Sorry, that’s my Catholic background coming through.
I have just finished another interview in the forthcoming audio series and ebook, Insider Secrets for Getting Hired by the Top Conference Organizers. This one was with Dan Barmettler, of the Institute for Integral Development, now part of the US Journal Training group (http://www.usjt.com).
Dan, like every other of the conference organizers to whom I have spoken, mentioned that his ideal speaker is one who gets his or her materials for marketing the conference and getting continuing education approval, to the organizer in a timely manner. All of them have mentioned that one of the traits of a “nightmare speaker” is that he or she is not very responsive.
Here’s where my mea culpa comes in: I have been one of those people that organizers have had to chase down or bug to get materials from in the past. Mostly I’m not now since I set up a website at which they can go and download most of what they need. But sometimes they need something that isn’t on the site or they need something more personalized and I haven’t gotten it to them without being bugged several times.
After these conversations, I feel thoroughly chastened. These people are paying me lots of money to speak; they are giving me an opportunity to do what love and what gives me meaning. And I am not acting congruently with my sense of gratitude at that privilege and trust.
I vow to be better about this.
But for you who are reading this. Take a lesson. Get your act together. Get stuff to sponsors before all the other speakers. Be easy to work with.
I saw this motto on a joke Demotivation poster some time ago. I laughed at the time, but recently, when conducting a series of interviews with top conference organizers who hire many speakers each year, I decided that, in my case at least, it wasn’t such a joke.
I think I can serve as such a useful example for you if you have ambitions to be a national/international speaker.
You see, I am one curious and restless fellow. I have pursued many interests and spoken on many disparate topic areas during my years as a speaker, starting in 1978. I first had a focus on the work of Dr. Milton H. Erickson and on what was to become NLP (neuro-linguistic programming). I spoke on “Therapeutic Metaphor,” “Patterns of Communication and Change,” “Patterns of Hypnotic Induction and Treatment,” and thing related to those areas.
After I began to travel and teach regularly, often being invited back to the same location and by the same group, they began to ask me to teach about my own ideas, not those of Dr. Erickson and Bandler and Grinder. I did have some of my own ideas and I began to speak about a kind of brief therapy I had developed out of my family therapy studies, as well as my studies of Dr. Erickson and NLP. I called it “Solution-Oriented Therapy,” and I started to teach variations on that for many years. I taught on “Brief Solution-Oriented Couples Therapy,” “Solution-Oriented Treatment of Chronic and Severe Mental Illness,” and other specific applications of the approach.
Then participants started approaching me during breaks in the workshops saying things like, “You are very spiritual, aren’t you?” I would tell them I was but was mystified that they knew that since I hadn’t mentioned a thing about spirituality in my talks. They would just assure me that it was there between the lines.
So, I developed some talks on spirituality and therapy. Then on finding spiritual and personal renewal in one’s personal life.
After writing over 20 books, people were always asking me how they could write and publish their books. I began to teach in that topic area as well. Then about becoming a paid public speaker. The about using the Web to do inexpensive marketing and develop ongoing sources of passive income.
I’ve even left out a few topics, but the point is that I seem to be all over the map. Each of the top conference organizers told me they would never hire someone like me if they were approached by such a person. (They do all hire me, but they knew me when I was more specialized and hired me then; now they know me and know that I will do a good job even with new topics.) They told me they wanted someone who was focused on one topic area and was an expert in that area.
The takeaway for you? Focus. Specialize. Don’t send disparate topics to people who can hire you. Be like a stamp. Stick to one thing.
One of my former students for speaking coaching wrote today and said she had some upcoming speaking engagements at which the venues did not supply the LCD projector she needed to show her slides and she wanted my recommendation on what to buy.
Here’s what I wrote her:
If I were buying today, here’s what I would get:
Bill’s recommended LCD projector
In general, I recommend:
Light: less than 5 pounds, even better less than 4 pounds, but you sometimes sacrifice brightness or price when you go that small
Brightness: 2500 lumens or more; this one has 3000
XVGA quality image if it is not too expensive and the brightness and weight are good. This one has that. You could drop down to XGA and save $100 but I wouldn’t.
Hope this helps.
[Disclosure: the recommended projector link has my affiliate link built in. I get a commission if you buy it through this link. I still recommend this one, though, and it won’t cost you any more to use my link. And it will help support this free blog.]
