David is a best-selling author, speaker and trainer. He is also CEO of IPD, a world-class marketing agency based in Tampa, Florida.
Motivational speaking is a massive goal for many business owners and leaders. To have the opportunity to do so can do wonders for your career and cements you as a thought leader and expert within your specific field.
To speak before peers in this setting can be the most exciting and terrifying experience that you can have. If you are looking to transition into this role, or perhaps have even booked your first official speaking engagement, there are a few things you should know before you arrive at the venue to give your presentation.
Below, I will go over a few specific takeaways that I wish I had known before I ever set foot on a stage.
Key Takeaways For Speaking Engagements
1. Prepare earlier than you think.
You may feel that you have what you want to say down in your mind. Doing it live, however, is much different. For those who have ever played organized sports, this may sound familiar. Doing it in practice is not the same as doing it in a game. In a game, the pressure is on. Everyone is watching, and not everyone can perform in the same manner during the game as they do during practice. This is what separates the good from the great.
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In order to handle this pressure, you should prepare much earlier than you may think. Don’t wait until a week away from the event for you to start jotting notes on what you want to speak about. This will make your speech feel rushed and force you to add fluff during your speaking engagement. Take the time at least a month ahead to begin thinking about and jotting down your notes.
2. Review your notes.
Reviewing your notes too much will never hurt you. Reviewing them too little, however, will make remembering your key points much more difficult once you are standing under those bright lights. Digest your speech and review it so that it becomes second nature. You must memorize your key points and any specific stories, ideas or concepts you may want to share with your audience.
Review it during any free time. Review it before work and after work, and try your best to practice it in the car on the way to work. Only through review and repetition will you begin to feel less nervous and anxious about the event. Review until you are certain that you have it down, and then review it one more time, just in case!
3. Pick a relevant topic.
I know that relevance is subjective, so let me clarify this point: You may have a topic selected for you, depending on the specific event. However, in the event that you yourself are tasked with picking a specific topic, you must ask yourself a few questions about the event before you can do so: Who is your audience generally composed of? What specific industry do the members of your audience serve? What is a relevant topic, issue or upcoming obstacle related to that specific industry? These questions will ensure that you pick a topic that your audience really wants to know more about.
4. Take a deep breath.
Yes, speaking engagements can be stressful. Fix what you can control, but don’t stress or panic over what you can’t. You would not have been gifted with the opportunity if you weren’t qualified to speak in the room.
Before any speaking engagement, I meet with my team. We discuss our game plan, who is responsible for what, what we think the audience will most relate to, and what specific part of my speech will most likely resonate with them. By speaking with my team and taking a deep breath, I allow myself to relax—to gather my thoughts and speak from the heart. My goal is to provide the room with real, tangible takeaways that they can take back to their organizations and utilize to benefit their team.
5. Enjoy the moment.
Remember that although you are a speaker at this event, conference or meeting, you are also still an attendee. One of the biggest mistakes I feel speakers often make is that they arrive late—usually right before their speaking engagement—then speak and leave shortly after.
Arrive early. Greet attendees, speak with peers, and get a feel for what the conference is about. I have been the keynote speaker at multiple events within the automotive industry, church events, as well as general sales and leadership conferences. I make a point to arrive early because I want to get involved with the other attendees before I go on stage. I enjoy meeting others and learning from them, and it also provides a name and face for you long before attendees will see you on the big stage.
6. Network at all times.
Many of my long-term clients, employees and friends were first introduced to me during various speaking engagements, events and conferences. In fact, this is one of the most common selling points of attending these types of events to begin with!
Events were started for one major reason: to network with other attendees. I have been blessed with the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from all walks of life, who I otherwise may have never met. These interactions have turned into taking on new members within my own organization, finding new business with previously unknown clients, and connecting later on social media with attendees who enjoyed listening to what I had to say. There is no limit to the possibilities when attending business events.
Like many other things in life, attending and speaking at conferences are what you make of them. If you are looking to grow your business, better your own skills or learn about the latest and greatest within your specific industry, then finding speaking engagements that you can attend and providing value to fellow attendees is a great way to do so. These takeaways are what you need to know before the show!
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Author: David Villa, Forbes Councils Member