For many people, being invited to talk on stage or present from the front of the room, is their worst nightmare come true.
However if you are comfortable on stage, getting speaking opportunities is a brilliant way to showcase your expertise and get noticed. What’s good about getting noticed is that the next time there’s a promotion, management already knows who you are.
Speaking on stage is also a brilliant way of getting known outside your current organisation (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).
Rather put spoons in your eyes?
Wait … before you click away thinking “I’d rather put spoons in my eyes”. I get that you might think you don’t have the skills and/or the confidence to be a speaker. However this is all about the power of yet. As with anything, the more you stretch your comfort zone, the easier it becomes. There are also specific skills that you can develop so that you grow in confidence.
Although I am an introvert, happy to work on my own to the sound of silence, I have always loved getting up on stage to share my knowledge and experience.
My very first speaking opportunity was back in 1989 when I was invited to present to a group of business continuity specialists about managing the IT service desk and user expectations in the event of a technology ‘disaster’ such as a network or power failure. I wasn’t the best speaker that day but I was definitely the youngest.
I’ve been speaking ever since and it’s been a brilliant way to get noticed to boost my career. And now to raise the profile of my business.
Ready to find out more?
If you are ready and willing to find out more, first let’s consider the skills and qualities you need to be a speaker:
- subject matter expertise
- passion and enthusiasm
- ability to think on your feet
- voice projection
- story telling
- open to feedback
- time management
- ability to create connection and rapport
Some of these you will undoubtedly already possess. Others you may need to practice or get coaching.
Two specialists speaker coaches that I highly recommend: Susan Heaton Wright who can help you focus on the delivery i.e. your body language, your voice and charisma. Elizabeth Toohig will teach you the art and craft of a great talk.
How to find speaking opportunities
My first speaking engagement that I mentioned earlier came about through a personal contact, in fact my Dad! Ask your personal contacts about opportunities and let them know that speaking is something you are willing to do.
What about user groups that you belong to? Do any of your suppliers host annual conferences? What about an industry event? Networking events? What about internal networks?
People buy from people
Speaking is no different to any other service. People ‘buy’ from people. Go along to events that suit your expertise. Introduce yourself to the organiser and volunteer to get involved. A warm in person approach is more likely to be successful.
I created my most recent opportunity for London Tech Ladies on How to use Coaching Skills to Develop as a Leader. I work with women in technology and women in professional services, so probably in the City.
I searched ‘women in technology’ on EventBrite and Meetup. I found London Tech Ladies and went along to their next event. At the start, the organiser put out a plea for volunteers to talk on various soft skills. I chatted to the organiser at the end of the session and offered to talk. Because I had been to a previous event, on the night, I already had a good feel for the audience, the format and the location. So I was less nervous and didn’t get lost on the way!
Not what networking groups exist for your sector, check out my directory of networking groups.
The more you practice
In the early days of a speaking career, the more you practice, the faster you will grow in confidence. Get involved. Volunteer. If you just missed an annual event or conference, get in touch with the organiser and find out how to get on their speaker roster for next year. Most events are planned several months in advance. I start planning for my January online conference in September.
To get practice outside work, what other groups do you belong to? NCT? Women’s Institute? What about podcasts? Listen out for speaking opportunities on social media and connect with event organisers on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Get experience at a Toastmasters group near you. Toastmasters International has more than 345,000 memberships with 15,900 clubs in 142 countries. Go along one to one of their meetings to discover how you can improve your public speaking skills.
Check to see if there is a PSA group near you. The Professional Speaking Association (PSA) runs meetings throughout the UK and Ireland. Divided into regions, each region offers regular meetings where you can learn to be a better speaker.
Just get started
I’ve always loved speaking on stage. It would be brilliant if my tips from years of experience help you to learn to love speaking too. Speaking opportunities are such a simple way to showcase your expertise so that you make a bigger impact at work and in your sector.
Even if you feel you lack confidence or lack skills, THE most important thing is to do is just get started.
If you want to use speaking opportunities to boost your career, leave a comment below and let us know what specialist subjects you can talk on. You never know who’s reading this …