I have been doing a series of interviews with conference and workshop sponsors and organizers to get some insight into how they go about finding and hiring speakers.
I am actually getting some new insights or perhaps new clarity.
I just finished a conversation with Ken Ralph, or J&K Seminars in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. With his wife, Judi, he has been running professional mental health continuing education conferences for the past twenty years.
He talked about how he finds speakers by searching for topics or for well-known people. Sometimes he has a topic in mind (for example, he recently searched for someone who could help counselors and other mental health professionals get some training in diversity by getting a top expert to speak about GLBT issues). He got suggestions from past participants by putting out an email request through his email list and came up with a list of about 50 possible speakers.
Next he did an Internet search for those people, settling on ones that had books, had speaking experience, and had a new slant on the topic.
What can you take from this? First, write a book. Every sponsor I have spoken to so far has mentioned the importance of having a book to establish your credibility and reputation as an expert in your topic area.
Second, have a web presence of some kind (a blog, a website, etc.). He went to the Internet to search for people and to winnow his list. If you don’t have a web presence, you may lose out.
Third, get lots of speaking experience and document it. Every sponsor I have spoken to said that people may be experts in their content area, but if they don’t know how to teach and haven’t had a lot of experience speaking, they would be loathe to take a chance on them. Teaching and speaking are skills and, like any skill, the more you do it and work at it, the better you can become.
I have just completed another in a series of interviews I am conducting with top workshop and conference organizers about how they find and hire people to be paid public speakers. This one was with Jack Hirose of Jack Hirose and Associates, who organizes events all over Canada and is based in BC.
I heard a lot of insights from Jack, but one that stood out was that he really appreciated speakers that were organized and timely in getting him all the marketing materials he needed to bring them in. He usually needs outlines, descriptions, photos, and other things to get the ball rolling. Sometimes, he says, he has to request these several times to get them from speakers he has hired.
I mentioned to Jack that this is one of the reasons I had set up a specific website where sponsors can go to get all that stuff from me. It saves me and the sponsor time and hassle; and it increases my sponsor’s customer satisfaction with me (I must admit, I was one of those flaky people who sometimes didn’t get things sponsors needed to them in a timely manner).
The other thing Jack said that surprised me a little was that he mostly hired speakers that had more than one books out. Why? he wants the experts in the topic areas for which he hires and having several books gives speakers a credibility and marketing clout that only have one (or none) doesn’t.
You’ll learn more from Jack and the others I am interviewing when I release the entire series.
Over the years, I have become friends with many of the conference organizers who have hired me again and again to speak for them.
Since I teach, write for and coach people who want to get on the speaking circuit and become paid speakers or who just want to expand their speaking careers, I have decided to do a new project/product. It’s called Insider Secrets for Getting Hired by Top Conference Organizers. It will be a teleseminar series, an audio program, and an ebook, once the transcriptions of the interviews are completed. I will interview my friends who are top conference organizers and get from them how they find speakers, why they hire them again, why they don’t hire them and tips for approaching them to make it more likely you get hired.
I have just completed the first of these interviews and plan to do six in the next two weeks.
But I thought it might be useful to bring back a report from this first one. Here’s a summary fo the main points I took from my interview with Fran Burgess and Derek Jackson from the Northern School of NLP in Whalley, UK.
1. They hire speakers mostly out of relationships. They ask other speakers they know and trust who is good. Then, they evaluate the speaker in terms of: Would we want this person to stay in our house? The person may be a great presenter, but if they don’t feel good enough about them to consider letting them stay in their home, they don’t invite the person to speak. After they get to know the person, they invite the person back or give recommendations to other organizers based on their relational connection with the speaker.
2. The clarity and organization of the speaker and the agreement. They like it when a speaker is organized with their materials and contracts and doesn’t throw any surprises in (last minute extra expenses; showing up late or tired or unprepared; changing the contract after an agreement has been reached; etc.).
3. The speaker has done his or her homework. Knows the field, knows this organization, can extend or add to the general knowledge in this area, has a unique contribution to make to their students and to them in terms of new learning.
4. Is generous. With materials, their time and availability.
5. Uses humor (or humour, since they are from the UK).
6. Tells a good story.
There was much more to their insights into what makes a good (and bad) speaker and someone they would or wouldn’t hire, but those are some of the high points. You’ll learn more when the whole series is released. Stay tuned (or watch this space, if you are form the UK).