can inspire confidence and interest in their services. This exposure often leads to direct inquiries, collaborations, and partnerships, resulting in increased business opportunities and revenue growth. For small laboratories, every opportunity to showcase their skills and capabilities is valuable, and public speaking engagements provide a targeted platform to reach potential clients and industry influencers. By seizing these opportunities, small laboratories can gain traction in the market, expand their customer base, and drive sustainable business growth.

Just this past week, I began working with a client who felt they knew me before they did, all because of social media and previous speaking engagements they had seen me promote through my Instagram account. I still have a small laboratory of four people (by design), yet our clients don't look at us as inferior or less capable of doing the work for them because we are considered experts in our field, industry influencers, and known beta testers for companies. These collaborations and partnerships directly affect our sales. We have experienced double growth in some years and this year alone we are looking at a 40% increase in our year-to-date sales compared to 2022. I did more speaking engagements in the last year and the first part of this year than any year previous; these growths go hand in hand.


In the competitive realm of dental laboratory technology, public speaking presents a host of benefits for professionals aiming to grow their businesses. For small dental laboratories, it offers a powerful means of gaining exposure, establishing credibility, and driving business growth. By leveraging public speaking engagements to showcase expertise, build a strong network, and increase brand awareness, small laboratories can compete with larger counterparts and position themselves as go-to experts in their specialized areas. Embracing public speaking empowers small dental laboratories to overcome their size limitations and unlock new opportunities, ultimately fueling their growth and success in the industry.

Never be afraid to pull up a seat at the table. There is room for us all. If you are looking to grow your laboratory, start exploring, collaborating, and expanding that network. Know that the companies that you trust and love are looking for talented technicians every day; the opportunities are out there, but it is up to you to take them.

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