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Public Speaking - The Essential Skill
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How Would You Feel?Views: 1044
Oct 24, 2007 8:17 pmHow Would You Feel?#

Mitch Mitchell
I just got back from speaking at a national conference, as one of the keynote presenters.

When the company that booked me had initially contacted me, they gave me this big number of people who usually come to their conferences, and I was juiced. I was to do 2 1/2 hours, so I created the program, then spent a week and a half practicing it so that it could come in around 2 hours and 15 minutes, with time left for conversation.

Once there, things weren't quite what they'd told me they would be. When it was time for my presentation, there were only 14 people who showed up. I was somewhat crushed, and, as it turned out, they attendance at this conference was drastically reduced, per the organizers, but what is a person to do?

I gave myself 5 minutes to be disappointed, then determined I was going to get in there and give them the best I could give them. And that's what I did, even though the organizers made a drastic mistake and served food while I was in the middle of my presentation, which meant that, for a short while, I was speaking just to hear myself speak. Still, I plowed through, and my presentation ended in exactly 2 1/2 hours.

The organizers told me that the critiques coming in to them were pretty good; hey, we do what we do. Still, I consider myself a professional presenter, and, even though I was disappointed in the numbers, knew that if I didn't go in there and give my best, the notoriety would be much worse.

Still, it begs the question: how would you have reacted, or wanted to react? Oh yeah; I wasn't getting paid for this one either, as I figured the publicity might kick start my business dramatically. Not happening, unfortunately. But I did what I had to do.

Mitch Mitchell
T. T. Mitchell Consulting, Inc.
Changing Attitudes and Perceptions for Unlimited Growth

Private Reply to Mitch Mitchell

Nov 04, 2007 10:26 pmre: How Would You Feel?#

Kevin Burns

Is it normal that you build a brand new presentation for each and every group you speak to? That's kind of what I read from your post. That's a huge investment of time to have the evaluations come back as "pretty good."

Hey stuff happens in a meeting. It sounds as though you weren't real clear about your requirements or expectations.

In my contract with clients it is real clear, no food, no coffee, no conference center staff floating about, no "U" shaped rooms. If any of that stuff happens, I will not present.

Your job, as I see it, is to teach. You can't do that if you don't have their attention. No distractions or you don't go on.

As for having 2 and a half hours of info, that's a lot of information. You have got to be able to allow yourself room to edit if things happen. If you had started late would you have run late or would you have edited?

It's almost impossible to edit content that you are presenting for the first time. I hope you're charging tens of thousands of dollars for sessions that are industry-specific. But you said you did it for nothing and that's exactly how THEY treated its value: nothing.

My suggestion is to write a presentation you can do over and over and over again and then tailor it to their audience. I have one keynote presentation that I have done about 700 times now. My stories don't change, my points don't change but what it means to the audience in front of me does change. I tailor my speech for them. I do NOT customize a new one each and every time. If you customize every time, you put way too much work in to have no one there to hear it.

Get real good at one thing and one thing only. Don't try to be a generalist. Be an expert in one thing. (Mine is Attitude). Then build your presentation around that one thing. And stop doing that one thing for free. Here's the truth about no-fee presentations. Rarely do no-fee presentations get a referral. If it wasn't important enough for you to charge for it, it's not important enough for the meeting planner to tell someone else about it. People who charge stupid amounts of money get stupid amounts of referrals. Why? Perceived value.

Good luck my friend.

Kevin Burns
Author & Attitude Adjuster

Private Reply to Kevin Burns

Nov 30, 2007 1:02 amre: How Would You Feel?#

Lisa Braithwaite
Besides what Kevin said, which is all right on, I find that conference organizers FREQUENTLY inflate numbers to get you psyched about presenting. It's been my experience and that of a number of my clients that there are rarely as many attendees as we've been told up front.

That's just one more reason not to do big gigs like that for free; if you're doing it for visibility and you're hoping to get some business, and then 14 people show up - and you're doing it for free and paid your way to get there - it can feel like a big waste of time.

I don't get my expectations up for numbers any more; I get my expectations up for what I'm going to give the audience, no matter how many show up.


Lisa Braithwaite
Find Your Voice With Public Speaking Coaching!
* Speak Schmeak blog * Speak Schmeak shop *
* Public speaking e-course * Free newsletter signup *
* My Squidoo lens * www.coachlisab.com *

Private Reply to Lisa Braithwaite

Nov 30, 2007 8:28 amre: re: How Would You Feel?#

Gregory Czar

I think your way gives more "soul" to the industry.

