What’s the formula for building a sustainable career as a speaker in the fast growing cannabinoid industry? After putting on 24 successful conferences (CBD Expo, Extraction Expo and more) I’ve seen the good, the bad, the successful and the struggling speakers. I’ve seen what speakers do on the stage to have business lined up when their session closes. I’ve seen people speaking drunk, high, and running on stage 2 minutes after valet lost their car. I’ve seen it all.
Most advice out there tells you to spend a ton of time building your personal brand to generate more speaking opportunities. Write a blog, record podcasts, post on Instagram, and upload to YouTube. You share your expertise and insight freely. All of that hard work might get you one gig. But if you’ve been in the industry long enough, you know that you don’t actually get speaking gigs, you earn them. And you earn them by being referable.
In this article, I’ll share with you why you need to stop investing in marketing yourself as a great speaker and start investing in your speech. Because, unless you’re famous, event organizers won’t buy you (or your personal brand). They’ll buy your speech, then your idea, then you―in that order.
Re-read the above.
Now that you know topic is key, presentation is important as well. Public speaking is a skill that comes more naturally to some than to others, and there are some common pitfalls to avoid, such as seeming disorganized or looking down at notes rather than at your audience. Regardless of how practiced you may be at public speaking, there are some very effective strategies to use to deliver engaging talks. The next time you have a speaking engagement, try these tips to deliver your message like a TED Talk presenter:
- Know your audience.
Keep in mind whom you are going to be addressing when you craft your presentation. Is the audience going to be mainly fellow health care professionals, other professional groups, business owners or consumers? What do they want and need to hear? Knowing whom you are speaking to will help you tailor the talk and will help keep the audience engaged.
- Keep it simple, especially if you’re going to give a talk to a general audience.
People have a tendency to give presentations the audience doesn’t understand. I suggest giving a talk that makes people feel like they’re smart and like they want to learn more about the topic. The curse of knowledge is that once you know something, you forget what it was like when you didn’t know it. I imagine that I’m going to present to my grandmother, who had a fifth-grade education.
- Emphasize connection over content.
To best engage listeners, build your speech from an emotional place rather than from the content. Rattling off facts and figures and talking at the audience isn’t effective if they aren’t interested in what you are saying. Be clear about what you want the audience to walk away with when they leave and use that intent as a structure to frame your talk. Your passion for a topic can draw people in; talking without any enthusiasm for the topic can deplete energy in the room and eclipse your message. Talk to persuade, not just to inform.
- Be authentic.
Some speakers may try to sound like someone they admire instead of being themselves. Authenticity—sounding like yourself and using everyday language—is key to getting your message across to an audience. Write like you talk, present like you talk.
- Diversify your delivery.
People don’t learn just by listening—different people learn in different ways. Unless it’s a panel you are on, use visual tools (such as slides or a video), incorporate research and tell stories. Anecdotes can be a particularly effective way to connect with an audience. It could be a story about yourself, especially if you’re using humor and making fun of yourself. One important tip to keep in mind about multimedia presentations: Don’t let the technology obscure what you’re trying to say. PowerPoint is incredibly powerful, but use it to get halfway there, rather than expecting it to do the whole job for you.
- Shake it up.
Another reason to use different media in your talk is to make it more dynamic and compelling. Using mixed media creates energy and vibrancy. Think about ways to use slides, video, audio, handouts, props and even spontaneous smartphone polls to engage your audience. You might, for instance, start with a video and then use powerful images later in your talk. Or you can begin with an engrossing question and use the audience feedback as data with polling software such as Poll Everywhere.
- Stick to your points.
Before you talk, determine your main points and outline them. Some people refer to notes on stage while others may use PowerPoint or Keynote slides as prompts. One cautionary tip: Avoid simply putting the text of your speech in slides. Writing out the words you’ll be saying on slides is boring. Slides should be used for emphasis.
- Know the setup.
Know if you will have to work with your own laptop or if one will be provided. If you will need an adapter for a typical projector, have it with you. If you are sitting on a panel discussion, then know your fellow panelists and their forte’s. Know the questions your moderator will be asking… unless the panel is “on the fly”. Those can be the most fun sometimes.
- Don’t lecture the whole time.
Keep in mind that people don’t have long attention spans. If you need to explore a topic deeply, use humor, an engaging video or other media to present various aspects of the topic. You can also break up a long talk by posing questions to the audience.
- Leave time for questions.
Talking until the last minute is a common mistake many speakers make. If you have an hourlong presentation, plan for 45 minutes of talking and 15 minutes for questions.
Being a referable speaker is the best way to explain the meteoric rise of a previously unknown keynoter, or the longevity of the speaker who does a hundred keynotes a year, every year, for a decade.
It’s the simple reason one free webinar can eventually result in ten paid virtual keynotes.
It’s the only way to understand how a speaker can transform a keynote speech into a bestseller, or why some speakers find themselves stuck in small breakout rooms at big events while they wish they were on the mainstage.
It’s the reason some speakers command fees five times what others in the same area of expertise receive, while still others plateau at the same rate for years.
To be a referable speaker—using the gigs you get to get the gigs you want—requires that you craft a referable speech, a keynote-caliber session that reliably delivers new inquiries to speak at other events.
Do this, and you, too, will become a referable speaker.
Author: Celeste Miranda