I know many people are afraid of public speaking, I was too! It just so happened that I managed to get rid of it once and for all after doing it for 18 years 🙂 (I started doing oratory and debate when I was 12.) Here are some tips to getting your first speaking engagement.
If you’ve looked at my speaker page it’s clear that I speak a lot! So it’s natural that I get asked the question, “How did you get started with your first speaking engagement?” I’m assuming that if you’re asking this question then you’ve gotten past your fear of public speaking. If not I’d highly recommend that you join ToastMasters to get some practice.
Public speaking is a great way to build a personal brand, but you cannot start out thinking that people are going to come after you. In fact conference and event organizers are getting pretty picky about who speaks at their conference, and will often times ask you to submit a sample of your work.
Figure out what you want to speak about, and start very focused. I initially started speaking on just engineering best practices with topics like Build v. Buy. Then as I become more knowledgable I branched out to additional topics like product development, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
Speaking at unconferences. I started speaking at any place that had a speaker volunteer program like CodeCamp and ProductCamp. This gave me a chance to practice my public speaking and presentation skills, but most importantly got used to interacting with a larger audience.
Make friends with event and conference organizers. I let people know that I was interested and capable. Some organizers are reluctant, and will want to meet with you to see if you have the chops. So as I mentioned before, you’ll need a little portfolio. Even something as simple as a YouTube video of you presenting can be powerful. Or you can offer to teach or present something in person. Offering to help is an easy way to get in the door for your first speaking engagement.
Know who your audience is. If you decide to go down this track realize that you need to care about what your audience needs, which means you need to think and anticipate context and questions. You’ll also want to get feedback from them on formats and styles, like talks, panels, workshops, and what they took away.
Full court press! I tell the world I’m a qualified speaker, because well I am! My senior year of high school I was flying all over the country, and gave over a 100 speeches. Fast forward to the present, I’ve done 50+ talks and presentations in a 3 year period. I stay up-to-date on conferences that are coming up where I think they’ll need speakers. This is a full time job for me. You can do less if it’s meant to be a supplement to your main job. Also I know many people who get invited to speak because they’ve published a book or are an expert in their field. But despite getting the invite, you still need to be an engaging and entertaining speaker, or word will get out…
If you’d like some hands-on help from me come out to the next at Femgineer Forum on Why You Should Speak at Technical Conferences in NYC on September 24, 2014. Sign up here to attend.