It is Your Choice to Take the Stage or Sit in the Audience
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I have been to countless events where I would sit frustrated looking over the agenda of the day’s speakers. I would watch others take the mic to share messages and stories that inspired and informed…and think in my mind that I wish I were up there next. I would leave the events wondering what I needed to do to be asked to speak at these events.
Look at that word “asked” in the last sentence. I had some belief that if I were good enough or if my clients achieve some level of greatness that I would be asked to speak at these big events. I was so naive. I honestly believed that all speakers were ASKED to be there.
The reality is some are asked. Some people are tapped on the shoulder so to speak to take the mic. However, in general, I was dead wrong.
As I began to meet these speakers and uncover the journey they took to get there, I realized what I was missing. Each one would tell me all the small events they spoke at. They talked about the long hours of networking and building relationships. They were proactive in finding events. They shared insights that seem so logical today.
The real truth behind taking the stage instead of sitting in the audience is a simple one. It is a decision to make it a priority. It is an opportunity to grow.
Some events have big name keynote speakers, and sometimes they get paid handsomely for speaking. The keynote speech is the usually the best scheduled time of the conference and usually to the complete audience. The keynote is different in that it is usually more provocative and when done well, adds more entertainment to the program. Most speakers require quite a bit of experience to make the hop to keynotes.
And you can also find opportunities that are not on the main stages and not in the keynote time slots. These are called “breakouts” or sometimes workshops. There are usually other sessions going concurrently, but these can be extremely valuable to build your reputation as an authority.
As you are working your way up the “ladder” you can still have the opportunity to speak at smaller sessions at the same conference. These speeches are meant to be very actionable and content-rich. You want the audience to walk away with new and insightful information they can apply immediately to their business.
There are many reasons why you want to speak for your business or your movement. But for me it comes down to authority. Authority is a mix of trust, capability and inspiration too. All businesses and business owners need authority. Authority comes before they can make an impact and impact precedes income.
Here is my take on using speaking to build authority. All speaking combines two accelerators to your authority:
(A) Proximity– When live and in-person, you have a chance to establish quickly trust. Even in our virtual world, people trust face-to-face more. This is not likely to shift to virtual anytime soon. Being in the same room with the audience has a deeper connection to the message and the speaker. Also, distractions are usually lower in live performances.
(B) Influence – When someone hands you a microphone and allows you to take the stage, the way the audience sees you is different. Yes, you have to deliver valuable content, and you have to do it in a persuasive manner, but this is one of the most powerful ways to position yourself as an authority. The influence you get from others allowing you on the stage and to hold a mic is powerful.
Speaking is also the most powerful way to attracting high-quality leads for your business. You me thinking that this does not apply to me because I don’t want to be a paid speaker. You have a business to run and you like your business.
Well, here is the secret to speaking even if you don’t want to get paid to take the stage. Speaking can put you in front of your ideal prospects in a way that no other strategy can. In fact, speaking can actually give you additional attention and trust that you need to enroll others to your product or service. And if you are not speaking to them about the problems they have…someone is likely doing it.
I interact with thousands of people who want to start speaking or speak more so that their businesses can attract high-quality prospects . If you would rather die than speak, you are not even reading this article. You have already skipped it.
If you are still here, you likely want to know how to find the speaking engagements (called “gigs” for slang).
Two Keys to Finding Speaking Engagements
- Build a Focused List:
You have to create a focused list of opportunities. “Focus” is the key word. Once you go beyond the speaking for practice, and you decide you want to get some clients for your business, you want to make sure you are speaking at events where your ideal prospects are in the room.e.g. I have a client who develops websites for speakers and coaches. Derek Hart at GettheGigs.com has a better chance to grow his business by speaking to a room full of speakers than he does talk to fellow web designers. This is a focused strategy. Derek has spoken at National Speaker Association meetings and also small events filled with speakers only. Derek has demonstrated his authority and expert experience to this audience and has gotten new clients too.
- Build Relationships with Decision Makers:
you want to build relationships with the event organizers, planners, and executive directors. Keep in mind: sometimes it is a committee, so the more you know, the better your chances are. The mistake I see most often here is using the “apply to speak” approach. The form or email on the website is one way to apply, but it is also the least likely actually to result in getting booked. Be proactive and reach out.
The best way to get booked is to establish a relationship with the people making the decision. These are the “decision makers” and it is sometimes one person and for bigger conferences it is a group of people (aka the selection committee).
To build a relationship you want to be authentic and valuable in each of your interactions. One way to start this process is with a carefully worded email. This means emails are part of that reach out, but you also have to pick up the phone. Here is an email template I used to book many gigs. It is a short framework that you can use immediately if you want to reach proactively out to organizers and decision makers.
In summary, the decisions to speak on stages is a decision and making that decision allows you to figure out the “how” part of speaking. I have spoken over 100 times over the last six years at large events and small ones too. I made the decision. I figured it out. I write about it today so that if you want to do it…you can.
What is your decision?
Let me know how you are using this information. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your tips or successes with this message.