It feels pretty awesome to have people literally hand you their business card and say “call me” as you walk back to your seat after speaking. The experience of seeing that line form around you after your speaking event, full of people who want more of your time and talent, is exhilarating.
That right there is an excellent reason to speak to a room full of people for free. If you do a remarkable job of it, that free gig will very likely pay – just on another day, with a client or a paid speaking gig. There's a good chance it will pay a few times over because that room full of people just got a sample of your brilliance. They'll want more of that goodness.
But that's not the only reason to speak for free. In fact, it may not be the most important reason you should get out there and speak as often as you can to audiences that will love your message.
Here are three more reasons to speak for free:
1. You can test out your message.
2. You can hone your speaking skills.
3. You will increase your authority in your area of expertise.
Let's take them on one at a time.
Testing out your message
If you listen to the nonverbal communication your audience sends during your presentation, you will learn volumes about what touches their soul and resonates with their needs and desires. You'll see faces light up, heads nodding… or you'll see blank stares and perplexed faces. When you've got a room full of people whose heads are nodding nearly off their shoulders, you know you've got yourself a good topic. Likewise, that room full of flat air tells you that you are missing the mark on the hot desires of your audience and it's time to go back to the drawing board on your message. It's market research in a flash. Incredibly useful.
You can hone your speaking skills
Let's face it, the expectations at a free gig are not nearly as high as those at a high-paying event. This means two things: 1. the pressure is eased a bit on being over-the-top amazing as you learn and refine your amazing speaking skills, and 2. You can blow them away easier than you think. I recommend that you take advantage of both of those truths. Push yourself to provide shockingly awesome value with your presentation. Blow them away with the usefulness of your content and the excellence of your presentation. And give yourself the room to try out a few things, test your edges, put learning right up there next to excellence as a goal (even at the risk of some nervousness on your part.) Let this be an opportunity to see what you can really do at your current level of speaking ability and let it change you, let it make you a better speaker all in one day.
Quick story: I once did a very short free talk at a networking event during which I memorized three different “elevator speeches” (I call them “Hello Intros”) of others in that networking group. I generally do not work from memorization (and I don't recommend that you try to either, for the most part) but I really wanted to share these examples without reading them. Even with my notoriously bad memory, I got all three of them mostly right and I watched the delighted faces of others in the group as I shared those tidbits. I learned how powerful it is to bring in real information about the members of the audience I am speaking with and I learned that I actually can memorize when I need to (in small-ish bits.) Not so incidentally, I also engaged two new clients that evening.
You will increase your authority in your area of expertise
Think of the last time you watched someone brilliantly share their expertise from the stage or front of the room. Were you not mesmerized and impressed? Of course you were. Because we all know that it takes not only courage and bravery to stand up there and say our stuff but it also takes true smarts and cleverness to say it in a way that really pulls us in and actually makes life better for those of us in the audience. There is power in public speaking – power to change lives, make a difference, have a real impact. When we see this happen at the hands (voice, movement, storytelling, courage…) of a person, we see authority. When we do this ourselves – we feel the authority. And maybe that matters most of all for these purposes.That sense of authority leaves that room with you and joins your next sales call, your next product creation and your next launch. Don't underestimate it's monetary value as well.
Getting a fat paycheck to speak is good. It's great, actually. And maybe you'll decide to mix that in to your speaking career (don't rule it out!) But there are some mightily great reasons to get in front of the right audience (those who want and need what you have to say) at no cost to them. If you approach the opportunity the right way, you and they will both cash in on the experience in many ways – a delicious gift to them and you (kinda like this lovely gift box cake by Ken's Oven above.)
I'd love to hear your stories about speaking – paid and not – and what gifts you've received from the process. Will you tell me your story in the comments or via email at michelle at michellebarryfranco.com?
I wrote this post in support of Women's Money Week.Women's Money Week is about encouraging women to speak up about money, take control of our finances, and reshape our financial future. Go check out all of the great women writers living debt free lives, using money in truly fun and world-changing ways, and otherwise doing awesome stuff with increased cash and decreased money stress. Not so incidentally, *my brand new Ebook*, Power to Your Message, is among that great stuff in that mix. It's the only way you can get my ebook right now.