Thursday, November 12, 2009

Week 11: Stephanie approaches speaking opps

Editor's note: Stephanie's coaching this week is a behind-the-scenes task, so she has written about her progress so far on the task of the week.

This week I was given the task of beginning my search for an actual speaking engagement. With all the information given to me from the previous post by Denise, you saw that I had a lot of work to do!

At this point, I've contacted three different places and am waiting to hear back from them. Even though this task appeared to be simple, it wasn't. I thought it would be easy to pick three places, but when I got started, I realized, I didn't know where I wanted to speak. There are so many options. This rose questions in my mind such as "Where do I want to speak?", "Who do I want to speak to?", and "Why do I want to speak to them?"

I started asking myself what it was that I had to share and why I felt the need to share it? I instantaneously became nervous as the phone rang on the other end. Thoughts ran through my mind like "What if they asked me something I couldn't answer? How would it make me look? Would that ruin my chances?"

Just like that, with this one task, I learned so much coupled with the extensive pointers I've been given. As I continue to look, I am now more focused than the first phone call and the first email because I've at least done it once before. Now all the advice given to me in the Week 11 post such as: have a bio or be ready to be asked or be able to answer certain questions, all make more sense to me than when I just read them without the application. This week's topic has definitely been a very productive learning experience for me! I look forward to continuing on and appreciate all the support! See you next week!

From Denise:  I'd add here that Stephanie's assignment was to focus on learning what local groups want from their speakers (and then, if she felt comfortable, to try to book a speech).  So my advice is to gather information first--you don't need to sign up to speak right away!  But when you are ready, your research and contacts will help you stand out.  As Stephanie rightly points out, this is one part of the process that you can't understand until you experience it.  She's in Florida, so if one of your groups has a speaking opportunity or advice to give, please share it in the comments!

Related posts:  Week 11: Working with program managers

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what speakers can learn from speechwriters

I heard two speechwriters tell a crowd of communicators today some insider tips that will help any speaker to understand what goes into a good speech--and what your speechwriter may need from you to help you get there.

Independent speechwriter Jeff Porro -- who served as a judge for this blog's Step Up Your Speaking contest and has contributed other speechwriter secrets here as well -- and Ann Scholl, a speechwriter for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, shared these insights at a Capital Communicators Group luncheon today:

  • Forget having a "canned speech." Fresh is better.  It's virtually impossible to have one speech that works for every group or for several speakers. Better to use some pre-made sections or "speech inserts" that are reworked, and target the rest of the speech to the situation.  (That's different from having a core message you use--and if you have one, be sure the speechwriter has it before she starts work.)
  • The speaker and the speechwriter need to talk:  Sure, intermediaries can do some of the arrangements, but to capture your voice, the speechwriter needs to be able to talk (and listen) to you in advance.   While you're having that talk, it's important to share some personal details about yourself: Stories from your early career or childhood, an anecdote or two you can tell about the topic, your unique perspective on why your topic is so important--all those insights can mean the difference between a dry talk and an audience-pleaser.  For example, if your goal is to inspire, who inspired you?  Telling a story about that person may help you make the point you want to make about your work today.  Another help:  If you've told personal stories in other media--say, in newspaper or magazine articles--share those with the writer.
  • The writer needs to see you:  If there's any video or audio of you speaking, it'll help the writer capture your voice and learn about your style of presenting.  And if you know special issues you face as a speaker, such as words you don't want to use or don't pronounce well, now's the time to share that information so the writer can work around them.
If you're working with a speechwriter, it also helps to ask him or her what's needed and useful.  Both speechwriters emphasized that every speaker is different--so be sure to share what makes you different with that writer.