Build a Stage for Public Speaking

On the Same Stage Martin Luther King Spoke From in 1963 (2)

As a professional speaker, I’m asked one question more than any other: how do I get more speaking gigs? The answer isn’t all that revolutionary. You probably know this already. But if I spell it out with some kind of order to it, it’ll probably make more sense and help a bit. Before you can get more speaking gigs (especially paid ones), you have to build a stage.

Stages Start With a Marquee

It helps people come to your stage if you put your main message up in lights. Right now, people hire me to speak about mostly social business and social software. They know my message because I blog about it daily here at []. In fact, I write blog posts that directly tap the shoulder of groups I think I could help, so that they might see what I’ve written about and decide it merits further conversation on a stage of their choosing. But if I didn’t start by putting up my speech in lights, so to speak, on a marquee, then I’d have nothing.

If you’re not blogging about your message, no one knows what you’re going to say on their stage.

Audiences Follow Each Other

In the realm of “chicken and egg,” nothing beats the social proof of audiences. If no one’s reading what you’re writing, then no one’s going to know that you should grace their stage. You have to build community to build your ability to speak on stages. But you have to start somewhere, too. So, what do you do? I built my audience by guest posting and taking writing gigs on other stages. I’m writing for (or have written for) several places, like American Express OPEN Forum, Success Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and on several popular blogs. If you’re not guest posting, get into it. (I really recommend this ebook (affiliate link) by Chris Garrett to get into guest posting.)

Give Your Speech Early

Before you perform on a stage in front of the people you seek to thrill, get out your video camera and shoot short versions of your speech. Do clips of a few minutes in length. Post them to YouTube, and then embed them in a blog post on your site about the contents of the speech. Be very tight in doing this. If you um and uhhh through the recording, delete it, practice, and do it again. Make sure it’s well lit and that people can hear you. Put it this way, if you stick up video that doesn’t seem interesting and appealing, why would someone spend money to put you on their stage.

Make It Easy to Connect

I make it really easy for people to book me for speaking gigs. I have a speaker page that gives people a mix of topics, testimonials, and contact information. My team knows that it’s a priority to connect up speaking gigs as soon as possible, and to serve those people who want my presence with as much as we can give them. Do the same. Make sure that you give people the easiest possible means to connect with you and know what they’ll get if they hire you to speak.

Take Some Practice Stages

There are lots of free and community-based events out there. If you want to do better at speaking, get more stage time. I’ve spoken probably over a thousand times at this point in my career. Early on, lots of those times have been to rooms with less than 20 people in them. Now, I’m excited when I speak to people no matter the size (the most I’ve done has been around 2000 or so live with a bunch more on the web). On the way up, practice. Take as many free stages as you can get. And you’ll learn something every time, if you’re open to learning.

Put Yourself Out There

The #1 secret I have for getting you onto more stages is the same as what’s covered in my friend, Steve Garfield’s great book, Get Seen. How do you get seen? Be there. It’s a little joke between Steve and I, and yet, it’s sound advice. Put yourself out in the wild. Be everywhere you can be. Be on stages. Be everywhere you can be. Comment on people’s blogs. Guest post on sites. Attend many events. Get to know lots of people. Get your name out there. Be sure that people know you, but also know what you stand for. Get your message so tight and tiny that people know what you’re going to talk about, no matter what the marquee reads.

Mine? How to be human at a distance (at least through the first part of 2011).

Put yourself everywhere.

How Else Can I Help?

If you subscribe to the HBW newsletter, I’m going to be offering a webinar on professional speaking. I’d love to see you there. If you have other questions, or ideas on what you want me to cover in that webinar, let me know here. I’m here to help.

See you on stage, I hope!

Print Friendly