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Common Questions and Answers
Sure public speaking is people’s #1 fear. It beats out scary things like death and spiders. And yet, that doesn’t stop many from wanting to grab the mic and share their thoughts. As a speaker, I can tell you that one of the very few things more exhilarating than wowing an audience is cashing the check to do so.
So how do you get started? I can tell you how I did. And I know this worked for a few of my friends in the business. While I can assure you this is tried and true, I can also assure you, your mileage will vary.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill. What have you spent 10,000 hours doing that others might like to learn about? This is where you start. Aristotle said it best “Where your talents and the needs of the worlds cross, there lies your vocation”.
This may seem early in the cycle, but understand life works best when we co-create it. We need to see our desired outcomes in our mind long before we see them in our reality. Become very focused on the idea of being a speaker. Visualize yourself standing in front of a smiling audience. How big is it? What are you telling them? Did they applaud when you finished? Hold that intention. Oh, and don’t forget to picture being handed the check 😉
This has gotten so much easier to do since blogging and social media have become so rampant. Take what you know and post about it. It could be as simple as sharing status updates or as detailed as lengthy blog posts or even a book (book not required, but helpful). From my understanding people like lists…you know like top 11 things you need to know about being a paid speaker kind of lists.
You don’t have to do it ALL the time but every once in a while add a sentence to a blog post or status update like “I would really enjoy sharing this knowledge in a presentation” or “I have working on a great PowerPoint presentation for this”. Plant the seed that you want to speak and you’ll be surprised how many people know of opportunities to do so.
If you’ve done the first four steps, this fifth one will come to you naturally. Chambers of commerce, Rotary clubs, networking groups, professional associations, Libraries and more are looking for people to share content. AND YOU WANT TO SHARE CONTENT. What a great combination. When they invite you to speak, say yes. For the first few times. This will get you the practice, feedback and the confidence you need to start asking to get paid.
Take all that content you’ve shared and start building a presentation around it. There are some of you who will have already built the presentation. And that’s okay. Me? I waited until the day before. Your behavior will be similar to how you handled those month long assignments in high school. Whatever the case, make sure IF you’re doing a visual presentation to NOT read the material on the screen. That’s not a good way to get invited to speak again. Use your visual aids to either re-enforce your point OR to keep you on track.
For a few people speaking is more natural than riding a bike. The rest of us will likely need some training wheels. A little wisdom from Harvey Mackay is appropriate: “The Best way to sound like you know what you’re talking about is to know what you’re talking about”.
There are three main keys to wowing your audience: Interesting, Relevant and Inspiring. The higher you score on these three, the better. The goal of any great presentation is to hold the audience’s interest. You do so by mixing up your vocals (speech rate, volume, tone) body position (move around a little) and visuals (have great slides if you’re going to use them). Is your talk relevant to your audience? It can be very difficult to match your talk to a general audience such as Rotary if your talk is highly technical. Try to save the stuff that will impress your colleagues for when you’re actually speaking to them. Did your talk inspire them to take action, to think differently or to share your thesis with others? An easy way to make sure the audience does something is to have a strong call to action…tell them what you want them to do. (author’s note, let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on this in another post).
Before you start ask a few of the “friendlies” in the audience if they wouldn’t mind taking a photo or three of you. At the conclusion of your talk, before you sit down, and possibly before you even make your final point you need to ask the audience for: 1. Feedback- some groups rank the speaker as a course of action. If you are not in such a group (best to ask when accepting if they have a comment card for speakers) you may want to create your own in advance. 2. Further Discussion- Invite anyone who would like to discuss your talk further to come up and give you their card. 3. Referrals- Ask the audience if anyone knows of any other group that would be interested in hearing this presentation (invite them to give you their card as well. PRO TIP: Always get their card).
Use the photos, comments and other feedback as additional fodder for your social channels. Posting something like “I’m so excited, I just finished giving a talk about Z to Q and got some really good feedback” will illicit some great responses. It will also keep spreading that seed about you as a speaker.
Only you will know when you’re ready to ask this, but if you truly intend to be a paid speaker, YOU WILL HAVE TO ASK IT AT SOME POINT. The question is very simple and you can ask it in a couple of ways: “Do you have a budget for speakers”? OR more directly, “What is your budget for speakers”? The latter assumes that they do and that they know they are going to pay you. Sometimes people will say no. And that’s okay, at first. More exposure gives you more opportunity to get paid.
What would you add to this list?
As I read through it I think of other topics needing to be covered:
How a book helps you book more gigs
How do I negotiate my speaking price?
Steps to delivering a GREAT presentation
Anything else I should consider?
About the author