Saturday, April 25, 2009

when you're a frequent speaker

I've got a full slate of speaking engagements, already in motion, between mid-April and late May--and all over the U.S., from Oregon and New York to South Carolina and Washington, DC. Even if you're an experienced speaker, that kind of frequency can challenge--and sometimes undermine--your skill base. That's why I'm taking extra time this month to remind myself of the basics. Here's what's on my list of reminders that come in handy when you're lucky enough to be in demand as a speaker:

  • Double-check and record all your logistical arrangements: From travel arrangements to audio-visual equipment, make sure you've got your bases covered--and can carry those details with you in a PDA, thumb drive or other portable device. When it comes to slides, don't fear the triple-check: Email yourself a copy, bring it on a thumb drive and perhaps send a set to your host to make sure they're accessible when you need them. You'll have peace of mind--and the run-through to assemble all these details serves a useful purpose in making you review the arrangements.
  • Ask ahead: Even if the city isn't strange to you, ask your hosts to fork over details on the venue, the crowd, the registration numbers and even a good restaurant recommendation for dinner afterward. The more you know, the better you're prepared.
  • Know your backups: Particularly when I'm traveling and speaking, I make myself known to the hotel concierge, the local photocopying/shipping outlets, and a reliable cab driver--and travel with their phone numbers. You may need (as I have done in the past) everything from a laptop brought to your room to someone to sprint across town with new handouts. Set up the path before or on your arrival.
  • Don't forget the grace notes: Before, during and after your speech, take the time to listen to and thank the organizers--when women still have a tough time getting on programs, it's important that you reinforce good behavior in program planners. Send followup notes, advance thanks, and a kind word into the microphone.
  • Plan time for R&R: If you're pulling off multiple speeches in a few weeks, you need to take care of the speaker. Plan on extra time to rest and sleep; exercise; and some activity that involves no speaking. You can't hydrate enough. Give some thought to good nutrition, and pack a healthy backup--protein bars, herbal tea--in case breakfast isn't available early or you get caught in an airport. On your feet for a full day? Invest in a foot massage for 30 minutes at your hotel.

  • Finally, reach out to your audiences. Invite their followup questions, suggest a meetup after your talk and listen to their feedback. The chance to speak to -- and listen to -- many audiences is a gift. Use it. If you're where I'll be speaking this month, let me know!

    Speakers get their own 'American Idol?'

    Young speakers in Britain are amidst an American Idol-style competition called "The Speaker," which poses weekly challenges (be a newscaster, speak to the nation, be a tour guide, speak extemporaneously and more) and offers speaker-mentors in the form of vocal, body language and other coaches. The competition, for 14-to-18-year olds, has a great website with a special page devoted to helping you improve your speaking. Unfortunately, the ample video examples on the site won't work if you're not in the United Kingdom, so try the audio instead.