View of an auditorium from the stage

Are you headed here?

OK - I have to admit, scenes like the one above are the exception and the highlight of my career to date - but hopefully there are more scenes like this to come in the future!

I have been on the public speaking circuit since early 2008 and since I left my last corporate role in 2014, my (almost) sole source of income has been derived from public speaking, delivering keynotes, briefings, workshops and masterclasses on Innovation. For full disclosure, I have picked up a couple of clients on a retainer basis as an advisor as a result of this activity - hence the (almost) qualification above. My professional journey since 2014 has been "bumpy" to say the least and I have faced numerous steep learning curves - if there is any interest from the speaking / aspiring speaking community then perhaps I'll write a bit more about my journey - but since that's not how I pay my mortgage, it's not something I've taken the time to share to date. I am very fortunate to have been supported, advised and occasionally mentored by a number of professional speakers over my career and I continue to learn and hone my craft whenever and wherever I can. Over the years I have refined a few approaches that have worked for me and I am happy to hereby share these with others who are interested in undertaking the journey towards a career as a professional public speaker.

*** Please note ***

I don't formally offer my services as a "speaker coach" which is why you won't find this page anywhere on the main menu of this site although I do occasionally run group workshops for organisations interested in reducing DEATH BY POWERPOINT 🤪

This is a summary outline of my approach to delivering a keynote, along with a few downloadable templates, that I hope you will find helpful:-

  1. Client Brief - you should always take a brief from the client to understand what it is that they are trying to achieve and how you can help them or their event be a success. I always book a half hour intro call with the client to go through the brief with them - I send it to them in advance and if they complete it and send it back prior to the call I will raise any items that need clarifying. If they don't complete it in advance then I use the time to go through it with them. This starts the relationship off in a professional manner as all clients appreciate a consultative approach and appreciate you taking the time to work with them instead of simply pitching your canned session that you have done for previous events. Feel free to take my word document and edit it for your own needs (oh - in case you haven't realised, my initials are "AV" - therefore references to "AV" in the Client Brief document do NOT relate to "Audio Visual" requirements 😂). I haven't gone into the Client Brief in detail here as it should be quite self explanatory.
  2. The 4 essential building blocks of a good session - armed with your client brief, you can now plan your session, or tweaks to an existing session that you have previously delivered - each session should be tailored to a degree and you should never develop a reputation for delivering the same thing over and over again. Even the exact same session can and should be delivered in a slightly different way - perhaps slightly different anecdotes and examples or a couple of different images and a subtle twist in the narrative - so that audiences that might have seen you before will still have something to take away from your sessions every time.
    1. Who is this for? It's NOT about YOU! You need to understand your target audience and recognise that your client is not necessarily your audience - there are obvious exceptions to this for example when doing corporate events where your client is in fact very much part of your audience, but for bigger / public events, your client will be the event organiser who is putting this on for a specific audience. Take a look at my Audience Avatar approach to honing your narrative for specific personas - it works.
    2. What do you want them to know? Never forget that the audience has paid to listen to you. They might not have paid actual money (eg at a free or internal corporate event) but they are paying with their time and attention. Public speaking is a value exchange and you need to give them something of value in return for their time and attention - make use of the the Audience Avatars to carefully consider how you can help them.
    3. How do you want them to feel? Do you want your audience to feel scared, inspired, uplifted, motivated? Perhaps you want to take them on a journey through a range of emotions or a rollercoaster of conflicting emotions - think about how this will play out over the course of your session. People will forget the bulk of what you say but they will never forget how you made them feel - leverage this.
    4. What do you want them to do? You will find many blogs and articles that will advise you to end on a "call to action" like "buy my book" or "hire me to consult" or something along those lines. That is absolutely NOT my advice - see point (i) above - this is NOT about YOU! What do you want the audience to do as a direct result of what you have just been telling them? Do you want them to act in a different way? Do you want them to start doing something or stop doing something? Do you want them to change their minds about something? Whatever it is, weave the subtle threads of this throughout your session and close on something meaningful and relevant. Of COURSE you can end the "show" with your contact details / social media handles / web site address etc (but make it subtle - like when you say "thank you") - but don't let your final words be a "sell" call to action - leave the audience with something to contemplate deeper or inspire them into action - if you have done your job properly, they will seek you out and follow up by following you or visiting your website - THEN it's appropriate to sell - just don't do it from the stage - please!
  3. Putting it together - I wrote this article a while ago in response to a request for a few words of advice from an aspiring young speaker - I also knocked up an infographic to go with it and the whole post became the basis for the "No More Death by Powerpoint" workshops that I occasionally run by special request (like I said, I'm not a "speaker coach" - my focus is on the topic of Innovation) - I'm not going to repeat everything here - please read the post to see how I execute this on stage.

A final word on the topic of public speaking - it's NOT the same as delivering a company powerpoint to a bigger audience. Your purpose is completely different and even if you are requested to deliver an entirely educational session, DON'T be tempted to roll out the company slides full of bullet points in 10pt font .......... nobody, ever in the history of events, ever wanted to see that on stage!

AND one final, final tip - get comfortable "presenting naked". NO - I don't mean "without your clothes on". Presenting naked is the industry term for "without any slides or props" - it's just you and the audience. On more than a handful of occasions, catastrophic technical failures and/or power outages have rendered me "naked" on stage. If you can proceed calmly and continue to keep the audience engaged, you will be instantly recognised as an accomplished professional - practise, practise, practise - hone your craft until you can do this with ease and you will go far in the world of public speaking.