There can be a great temptation to readily agree to speak at an event. You feel delighted that you have been asked. There may be money involved (more on that later) and who knows who will be in the audience. The possibilities are endless.
However, before you say yes, just press your pause button for a moment. Pressing the pause button means that you can make the right decision.
Accepting a speaking gig that isn’t right for you can lead to all sorts of issues and as importantly it will negatively impact the client and the attendees.
Our golden rule, is to discuss the speaking gig in depth with the event planner. The more you understand what is needed, the more you can make an informed decision.
Let’s take a look at some of the key questions to work through before you decide to say yes or no to the speaking opportunity on offer.
Is this my area of expertise?
The first question that should spring to mind before anything else is the subject area. Is the area of expertise required by the event planner one that you are confident in? If it isn’t then should you even be considering the speaking gig? It can be very tempting to think that you could have a go. After all, surely you just need to do some research and then you can blow the audience away with your charisma and speaking ability. Some years ago that approach may have worked but it doesn’t work today.
Even confident speakers fail. Speakers need to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, experience and insights of the subject. Most speakers understand that as soon as they start speaking, the audience will be on their devices checking out what is being told.
If the subject you have been invited to speak on is not one you are familiar with then you may want to say no to the opportunity. However, if you are confident you can deliver to the event planners’ brief then step forward and the stage will be yours.
Do I have enough time to prepare?
Preparing for speaking gigs takes a lot longer than many people realise. You will need to factor in time to prepare your content. What you will be saying when you are on stage is only one part of the time equation.
You also need to allow time to deal with the speaking admin. This is also important. Most event planners will ask you for a bio, a description of your session and a photograph of you. They want these items to post them onto their website to help promote you and your slot. They may have a printed publication going out and may include you in it. Make sure you hit their deadlines for sending the information back to them.
As well as the admin and preparing your content, you will need to rehearse. You should not be providing your presentation for the first time when you are on stage. If you are serious about being a great speaker and not letting your client down you need to practice in advance.
Is the offer attractive?
How attractive is the offer for you to speak? Is there a fee that can be paid to you? What is the fee for? Is it set in stone or can you negotiate? If there is no fee, what is the offer? Not everyone wants a fee to speak. It all depends on the individual circumstances.
However, whether there is a fee or not it’s worth considering that you will be putting in time and energy to deliver the best speaking experience. To do that you be investing your time. Your time is incredibly valuable. If you didn’t accept the speaking gig you could spend your time on other opportunities.
Event planners sometimes can get a little carried away with managing speaker expectations of the audience that will be hanging onto your every word. They may promise you an audience of buyers that want to order from you. But, the reality is that is not often the case. This is where you need to investigate further with the planner. Find out who has been to the event before? If it’s a new event, establish who the event has been marketed to? As much as anything else having a reality check on who is likely to be in the audience (think personas not individuals) will also help you tailor your content.
Does this speaking opportunity fit my schedule?
One mistake made by speakers (even professional speakers) is the desire to say yes to as many speaking gigs as possible. Pressing your pause button again (which we mentioned earlier) is again useful.
Unless the speaking gig is from your home or office (you may be live streamed) you will need to allocate time for travel to the venue. Invariably this also mean an overnight stay.
Ask yourself a few questions. How long do you need to get the venue? Will you need to cross time zones? Once the gig has finished how long will you need to return and be ready for other work?
It’s as important to factor in adequate recovery time as it is to allow for the journey to the event. Speaking gigs take energy.
A final question
Let’s say that you have the expertise, you have the time, the offer is good and your schedule works, there is one final all important question that needs to be answered.
The question is this. What is the audience likely to do as a result of listening to you?
Take some time to answer the question and then you can say yes or no to the speaking opportunity. Making a difference to the attendees is all important. Your reputation depends on it.
It’s a privilege to be invited to speak. Just make sure you accept those gigs that are the right ones. Not all speaking opportunities are equal.