I was asked in conjunction with a program I’m doing next week in Fort Lauderdale to come up with the “top ten” points that a relatively new professional speaker — or someone who aspires to become a speaker — should know about the business.
One of the aspects that strikes me is that I’m being asked to write something like this (because I’ve been in the business a long time), yet my speaking career is — thankfully — better than ever.
I mention this because I certainly don’t want this to have an “old timer” feel to it. I’m still learning and growing, too! However, I hope this can stimulate some thought for those who are relatively new in speaking, or who have the desire to speak professionally.
Top 10 List for Speakers
- Create original material. You’ll never be a distinctive presenter doing someone else’s material or delivering what’s basically a “book report” using information or research derived elsewhere.
- Rehearse every day. I don’t get paid to speak every day – but, I give a speech every day. If I’m not performing, I’m rehearsing.
- Emulate, but don’t imitate. You will never become “the next big thing” by being like the current big thing. The “next Elvis” wasn’t anything like Elvis…it was the Beatles. Learn from your favorite presenters – but, create your own style and approach that is a reflection of your unique personality.
- If in doubt, leave it out. If you wonder whether or not a story, joke, or particular use of language might offend someone – ask yourself, is it really worth the risk? If you aren’t certain…don’t take the chance.
- It’s not about you. It’s about your audience. Know them, tailor for them, talk with them, work hard for them.
- It’s all about you. If anyone in the audience had your combination of insight, presentation skill, perception, and ability – they would not have hired you. Have confidence in your professionalism and talent.
- Nothing matters more than the speech. They’ll want you to join them for drinks, dinner, tours and more – be careful. No one will ever say, “Well, she looked exhausted during her program – but, wasn’t she amazing at the reception last night?” They’ll forget that you skipped dinner if you give an amazing speech – and they’ll never remember that you went to dinner if you bomb on the stage.
- Nothing matters more than the speech (2). No marketing, no amount of followers on Twitter, no Amazon bestseller will make a difference if your speech isn’t amazing. If you can’t kill it on the stage…eventually you’re going to die on the stage.
- Professionals have few speeches; amateurs have many. You can’t master material that you don’t use consistently. Certainly, you tailor your presentation for the audience. However, you have to have signature stories and modules that you use almost every time you speak to truly become distinctive on the platform.
- Please understand — this is a very lonely job. I go to the airport alone, fly alone, drive in the rental car alone, stay in the hotel alone, research alone, write my books and blog posts alone, eat alone – go give a speech and meet 1000 people in about an hour – go back to the airport alone, eat alone, etc. When you see me as a professional speaker on the stage, you’re seeing the 5% of my job where I’m around other people. You obviously don’t see the 95% where I am by myself. Some fail at speaking not because of the platform, but because they aren’t prepared for the artistic aspect of the lifestyle.
“Artists are people driven by the tension between the desire to communicate and the desire to hide.” -D.W. Winnicott
When you’re offstage, make certain you’re off the stage. No one is “on” all the time. And, no one likes being around someone who is always acting like they are giving their presentation. You don’t have to be the magnificent speaker 24/7, and you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room in every situation. (And, if you always are the smartest person in the room — you need to find some better rooms.) Don’t be a phony — on stage or off.