The Business Of Speaking

It’s easy, isn’t it, to think that anyone can be a speaker. How hard can it be, after all? We all have opinions. Hopefully we have a mission or two that we care about. If we just had the spotlight on us and our ideas, we’re sure we would soar. Standing ovations every night!

But the actual business of speaking is a bit more complicated than that. The Pandemic has made it even more complicated, at least for the moment. These days, the standing events of past years have become virtual events, or been cancelled entirely. Speakers have had to pivot and figure out how to impact their audiences on Zoom or some other relatively new technological medium. The challenges are enormous.

Even so, speakers All across the world are busy sharpening their message and learning the ropes of the new normal for speakers. Why? Because they know the magic that comes with a great talk to a room full of people. They are fully aware of the lives that are changed in these kinds of moments. Like great musical performances, they can be transformational and unforgettable. They can make us re-think our plans. They can inspire us to forge ahead and do great things. Events like these are worth the trouble. A captive audience sits before you and leaves better for it. Does it get better than that?

If you ever plan on getting out there into the world and sharing your message. Here are six things to keep in mind as you go:

1.  Know your competition-Yes, speaking is a very competitive field. In fact, life is a competitive field, isn’t it? Pay attention to what others are doing and learn from them. The best never rest. They are always looking for an edge, a way to improve. Google top speakers. Watch Ted (and Tedx) talks. Use all of it as a mirror to see yourself and the places that you need to improve.

2.  Be an expert- You’ve no doubt heard the expression “Jack of all trades, master of none.” People pay for your 10,000 hours spent in a particular field. The information one can glean from experts can be very useful. You can’t know everything, so choose something and go deep. As you do, you’ll find that others around you begin to ask for your guidance in that area. Pay attention to that. It’s a sign. John Maxwell says “people don’t pay for average.” It’s definitely true in the speaking and consulting fields. Be great and extremely knowledgeable in one area. You’ll stay busy.

3.  Guard your reputation- We live in a world now where anyone can say anything online about you. Much of the time you will never know you have been blindsided unless you search your name and see what’s out there. It has been said that a good name is better than silver. Absolutely true. Guard your reputation like a lion. It’s your brand. It will make or break you in almost all facets of life. In the speaking world, your reputation speaks for you, one way or the other.

4.  Stand when you can- We are in a pandemic and doing presentations virtually for the most part. It seems like a small thing, but standing rather than sitting creates a connection and says to your audience that you are alert and with them. You wouldn’t drag a chair out on stage in front of a thousand people and do your talk, would you? Treat virtual talks the same.

5.   Understand your sweet spot, timewise- When you first set out to speak, watch your audience and learn to spot indifference. When people start to check out you are done. Over time you will learn what length of time is your particular sweet spot. Make copious notes of each speaking gig and refer to them often. You’ll see a pattern there. You may have time constraints put upon you by the event organizers. That’s OK, too. It still helps to know your sweet spot.

6.  Know your audience- Take the time to do the research on the people you will be speaking to. What organization is brining you in to speak? What are their goals? What kinds of things do they care about? What is the ultimate goal of the event? Who are the attendees? Once you know these things, tailor your talk accordingly.

And, finally, when you do have some “down” moments and trip up a time or two, embrace these lessons as “necessary learning.” I know for a fact, what you learn from a failure, here and there, will school your success!

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