Friday, March 30, 2012

Five tips for a long speaking career

A colleague of mine asked recently for some tips to prolong a speaking career. I've been on stage for quite a few years now, so I suggested a few things that I've found helpful. I thought I'd share them with you, right here.

1) Treat every audience as you would treat your most important client. When you speak, that's what they are. It''s really important to do your best speech, every time. It doesn't matter how many people are there, or how much you are being paid (if at all). That may be the only time those people hear you speak. You owe it to them to deliver the best possible value for their time sitting listening to you.

2) Throw away a third of your material every year, especially any references to things that happened more than five years ago. If you have a cracking personal story that stands the test of time, then keep it, but be ruthless otherwise. This one is tough. It's tempting to keep everything you've put in a speech, and simply to refine it. If you don't change, your speech will go stale, you'll get bored delivering it, and your audience will notice.

3) Outsource anything you're no good at. You're a speaker, not an accountant, diary manager, web designer, etc. Many speakers are one-person bands, and get bogged down doing stuff that will be done faster and better by someone else. If you're a speaker, concentrate on speaking.

4) Keep doing what you talk about, and be a shining example of it. Current experience trumps long-gone successes (see point 2). If your speech is about something that happened twenty years ago, no-one under thirty-five will remember it. That could be most of your audience.

5) (bonus tip) If speaking is no longer fun, give it up and do something else.

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