Speaking opportunities come to us in one of two ways: we’ve sought them out, or someone has sought us out and extended an invitation. It doesn’t really matter which way it happened. What does matter is our ability to address everybody’s goals and priorities—including the audience’s.
For example, when you reach out to an event planner to let them know you’re interested in speaking to their audience, don’t go in with a list of vague topics and titles that won’t capture anyone’s interest. Instead, start by researching the group, organization, business, corporation, or whatever the planner represents. Find their websites and check out:
- Their “About” page, which is where you’re likely to find their mission statement. Are there words and phrases you might be able to plug into your proposal?
- Any job postings that might be listed. Lol… not so you can apply. It’s just that job postings can provide insights into the mindset of the people who’d probably be sitting in the audience.
Including some of the same words and ideas they’re already using in your proposal is one way to let the person in charge of booking speakers know that you understand the kinds of topics they might be looking for—after all, you’re already speaking their language. You’ll still have to agree upon the specific details of what they do and don’t want you to address, but using your research to help you get those first meetings is going to get you that much closer to an offer too.
When it comes to the second scenario of a planner finding you, it’s still up to you to do your due diligence when it comes to understanding what they’re looking for. I know of a speaker who was asked by one of the big insurance companies for a proposal based on one of his motivational topics. He created a proposal with the specific talk they’d mentioned in mind. His proposal was denied. When he asked them for guidance on how to adjust the presentation so it would be more in line with what they wanted, someone was finally up front with him and said that what they really wanted was for him to “motivate” their people so they’d be more likely to accept the big leadership changes headed their way. He declined.
This brings up one the trickier hidden aspects of speaking engagements… what happens when you think you’re on the same page as the planner and then BOOM, you suddenly realize you aren’t. The very good news here is that you have the ability to make sure that what happened to the speaker mentioned above doesn’t happen to you.
When an event planner asks you to speak, another layer has been added to the mix and you’ll want to address it before accepting the speaking engagement. I don’t mean that you should sit down with the event planner and start grilling him or her. It’s just that you want to make sure the goals you have for your presentation—and the audience you’re sharing it with—are in alignment with the planner’s goals too. Good questions to start with might be:
- What is it about my presentation that makes it a good fit for your audience?
- Is there something you’d like your audience to walk away with?
- Is there something you would like to hear or see in my presentation?
- Are there any rules or restrictions I should know about?
Why go to so much bother? Because a happy audience trumps everything. That’s your goal, and it’s the goal of the person inviting you to speak too. Besides, when you get right down to it, it’s really nothing more than you doing your due diligence. And, as you get used to doing it, it’s going to make you feel and sound more and more like the true speaking professional you’re becoming… one speaking engagement at a time!