Many people say they would like to do more public speaking. Many people bill themselves as Public Speakers. Many people would like to be represented by a speaker's bureau. Here are some thoughts to consider first...
Let me start off with some context: I am represented by two speaking bureaus (Speaker's Spotlight and Greater Talent Network). I give about 70 presentations a year. I also sit on the organizing committee for many events and I am frequently called upon to help groups choose speakers. Basically, I am often involved on both sides of the speaking business.
Now, to the challenge for speakers and wannabe-speakers: it's easy to say, "so and so can speak," but just because someone can speak (or wants to, or has done so in the past) it does not necessarily mean that they can present and hold an audience through an entire session or even as part of a panel discussion. Some of the best entrepreneurs and businesspeople with the most amazing success stories can be great communicators but terrible presenters. Speaking in public is an art form that takes time, preparation, practice and experience to master. A desire to do it is simply not enough (but, it is a great starting point).
The truth is that people wanting to speak need to amp up their skills in this space (both in presenting and marketing themselves).
I've seen people read from paper nervously, fumble through their slides, lean on podiums, have their hands stuffed into their pockets, mumble, and - in general - be totally unprepared. When organizers are putting up money and selling tickets, gender, diversity, etc... goes out the window if the content (re: presenters) don't knock it out of the park and deliver value to the paying customers.
Here's the good news...
Very few people are actually amazing at presenting - leaving tons of room for those interested to train, practice, film yourself, post it on YouTube and get your presentation skills in front of those organizers.
Here's the bad news...
Most people who say that they are willing to be speakers (and even those who claim to be speakers) don't have much information about their speaking on their Blogs, websites, etc... So, even if people now know you would like to speak, how would they be able to find you and then see what you speak about it? Everything changed for me in speaking the minute we (Twist Image) set-up a speaker's page (Tara Hunt has a great one too).
Here's what you need on a speaking page:
- a bio that is about your speaking.
- a clear statement about the topics you cover (i.e. Digital Marketing, Personal Branding and Social Media).
- a list of topics (with catchy titles) and what the attendee will learn with an abstract about each session.
- a video demo of you live and in action.
- pictures of you speaking live - again, in action.
- testimonials from organizations that the potential client can relate to.
- a list of companies/organization you have previously spoken for.
Like anything else, people can't buy from you unless they know you're alive. They're not going to figure it out on their own.
The trick is to make it simple. More importantly, give conference organizers something they can go back to their organizing committee with, so that they are all on the same page. When I am on the other side of the coin (organizing committee), and I don't see this type of content from a speaker, it concerns me because I wonder to myself, "how professional can this person be if they have no testimonials or a video sample of them doing what they say they can do?" It would almost be like not having a portfolio section on your corporate website if you're an advertising agency.
The truth is that you don't have to be the most amazing speaker, but you do have to be professional, prepared and able to hold an audience by keeping them interested (even if you're just sitting on a panel discussion). If you can't prove that you can do this on a simple webpage, do you really think a conference organizer is going to roll the dice on you?
In the end, it's about letting people know that you are a speaker (or interested in taking part in a panel) in the first place and having the content to back up your desire to speak.
If you do all of the above and the speaking opportunities are not coming in, you should definitely try working with a public speaking coach or joining your local Toastmasters. This way you'll be able to better work out why the requests are not streaming in (it usually has to do with either the content, presentation skills or a combination of the two).
At the very least, check out these three books:
- Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.
- Give Your Speech, Change The World by Nick Morgan.
- Slide-ology by Nancy Duarte.
(this post was inspired by this conversation: One Degree - Why Aren't You On The Roster?).