For many product or brand managers, agency C-suite executives, and small business owners, public speaking is a notch on the "Advancing the Brand" belt of objectives. And for good reason.
Whether used to promote a company report or in-house expertise, or simply to engender brand awareness, public speaking is a powerful—and often economical and organic—way to get your message to key influencers and decision-makers.
So, why do so many speakers sabotage their own results or only weakly pursue their objectives? Perhaps because of a lack of understanding of the organizational and marketing side of public speaking? If so, let's work on that.
Public Speaking's Cost of Entry
Many active and emerging speakers have a grasp of the "gimme" requirements for being featured in a webinar or group panel. Criteria such as the following are the cost of entry:
- Possess expertise in and demonstrated knowledge of a category or subject.
- Have a pleasant speaking voice well suited for groups and large venues.
- Consistently use good grammar and diction (orally and in written materials).
- Study human behavior; know how to read audience silence and reactions.
- Possess quick-thinking skills and the ability to shift or skip ahead in content if necessary.
- Escort your audience along the path to understanding via your storytelling abilities.
Bonus: Entertain the audience (be clever, with a light touch of humor), and effectively apply the art of self-deprecation as an ice-breaker tactic.
Three Habits of Successful Speakers
Of course, great public speaking involves taking other, less glamorous (or maybe less obvious) and often neglected, steps.
Those who work in event management or as program coordinators look for folks who have certain habits as well. (And those event coordinators talk to one another. Referrals and recommendations carry weight!). They want speakers who...
- Read all communications thoroughly. If the handler makes two statements and asks four questions in an email, good speakers reply accordingly and promptly. Even if you don't immediately understand how the questions are relevant, they are probably important to the backend workings.
- Adhere to format and style requirements. Though you may already have 80% of your deck (in terms of content) scattered across four PowerPoint presentations, be mindful when pulling the slides together to form a new file. With an objective eye, evaluate how well the slides "hang" together. If you were asked to use a specific branded template, for example, be sure to stay within any live-area constraints. (Don't let your full-slide graphics overlay the borders of the design.)
- Act as their own quality-assurance department. Remember, only a small subset of professionals know what you know. That's one of the reasons you should edit your slides carefully before handing in your deck. The event coordinator may not catch a misspelling, detect an outdated statistic, or judge whether an example or reference is clear for the expected audience.
How to Get Your Speaking Train Rolling
So, now you know what it takes to have presenter potential—innate qualities, learned behavior, and basic habits.
The following three tips may help you gain valuable momentum to move from occasional-speaker status to frequent-speaker status, and nail some of your own objectives.
1. Be easily found
Include a speaking page on your website and specific speaking-related language on your LinkedIn profile
Surprisingly, many people who are receptive to the idea of speaking don't convey that in the two primary venues where events people prowl for talent.
Make it easy for them; include your email, phone number, and Skype contact information on your speaking page. Link to samples of handouts from past presentations, embed decks from SlideShare, post video snippets, and sample some testimonials from attendees. If possible, list the events (and dates) you keynoted or co-presented.
2. Be forward
Once you've spoken (and you've gotten positive feedback), be frank with the event coordinator.
Explain that you're anxious to strengthen your pedigree, and ask whether she'd be comfortable endorsing you on LinkedIn or SpeakerMix. Request audience feedback so you have an opportunity to keep refining as you iterate.
3. Be willing to share
Assuming your speaking agreement allows, share your deck with your blog readers, fold it into your email marketing program, link to it on SlideShare from your LinkedIn profile, post the link to your brand Facebook page, and tweet your blog post with the embedded deck.
Check with your local chapters of professional and trade groups to see whether any opportunities are available to share your work with members of those groups. Sometimes those groups are hungry for content, and you may just satisfy their need.
Also, if you have a reciprocal arrangement with a few industry blog owners, consider ways to repurpose your deck and blog post to their organic audiences by diving deeper, changing the approach, or leading with a tangential element from the deck. The intent is to keep the content fresh (and not duplicated) for all readers while maximizing the built-in communities owned by your peers.
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Good public speakers have more than a deep knowledge base and an awesome radio voice. They understand the operational and logistical needs of the host organization, and they work collaboratively to produce the event. And those speakers have the savvy to market themselves so that opportunity comes knocking.
Have you grown from being a newbie to being a savvy speaker? What lessons did you learn along the way, and what suggestions might you have for others?