Thank you,


Private Reply to Gregory Czar

Nov 30, 2007 10:49 amre: How Would You Feel?#

Udo Stadtsbuchler
Your experience is very much the same of what had happened to me some years ago; still, I have not forgotten and probably never will, because it is engraved in my memory as one of my most embarrassing moments.
The invitation was to give a 40-minutes keynote address at the beginning of a workshop to 80 - 100 attendees. Picture it and you know what kind of vision I had. The reality was that they had started the workshop much earlier without letting me know. The attendance was about 25 people. I had a tiny corner of the room in which to give my speech. During my talk the participants drifted in and out from "my" corner in order to attend some exercises. Luckily it just so happened that about 10 minutes into my talk there was this moment in which I did not have one single listener; I used this moment to quickly pack up my stuff and go! Did I learn anything from this episode? Yes! I include a clause in my contracts that should something similar happen, I am under no obligation to speak and get paid anyway.

Private Reply to Udo Stadtsbuchler

Nov 30, 2007 8:25 pmre: How Would You Feel?#

Lisa Braithwaite
Thanks, Greg. :-) I got spoiled speaking to captive audiences in schools for a long time, and it was a little bit of a shock to discover that the "real world" was different. But the only way you can become a better speaker is to have these kinds of experiences and learn from them!


Lisa Braithwaite
Find Your Voice With Public Speaking Coaching!
* Speak Schmeak blog * Speak Schmeak shop *
* Public speaking e-course * Free newsletter signup *
* My Squidoo lens * www.coachlisab.com *

Private Reply to Lisa Braithwaite

Nov 30, 2007 9:33 pmre: re: How Would You Feel?#

Carol Bradley Bursack
This is a good discussion. I work for a newspaper and speak free for their things (I'm an elder care columnist) unless I have to drive - then I get mileage. But, I am learning the hard way, like most of us have to, that I must charge to be appreciated. I am fulfilling my obligations, and some of that is freebie talks to local organizations, as even the exeuctive editor does that. But I will not speak free for my own speaking business anymore. It gets tricky here in my area, as I am my own business as well as a paid newspaper columnist, but out of the area I am my own business - period. That makes it easier to set a fee and say no if they can't pay.

Private Reply to Carol Bradley Bursack

Dec 01, 2007 4:49 amre: re: How Would You Feel?#

Felicia Slattery
Kevin, you had some great suggestions.

I am a major advocate of putting together what I call your Signature Speech to market your business. Basically, you create a presentation for your ideal audience and then go out and find places where they're hanging out and get booked to deliver your speech pro bono.

If you speak locally, you'll never have any travel expenses beyond gas and possibly parking fees. Whether you're speaking to 15 or 50, you'll get the beneifts of speaking to market your business.

I am also a paid speaker. If a group is either (1) not my target audience and/or (2) looking for something completely unique to their needs, I charge for the event. Both of those situations mean spending time preparing, often to a great extent. That's my time and it's valuable, as is yours. I will only travel if the event is paid. For me, time away from my family is too valuable to do for free.

Just like Kevin said, when you prepare your Signature Speech, it all stays the same except for how you relate to the audience. Every time I present my Signature Speech, I get about 90-100% conversion rates, meaning almost everyone in the audience signs up for my list. Some of them buy what I have to offer at the back of the room, so I even make a few bucks while I'm speaking pro bono. And just about every time I present, I get referred to another group. I have not marketed my Signature Speech in months. People get my name from others who have seen me deliver it and are thrilled to get a professional speaker for free. It's a win-win for everyone.

It's also been my experience that event organizers will inflate their expected numbers. But I really am happy to speak to local groups of any size. A bigger group is more fun to present to, but an intimate group has its benefits, too. Either way, I know I'll get the results I want, so I feel grateful to do it. I'm a big networker, so for me meeting people is part of the fun of speaking events and in that case, it doesn't mater how many are there.

I've written a bunch of free articles about creating a Signature Speech -- you can see them all at: http://www.ezinearticles.com/?expert=Felicia_Slattery.

PM me if you have any questions! I'm happy to help.


Felicia J. Slattery, M.A., M.Ad.Ed.
Communication Consultant, Speaker & Coach
Discover how to Increase Business by Communicating Your Credibility.
Free e-course: http://www.communicationtransformation.com

Private Reply to Felicia Slattery

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