Want to get your print possibilities in front of more creatives? Then get on the conference circuit. Don’t panic! There are strategies to help you conquer your fear of pubic speaking. Trainer and coach John Scarrott explains.
1. Don’t be daunted
An effective way to start conversations about creativity and innovation is through conference speaking. There are a number of reasons for this:
- Potential clients are in the room and ready to listen and learn
- You can turn your speaker slot into a conversation starting point by showing you understand their challenges
If you’ve never spoken at an event before this can seem a daunting challenge, but by breaking down the journey to the podium into a series of small, manageable steps, you can grow into a confident, effective speaker.
2. Start with the basics
You need to do some legwork before standing up in front of the crowd. It seems obvious, but who do you want to talk to, and will they want to listen to what you have to say? If so, where are they most likely to do that? Find out who organises conferences for the audiences you’ve identified? Which are their preferred events? Who has their trust?
3. Make a move
The people who speak at conferences are often those who approach the organiser, not those that wait to be invited to talk. Attend one of your earmarked conferences as a delegate first, and take in the atmosphere - see how the speakers speak and get a feel for the style of delivery.
4. Creating content
You have a message you want to share. But how to do it effectively? There are various ways, but a good starting point is to unpack your experience to bring your story to life. Set the scene. What was an unusual customer challenge - and how did you set out to resolve that? What was interesting about it? What was the journey - from their perspective as well as your own? How did it all come together? What was the result? What did you both learn? What can those in the audience take from your telling of the story? Developing your thinking by answering these questions will start to turn your experience into content that has a conference value.
5. Get the green light
When you have your content idea, and before you approach a conference organiser, discuss it internally. Are you hitting all the key message points - and from the right angle to impress your audience? Does your message fit properly with company development strategy and marketing mission etc.
6. Stretch and flex
Be prepared, you’ll need plenty of gentle persistence and resilience to get your talk accepted by conference organisers, especially if you’re trying to break new ground and want to present at events not directly in the print sphere - so, at an interiors design show, or architectural event etc. Be prepared to be flexible.
Make your initial approach by email in three short three-line paragraphs:
- Para one: Here’s who I am, where I work, what I do.
- Para two: I have this to share. Here’s why it could be useful to your audience.
- Para three: Is this of interest? What is the best way to discuss this?
Don’t necessarily expect a response! Give it a week and re-forward the email. Give it another and if you’ve still not heard, pick up the phone. Be ready to be flexible. Accept what they offer you, whatever the slot and whatever the format. This is about getting your foot on the first rung of the ladder.
7. Sell yourself
Be sure to promote your talk. Do a series of short articles or videos on the message you’re going to deliver. Share them on your social channels. It’s also a great way to start to practise your talk!
8. Practise makes perfect
The key to successful speaking is all in how you prepare. If you plan and practise, your performance and personal confidence will take care of themselves.
Plan - look at when you are speaking and mark the time and day in your diary. Working backwards, what needs to happen and by when? In doing so you are starting to ‘own the slot’ and get committed. You should aim to have your slides and text nailed at least two weeks before the speaker date and use those two weeks to practise. This also means you’ll get your slides to your organiser contact on time.
Practise - make time to rehearse. Think about what could get in the way and move it so your time is protected. When you rehearse, create as best you can the environment as it will be when you speak. If you’re going to walk around, walk around. If you’re behind a lectern, create a lectern and deliver from there. The first time you run through it, it will sound bad and you’ll probably hate it. This is better than having that happen on the day. Become aware of how you look, sound and feel. Speak in front of a full-length mirror so you can see yourself. Become a student of your own performance.
9. On the day
Arrive at the start of the day so you can pick up on the vibe, mingle and settle in. Ask to see your room before your session so you can get a feel for the space and acoustics. This will all help with your confidence and relax you ahead of your session.
Don’t expect your first time to be great. Reflect on what you thought went well, and what you would change next time. Ask the organiser for any feedback they may have received on your session. Ask if they filmed it and if you can share the content. Also ask if there are any writing opportunities post event. Many event organisers produce newsletters that they are interested in gathering content for. You could write an article about your experience at the conference and the new insights that came out of it.