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7 Tips for Success as a New Speaker or Presenter

As with most things, public speaking will feel natural as you gain experience in the field. However, when you’re new to the game, it can feel confusing and scary to book your first several engagements. In addition to the actual speaking part, you also have to work through the logistics of preparing to take the stage.

Every organization and association is different in the way of speaker guidelines, but there are a few standard considerations to keep in mind no matter where or what you’re presenting. Here are 7 tips for those new to the speaker circuit that will help you secure a foothold and gain confidence in yourself as a professional speaker.

Streamline your speaker resources

There are a few things that you’ll need on hand for any speaking engagement, including your bio, hi-res headshot and logo, title of your talk, a description of what you’ll cover, and key takeaways for the audience. These are typically requested upfront and will be used to promote down the line, so it’s best to have these organized and ready to send in a folder on Dropbox or Google Drive.

Better yet, consider having a dedicated speaking page on your website where people can download the required information as needed.

Do your own research

The host organization will usually share the basics with you, but you need to take it upon yourself to get the finer details if you want to be an effective speaker. Obviously, you’ll need the date and time, location, presentation length, and other terms of the agreement. But, you’ll be far more prepared if you take the time to dive further to understand the audience and its needs. Consider the following:

  • Typical size of the group: How many people usually attend this event based on past numbers?
  • A breakdown of who they are: Are they corporate, social, or wedding professionals? Small business owners, solopreneurs, or employees?
  • Experience level of the group: Are they new to the industry or long-time veterans?
  • Set up of the room: Where will you stand in relation to the audience? How about the lighting and AV?
  • Previous speakers: What has been successful in the past? What has fallen flat?

These are great questions to send to the event representative, as they’ll have the most historical data to provide detailed answers.

Get your AV situated

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it’s this: Never rely on anyone to cover your AV needs, even if they say they will. At the end of the day, you’re the one taking the stage and, if something goes awry, it will reflect on you — even if it “wasn’t your responsibility.” Create an audiovisual requirements sheet, outlining the following:

  • The computer you will bring, including the ports it has;
  • The presentation software you’ll use and its format (i.e. PowerPoint vs. Keynote vs. PDF; 4:3 vs. 16:9);
  • Any AV you bring with you (i.e. a clicker, adaptors, etc.);
  • Your preference for setup and microphone (i.e. podium, lavalier mic, etc.)
  • Whether you need sound and/or WiFi in the room (key for showing videos)

Prior to contracting, be very clear about what you expect from them in terms of AV, as well as what they can expect from you. Purchase adaptors if needed (especially if you have a Mac) and always, always come prepared with a backup flash drive with your presentation. Request time to meet with the AV technician onsite in advance of your session to ensure everything is set up as expected.

Be prepared with a contract

Sure, there are groups that will send you an agreement to sign — especially the larger national conferences. However, many won’t have a contract in place so you need to take care of that on your side. Sit down with your lawyer and create an agreement that covers everybody. You want to show the utmost respect for the host organization, but you also need to protect your own business interests. Be sure there are spots to include customized speaking details, concessions, and what should happen in the unlikely scenario that it is cancelled by either party.

Create your own promotional strategy

The host organization will, of course, promote your talk, but you’ll also need to do some personal promotions to reach your own audience. In some cases, the contract will state promotional requirements for both parties involved. It’s best to come into this discussion prepared with a plan to spread the word.

Consider dedicated social posts, a blog post announcing the upcoming event, and inclusion in a newsletter (if you have one). If you belong to an industry association, see if they have a member news section where you can share the details. Also, be open to helping them spread the word through their own channels, be it a guest blog, a Facebook Live on their page, or an Instagram takeover.

Don’t spare effort on your slides

While your talk may be most about your speaking skills, your slides are still a key part of the presentation — especially if you plan on sending them out to attendees after the fact. Put some time into the design of your slides, even if that means hiring someone to do them for you. Canva has a lot of great templates to get started, but if you have a designer, it’s worth connecting to see if you can get some professionally branded slides in both 16:9 and 4:3 formats.

In some situations, the host organization may have their own slides for you to drop in content. If that’s the case, stick to the rules and focus on keeping the layout of your text and images as professional as possible.

Practice your face off

It may go without saying, but practice really does make perfect — especially when you’re planning to speak in front of a large audience. Once you have your topics finalized, start outlining each talk and making notes about content. If possible, start this as soon as possible, even if you haven’t booked any events yet.

As you do book new engagements, you’ll have a framework to guide your presentation, which will leave you more time to practice your full talk out loud. Speak to the mirror, your cat, your best friend, your toddler, or your houseplant — the point is to talk out loud so you can identify what’s working and what’s not working. As the event nears, pull in an industry peer to garner any additional feedback for last-minute tweaks.

If you have enough lead time, consider practicing part of the talk on Facebook Live or through a podcast interview to put it in front of a real audience. Just check to make sure it’s not an issue with exclusivity. The more you can practice and refine the details of your presentation, the more confident you’ll be on stage and the better your delivery will be.

With these tips at your disposal, you are well on your way to becoming an experienced and effective professional speaker in the wedding industry. When in doubt, lean on your expertise — you are a smart and qualified professional with the know-how to share with industry peers. Once you know that confidently, all you have to do is own it.