In this video, I share:

  • About a time when my speaking style just wasn’t a great fit for the audience (I survived but it wasn’t easy!)
  • What is a “Story in your pocket” and when to use it
  • How to assess whether a speaking opportunity is a good one
  • A list of questions to ask yourself to increase your chances of a great fit

Adapted transcript of video:

Hi there. Michelle Barry Franco here.

Let's talk about what makes a great speaking gig. Sometimes we get so caught up in “how do I even get speaking gigs?” For some of us this struggle to find speaking gigs can cause us to forget to assess whether or not this speaking opportunity is a good one. I'm talking about paid speaking and speaking for free. I want to talk with you about how to determine whether the speaking opportunity that comes your way is a good one.

I'll start by telling you about a speaking opportunity I had that didn't exactly go the way I hoped. I was flown out to New Orleans for this paid speaking gig. As I met and talked with people at the cocktail party the evening before, I already had a feeling I probably wasn't in the right place, just from a personality perspective. But you know, you never know. It depends on who you're actually talking with, right? One person or one set of people doesn't represent a whole event.

The next morning, I show up in the speaking room, ahead of time, of course, and as people start to trickle in and I'm saying hello, eyes are down. I could tell pretty early on that this was a very serious bunch. I ventured forth … As the room was full I started sharing my hilarious(? ?) stories that usually resonate pretty well with audiences and help us all warm up a little bit, but it just wasn't working. I mean, it was fascinating to watch the flatline responses to almost everything I tried. I do usually have what I call a “story in my pocket”, so if one doesn't really work, pretty soon I can follow up with one that's slightly different but gets the same point across. I just could not make the connection with this audience. I realize now that I really hadn't done a good job of assessing whether this was a good match for me, I was so excited. This was a long time ago, so I was super-excited to get this opportunity to fly out and get paid and all of that.

Here are the things that I recommend … The questions you ask yourself, the questions I now ask myself, as you're assessing a new speaking opportunity.

Number one, does this group, does this audience want what you have to share?  Not just the meeting organizer, which is I think what happened here, but this audience. In this case, I think it was that the meeting organizer believed that this full room needed help with their communication skills, particularly around how to talk about themselves and the work that they're doing, but that the audience themselves wasn't really needing or wanting that. They were kind of like, “Why are you here talking about this?” That was the feeling I was getting. So, first ask yourself, does this audience want what you have?

Number two, are they open to inspiration and learning? Sometimes the two will go together. Sometimes, this audience might be interested in the ideas that you have to share, but their barriers are up. They have a lot of boundaries up around learning and taking in information. Sometimes, this is just about matching up industries, or being able to share how you can relate clearly with their experience so they will trust you. But, there are audiences that have a harder time trusting, and if your credibility and experience is far and distant from the roomful of people that you're about to speak in, you may just have a barrier there that's tricky to get past. It's an assessment you're going to want to go through, and you want to ask some good questions of the meeting organizer. You may even want to ask the meeting organizer if there are a few people who will be in the audience that you can speak to ahead of time. So the questions is: is this audience open to inspiration and learning from you and your experience?

And then third, will you get great support from the team that’s putting together the event and the meeting organizer? This is really important. Things like:

  • Will they be sharing about your session?
  • Are they going to help you make sure that the summary that you provide, if you're the one providing it, works well with this audience?
  • Will somebody be there to introduce you?
  • Will there be somebody there who can help you with any technical issues that might show up?

You want to ask all those questions ahead of time so that you know that you'll have the support you need to be successful. Especially early on, but really throughout your speaking adventures, you want to give yourself the best experience to be successful so that you can keep doing this risky, courageous, beautiful work of putting yourself out there as a speaker. Having those kinds of things in place … Really asking yourself all three of these questions, will help create that kind of support for you as you go do this big, beautiful work.

I hope that's helpful to you. I'll see you next week.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash