Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Week 11: Working with program managers

If you're serious about public speaking, at some point you'll be working with a program manager--the person who arranges events and speakers--to get yourself on a program. Stephanie's a beginning speaker who needs to establish herself with the people who can invite her to speak, but every speaker needs a working relationship with program managers to ensure the success of a talk or presentation. These are the people who make your speech happen, from inviting the crowd to overseeing the logistics and making sure your topic is one that's welcome.
It's also important to get to know program managers from a variety of groups, organizations, clubs and companies, to ensure that you have wider opportunities to speak. Want to get speaking invitations? Send the manager, board or committee an email or a letter with your bio and a summary of the topics on which you can speak, and indicate your desire to be a speaker for a future event.
Here are 18 questions to ask a speaker program manager to help you land a speaking slot--and to make the most of it once you get it:
About the program manager:
  1. What are your priorities when you choose a speaker for this group?
  2. Are you interested in finding new speakers?
  3. What are 3 topics you wish you could find speakers to address?
  4. I'd like to be on your list of potential speakers. What information would you like to see about me as a speaker (bio, video, topics, etc.)?
About the group and its speakers:
  1. Tell me about your group as an audience. What are your members looking for? What don't they want to hear?
  2. What kinds of presentations work well for your group?
  3. What topics and speakers have you heard from so far this year?
  4. What formats do you prefer (single keynote speaker, panels?
  5. Have you asked your members about their thoughts or questions on this topic? May I see that information before I speak?
About the format:
  1. Tell me about the event: How many speakers will there be altogether? What's the flow or order of events? Is this speech part of a larger meeting? What's on the full agenda?
  2. Am I the only speaker? If not, am I on a panel? Moderating? Followed by another group of speakers?
  3. What are your goals for this event (if you're being asked to speak at a specific event and on a specific topic)? How did you arrive at this topic?
  4. How much time will I have to speak? How much time do you want to allow for questions?
  5. What will happen before and after I speak? Do you want me to stay longer or show up earlier?
About the logistics:
  1. Tell me about the room's size and shape, and how it will be set up.
  2. What equipment is available? (Be ready to share your equipment needs.)
  3. Are there any limits to the technology, room space or other logistics that I should know about?
  4. Who is managing the audio-visual equipment? May I speak with that person?
You also need to be ready to offer a few ideas about topics on which you want to speak, and to discuss them. Be prepared for the program organizer to ask whether you'll cover specific topics of interest to the group, and be honest about which of them you can handle and which you won't cover. If you have a website or blog, be sure to share information on it about the groups you've spoken to and the types of topics on which you speak. (On my blogs, I use the tag Graveline speaking engagements to share information about upcoming talks, topics, and even e-handouts for talks I've given, for example.)

Finally, be prepared with information about yourself: A short biography that highlights your expertise and experience; a suite of introductions so the organizer can introduce you to the audience; and, if you have it, video or audio of yourself speaking. Check out the links below for more information.

Homework for Stephanie: I'd like you to think of three groups you want to approach--a local club, women's organization, church or professional group--and make some calls or check their websites to find out who arranges programs and signs up speakers. Then send those three people an email or make a phone call to introduce yourself as a beginning speaker who'd like to be considered. Ask them some of the questions from the first 2 sets of questions above--about the program manager, and about the group and its speakers--and keep notes. Then follow up with some information about yourself. Feel free to include links to your videos on this blog! Report back to us when you've made some attempts and tell us how it went.

Related posts: 4 stepping stones to get speaking practice
Writing a suite of introductions for a speaker
Take charge of your introduction
Practices for panelists: 7 paths to success
5 ways experienced speakers can get back in the saddle
Check The Eloquent Woman on Facebook for the video that accompanies this post!