As a speaker and conference producer I get a lot of questions about how to break into speaking, what makes a speaker great, how to stand out as a speaker and what to avoid when speaking. Because this is such a common topic I figured it would make for a great Top Ten Tuesday. If you have any tips, tricks, advice etc…. please leave a comment!
1- Do Your Research
If you’re looking to speak at an event the very first thing you should do is research. There are hundreds of social media events that cover countless topics. As a speaker you want to be sure you’re presenting at an event that’s a good fit. Who is the audience and will they gain valuable lessons from what you have to teach? In addition one should consider how much time, energy and effort is required in order to present. Would you prefer to speak on a panel, co-present, run a workshop or keynote? How much time does the event give you to present? Each even is unique and a good deal of research should be put into figuring out if it’s the right one for you and your message.
2- Be Selective
Speaking can be a lot of fun and it can be tempting to say “YES” to every speaker invitation that lands in your in-box. As more and more conferences pop up you could find yourself completely consumed by speaking at events. Very few speakers are lucky enough to make a living from presenting keynotes, but the rest of us have to continue our full time jobs. Keep this in mind and limit the number of presentations you give.
3- Be Prepared
You’ve researched and found the perfect event to speak at and now it’s time to pull your sleeves up and do the hard work. If you want to gain a reputation as a great speaker it’s key you come well prepared. Know the topic you’re presenting on, research up until the day you present and put together a clear, concise and easy to follow presentation. Nothing is worse than a speaker who shows up unprepared!
4- Gauge Your Audience
Part of your preparation should include finding out who your audience will be. Hopefully the event has a producer who is easy to work with. Ask lots of questions and you will be able to craft a concise presentation. If you know you’re presenting to a room full of CMO, CEO and CTO’s you’ll be ready for those hard hitting questions. If, instead, your presenting to a room full of new hires who are not very familiar with social media and how to use it for their organization you may have to keep things a bit more basic. Don’t wait until the day you show up to gauge the audience. Again, be prepared and you’re sure to be a hit.
5- Be Appropriate
This is a tricky one. Many social media presenters do very well being edgy but not every speaker can pull this off. When in doubt keep it PG and you’ll avoid offending anyone. Same thing goes for attire. I’ve seen speakers show up in shorts and sandals and pull it off but if you want my opinion keep it business casual, at a minimum. Yes, social media is fun, creative and fresh but we are still all professionals and the safest way to avoid offending is to skip the shorts and sandals.
6- Speak Up
No matter how wise your message if the audience can’t hear you it doesn’t count for much. If you have a microphone, speak into it, and be careful about turning your head to read screens if you’re wearing a lavaliere. Many events will have monitors for speakers to read their slides but you can always print your slides out and bring them with you, have your computer opened to your slides or just be aware that you should not speak as your head is turned away from the audience.
7- Organized & Easy to Follow
Being organized is key. If your message is all over the place, you don’t follow your slides or you just don’t have a clear path when presenting your audience will undoubtedly get lost. Once their lost it will be very difficult to get them back. Organization can be difficult when presenting on a topic you know inside and out. Just keep in mind that most, if not all, of your audience does not know the subject inside and out. Walk them through your presentation in a clear and concise order.
8- Be Aware
Although you research, prepare and get organized be ready to throw it all the the wind if your audience isn’t interested. A true professional speaker is one who can read their audience and make adjustments accordingly.
9- Confidence is King
No matter how nervous you are on the inside always show the audience you’re confident. There’s a reason why you’ve been selected to speak so trust that you belong on stage. Social Media is a difficult topic to speak on because no one is every a true “expert”. Some of the people will agree with you, some will disagree and others will be left confused. It’s nearly impossible to please everyone so be secure in the knowledge that you do know what you’re talking about.
10- Get Feedback
There is not one speaker in this entire world who couldn’t improve. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to better your presentations. If your presentation doesn’t change and grow each time you give it then it’s time to consider stepping down as a speaker. We are all always learning and one of the most important parts of being a speaker is receiving feedback. Those conferences that provide speakers with feedback are the ones you should continue to speak at. They will help you fine tune your skills and grow.
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