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Describing Your Topical Focus

A previous page included a substantial discussion of establishing your credibility (both in general and on particular topics). There is a chicken/egg relationship between this and actually selecting and describing your topic or topics. Obviously, you want to select and describe topics on which you have the greatest demonstrable credibility. On the other hand, you may most want to speak on topics about which you have the greatest interest or passion, and you’ll want to craft your description of these topics to allow you to have the most credibility on them. So assess what is below on this page interactively with the previous page about establishing your credibility on topics, understanding that there is a chicken/egg relationship between them.

Thoughtful and skillful presentation of your speaking topics can translate into a several fold increase in the number of initial inquiries you receive. Of course many things are involved in moving from an inquiry to a booking, but the first challenge is to prompt someone searching for a speaker to think “this might be the person for whom we’ve been looking.”

Assess Your Greatest Strengths As A Speaker

Assess your greatest strengths as a speaker, and craft all of your speaker marketing materials to focus on highlighting those strengths. Do you inspire and motivate your audiences? Do you energize the events at which you speak? Are you funny? Entertaining? Charming? Do you pepper your presentations with stories and anecdotes that keep audiences engaged? Just what do audiences like most about your presentations? Are you a “draw,” boosting the conference registration numbers at events you keynote?

On the more substantive side, they may want a speaker who can help really drive home a core strategic message. Do your presentations lead to big shifts in worldview? Do they inform audiences of critical new information? Stature as a thought leader is part of this. Do you have extraordinary expertise and accomplishment in your field? Do you convey confidence, charisma, gravitas?

In addition to all the standard stuff described just above, particular venues may be looking for someone who can meet particular goals distinctive to them. Some may look for speakers who will appeal to their conference or keynote speaker funding sources. Or they may look for someone who will attract the attention of the specialty press covering their particular domain. Or perhaps they want a speaker of very high stature as a way to announce to the world that their organization is now playing in the big leagues.

Most speakers have multiple strengths, multiple possible selling points. Any insights you can get about what is most important to the inquiring organization will help you select which of these multiple strengths to lead with, to emphasize. This in turn can be the difference between getting and not getting an engagement. The trick is to shape how you present your greatest strengths so that they align with the needs and wants of a sponsoring organization.

Assess Your Strongest Topic Credentials

If you have worked through these pages in order, you will already have considered carefully how much credibility you may be able to muster on one or several topics. Review here.

If you haven’t already, decide for which topic or topics you have the strongest credentials. This doesn’t mean what you know most about, or what you feel most strongly about. This means expertise established by a record you can lay in front of people. That record could include: Books or published articles on your topic; Leadership roles and accomplishments in the topic area; Speaking experience on topic; Awards or other recognitions in the topic area; and, Any other topic-specific information that can help establish your credentials on a particular topic.

Assess Your Strongest Selling Materials

People considering booking a speaker most often view evidence of speaking excellence – videos, testimonials, references, speaking history – as valid only WITHIN topic and audience silos. If you have excellent materials demonstrating success with student audiences on climate change, they generally aren’t very effective selling you to speak to business audiences on renewable energy. You may know that there is a great deal of overlap, but venues shopping for speakers just don’t think that way.

You may reason that a good speaker is a good speaker to any audience, or that a speaker with command of climate issues will have similar command of closely related renewable energy issues. But this is often not how potential booking decisionmakers see things. They will look at your materials focusing on particular audiences and topics, and think: “Well, we’re really looking for a speaker who can address business audiences on renewable energy, not student audiences on climate. We need to continue searching.”

Consider Where Your Passion Is

All other things being equal, you are more likely to give an energizing talk on a topic about which you feel passion. Energy begets energy. Enthusiasm is contagious. Conviction can boost persuasiveness. So, when selecting and describing topics, think about where your passion lies. You’ll enjoy preparing and giving a talk more if you care strongly about what you’ll be talking about, and because you are more motivated, you could also do a better job of customizing your remarks to the needs of your audiences. (I say could because your passion, if you aren’t careful, could lead you to substitute what you care about for what your audience cares about.)

Think Carefully About Your Best Markets

Think carefully about who would be willing to pay to hear what you have to say, and just why they would care. To whom do you have the most to offer? Define your target markets by identifying what types of venues, organizations, and audiences would find what you have to offer most appealing and valuable.

Then search for the most significant areas of overlap between your conclusions here and what you have developed and concluded from the processes suggested above: Your greatest strengths as a speaker, your strongest topic credentials, your strongest selling materials, and your greatest passions. It will be in the areas where these factors overlap strongly that you are most likely to find the greatest potential to market yourself successfully as a speaker.

Write Topic Titles & Descriptions

If you have followed the suggested steps above, hopefully they will help you prepare descriptions of your speaking that will help you succeed. Write topic titles and descriptions with your main target markets front and center in your mind’s eye.

One cautionary note, however. Be careful not to write something that makes is sound like you will give a canned talk. Venues want to know that you will evaluate their specific nature and needs and at the very least modify your presentation significantly to ensure that you are delivering a presentation useful to them. It is usually a good idea to tell them this directly, and before they ask about it.

If You Want To Market On Several Topics

An expert on everything is an expert on nothing. People looking over possible speakers know this instinctively. Beware of presenting yourself as expert on too many topics.

As noted above, people considering booking a speaker view evidence of speaking excellence – videos, testimonials, references, speaking history – as valid only within TOPIC silos.

If you want to speak on more than one topic, you will be well served to create multiple selling packages. Have a video, testimonials sheet, references and speaking history focusing on you speaking on each particular topic you’re selling.

Marketing To Different Types Of Audiences

Similarly, people considering booking a speaker view evidence of speaking success – videos, testimonials, references, speaking history – as valid only within AUDIENCE silos.

If you want to speak to multiple audience types, you should create a selling package for each. Have a video, testimonials sheet, references and speaking history focusing on students for student audiences, businesses for business audiences, etc.

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