The growing popularity of TED talks (whose YouTube channel now has over 3.8 million subscribers) has changed the world of public speaking. An occupation once reserved for road warriors, willing to live out of a suitcase and an endless blur of airports, is now accessible.
You may still have to travel, but the large and diverse audience of these live 18 minute talks has prompted a new wave of speaking interest and many more are looking for a place at the podium.
And rightly so. Speaking is a tremendous tool for selling your latest book or consulting services as well as a crucial component to building thought leadership status. For those with the appetite, this is lucrative ground. However, if you haven’t made public talks a priority in the past, there can be a learning curve. Invest some time in the process before you begin filling your calendar with engagements.
Here is how to get started:
- Weave short performances into your work. Find ways to introduce presentations into your daily routine. Ask for 10 minutes at the next meeting you attend to brief the group on your latest project. Challenge yourself to create a slide deck to go along with that piece you just posted on Forbes or your own blog. Commit to researching evidence to inform your point of view. Explore visual elements that will reinforce your information.
- Perfect your skills. We’ve been raised on the conventional wisdom that talent trumps all. But a piece of research conducted by a trio of British researchers in 2006 says otherwise. Michael J. Howe, Jane W. Davidson and John A. Sluboda concluded, “The evidence we have surveyed…does not support the (notion that) excelling is a consequence of possessing innate gifts.” Buy into that concept and start practicing. If you aren’t ready to go public, park yourself in front of your smartphone’s video camera and rehearse. Watch critically, and do it again. You may not be able to squeeze in the 10,000 hours of practice that Malcolm Gladwell has famously suggested it takes to achieve mastery, but your ease should grow with each performance. When you feel comfortable performing solo, invite family to a premiere viewing.
- Hang out your shingle. Be explicit and clear in all of your public profiles that you are a speaker for hire. It seems simple, but I’ve viewed hundreds of profiles that fail to mention this skill. Update your bios everywhere: from the one on your own or company website, across the spectrum of social media channels and on the tagline to any column or blog you contribute. If possible, add a button to your website, post a bio, a list of the subjects you can speak on, any appearances you have previously done and any testimonials for those engagements. Don’t post fees, but rather offer to put together a customized bid for anyone interested in your services.
- Take those unpaid gigs. If you have something to promote or aspire to have a larger public profile, consider the value of appearing before an audience before you turn down an invitation to speak for free. The concept of giving away information or services in order to build value has been well documented and this is an area where it definitely has a role. If you are just getting started, practice before a live audience is irreplaceable. Even seasoned speakers should examine each opportunity for its potential in elevating status or exposure to a key group before turning down a gig.
Whether your goal is to join the ranks of the TED tribe of speakers, to pack your bags for a solid 100+ gigs a year or to just nail down a dozen appearances, these solid steps should give you a start.