Speaking at events is a great way to generate potential business and position yourself as an expert in your field. However, problems usually occur when somebody speaks for free and needs to make money by selling from the stage. Those talks end up being a commercial, simply not valuing the audience’s time or providing any real content.
If you’re already a speaker, or thinking of getting into it, I have put together a collection of 18 tips that may help things go more smoothly for you on stage.
When you try to be someone else on stage, it makes you even more nervous. I dress like me, I talk like me, and I say what I think. I tell stories. That may not be your style. People will try to knock that out of you. Just in the past two days, one person said I should have better ‘‘hygiene’’ and wear a tie (I wear a black shirt and have facial hair). Another person said I was ‘‘over the top’’ with how I speak. What you don’t hear is the silent majority who like you being you and who are relieved that it isn’t another stuffed-up suit and tie on stage; and for some of us, ‘‘over the top’’ means really freaking passionate about what we say. I ain’t changing that for anybody. And neither should you.
Every time you take the stage in front of an audience, you need to be thinking about them. What are they looking for? Where are they in terms of how much they know and understand about your topic? I give a very different talk to a crowd who throws up no hands when I ask, ‘‘Who has a Twitter account?’’ than to a social media club. To make it great for every audience, you need to make it about your audience.
Speakers are a ‘‘nice to have,’’ but experts are a necessity. There is a high demand for people who can both provide content and deliver it effectively from the stage. Some can do one of the two, most don’t do either, and a select few do both. Aim to be great.
If you don’t, your audience won’t, either. You are up on that stage for a reason.
Text them when you get in safely. A less stressed meeting planner/client means a happier one, too. This goes double if you’re the opening keynote the next day.
Record a video shout out to the conference’s potential attendees and let them get to know you. It can be only a minute or two long—just enough to allow the client to use the clip on its blog/site to help generate buzz for the event.
Update stats; bring new examples. Own the content; don’t repeat it. This is especially true in a field like social media, where what ‘‘we know’’ is changing so quickly. You really need to be on top of things. Setting up a Google Alert on different topics will ensure you know about current related news stories and events. If you’ve given a certain presentation numerous times and feel it’s routine, either change it up or trash it. It may be the 20th time you’ve told a story, but it’s the first time that audience has heard it.
If the conference has a #hashtag on Twitter, start finding people who are going to be there by searching with it. Talk to them, build relationships, and then track them down at the event to say hi. It’ll be like you already know them, because you do.
Watch Twitter for mentions of your talk and let people know you appreciate them spreading your word. Post helpful tips that have to do with your content by using the same hashtag for the conference. It’s a great way to connect with your audience and also find out what kind of things they are looking for in your talk.
It is always great to leave time for questions and/or feedback from the audience. You don’t want to have to rush off stage. Getting to know the audience beforehand and talking to them afterward to answer questions is a forgotten thing that brings the highest value.
Slides are there as navigation points, not to be the content. If everything you say is on your slides, you’ve rendered yourself useless. Speak; don’t read. You should also be prepared to present without slides in case something goes wrong.
And then do it on purpose. Speakers are at their best during Q&A because they’re not handcuffed to a slide. Think about that.
If you start every point with ‘‘In my book ...,’’ you’re doing a commercial, not a seminar. The best way to sell is to teach. I’m not saying ignore that you have a book, just simmer down a bit; we heard you the first five times.
You’re not their parent. Don’t tell them to put phones away; just ask as a courtesy to put the ringer on silent. I don’t understand speakers who tell audiences they can’t text or tweet during a talk. Make your content so good that people feel they have to tell others right away but great enough that they don’t want to miss a word.
Share the video on your blog and watch it yourself. Learn from it. This takes a single talk and makes it evergreen and scalable.
Don’t just assume the organizer will send one.
Once you start speaking, you are going to want to keep those talks coming. Social media is a great tool for getting the word out. Share videos; get to know other speakers online. Learn about conferences and get out and attend them.
As with all parts of our businesses, let’s remember to focus on what our audience or customers are looking for and be the one they look to when they need it.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc., from The Book of Business Awesome / The Book of Business UnAwesome by Scott Stratten (c) 2012 Scott Stratten.
Follow Scott on twitter at @unmarketing.
[Image: Flickr user Bryan Rosengrant]