What to do when you've been booked to speak: a 7-step checklist
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Wahoo, you’ve landed the gig!
Now that you’ve done your victory dance, texted your mom and your BFF, what can you do to squeeze the most business building, career making, fame boosting juice from that sweet, sweet opportunity?
I’ve got you covered.
You should approach any speaking opportunity, whether it’s in your neighbor’s basement or on stage, as though you’re playing the Superbowl Halftime Show.
Of course, you’ll craft an inspiring and instructive talk! You‘ve got that part down.
But too many people ignore the business part of speaking. The result of this wing-it strategy? They don’t speak as often as they could.
EVERY audience deserves your very best effort. They’ve donated their valuable, non-renewable resource: time, so don’t waste the opportunity to wow. Audience members can hire you, buy your products and refer others to you.
Here’s your hit list:
1. Book it
Before you say, “yes”, check your calendar. Then, put the date and time in stone. No giddily accepting the opportunity and then realizing, oopsie, you’re facilitating your client’s retreat or heading to Jamaica that day.
2. Stalk your audience
- Who’s invited? How many people?
- How many typically attend the events?
- What’s their demographic (male, female, occupation)?
- Can you get the membership list or attendee list? Poke around on the organization’s website, too. Sometimes members are listed.
- Research the group on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to see if you can get to know more about the organization’s leadership and members. Having connections and common interests before you start speaking goes a long way in building rapport.
- What’s the venue? Get the address in advance, map it and check for any travel issues, like road construction.
- Where will you be speaking? Conference room, board room, coffee house? Is it a breakfast or luncheon?
- What’s the room configuration? Are attendees in rows of chairs (what’s known as “classroom style”? Or sitting at round tables?)
- Are there speakers scheduled right before you or right after your session? When can you enter the room to set up your supplies and equipment?
- Do you need to bring your own laptop? Bring it, just in case.
- Projector? Ask, don’t assume!
- Cables and adaptors? Remote controls? (Even if the venue says they have them, bring your own, just in case!)
- Bring batteries
- Do you need speakers? If your talk depends on audio, then pack your own speakers, cables and power cord.
- Microphone. Test thoroughly before using. (While I was presenting at a national conference, the microphone went out once every couple of minutes. It was distracting and annoying. Toward the end of the presentation, we found out that the problem was user error – I was unknowingly putting my hand over the on/off switch. Ouch!)
- Flipchart, easel, markers? Can you stick flip chart paper to the walls of the room? If not, what’s your workaround?
If you’ll use slides
- Have the presentation loaded on your laptop.
- Bring a copy of the Powerpoint/Keynote/Prezi presentation on a jump drive.
- Include a pdf copy of the presentation, as well. You never know.
- Print and bring two copies for yourself, in case of technology disaster.
5. Your introduction
- Do NOT leave this to your host organization to write. You must craft a great one and send it in advance. Everything in it should be compelling and build credibility. No time for modesty – brag on your accomplishments! (But don’t go on too long. Half a page is plenty, unless you’re keynoting a conference.)
- Before you send the intro, practice reading it aloud a few times yourself. Do you stumble over any of the words or phrasing? Then rewrite, because the person introducing you is almost sure to butcher it.
- Bring at least two printed copies of your introduction to the event, in large font, double spaced.
6. When you arrive at the event
- Find the person or people in charge of the event. Connect with them, ask for a quick run through of the event. Are there any last minute changes?
- Meet with the person who will be introducing you and go over the introduction.
7. Get to know your audience
- Greet the people entering the room. Introduce yourself with your first and last name, look the person in the eye, say their name and give a firm handshake. Thank them for coming.
- If you can, find out a little about some of the audience members. What’s their experience with your topic? What attracted them to your session? What do they hope to walk away with? Getting these insights lets you tailor your talk in the moment. Mentioning these people or situations during your talk makes your audience feel more connected to you and to the message that you’re delivering.
You’re ready to take the stage!
The equipment is set, your talk is locked and loaded and you’ve established rapport with the audience. Step into the spotlight and deliver the wow, superstar.
Your fame boosting assignment
This week’s assignment is a no-brainer:
Grab the free Booked to Speak checklist!
Use it the next time that you’re asked to give a presentation, talk or workshop. Stress-free, guaranteed.
Very thorough checklist. Thank you Lori for posting such wonderful and actionable advice.
Lori, it’s sometimes the most obvious things that trip us up. Thanks for providing this checklist to aid in no-brainer preparation for future speaking gigs!
Agree with Kathleen, the obvious things can trip one up. Thanks for the checklist.
Wow… Print button! I was actually at an event last week listening to someone who teaches speaking speak to us… The computer/slide connections didn’t work. She joking.y turned to around to us and said “always check your equipment beforehand! “
This really helps as a refresher and punch list for next week! I’m going live on stage in front of hundreds to launch my new assessment tool! thanks for the hit list! xo
love the tech, back-up and knowing you audience tips. disasters do happen. 😉
knowing the audience helps you connect.