Are you a struggling public speaker? Do you have a compelling message, amazing experiences, and a mastery of the English language? Do you dress well, smell good, and brush your teeth? If so, why hasn’t someone hired you to speak?
That is the question that many people in the Toastmasters organization ask themselves. They go through the basic program, they refine their speaking and presentation skills, and they have totally killed any instance of UM, AH, or You Know from their vocabulary. They are great speakers. Yet nobody is knocking on their doors to have them speak. Yet other people, with little or no speaking experience, are making a good living from speaking to groups.
Why is this?
It doesn’t seem right.
What is wrong with this picture?
It comes down to one thing…
The message is more important than the messenger!
Until you craft a message that people want to hear, you’ll be on the sidelines. You can have the smoothest voice, an intelligent vocabulary, and a great wardrobe, but without a message, no one wants to hear your presentation.
But, you say in your defense, I’ll speak about anything!
That is truly the problem. If you’ll speak about anything, it really means you are an expert at nothing. Meeting planners, speaker’s bureaus, and popular conferences are looking for “experts” on whatever subject they are covering.
The secret is to create a speaking niche that matches an available audience.
Take a look at our previous two posts and ask yourself. What kinds of problems do you know how to solve? Do you have “unique” solutions that no one else has? Have you had amazing experiences or overcome a great hardship or disease? All of these items can be the basis of a Unique Speaking Niche.
Once you find your niche, you need to find a receptive audience. And this is the true secret of this post. Did you know that there are conferences going on day and night about almost every known subject from groups that you have never heard of?
- American Frozen Food Institute
- National Corn Growers’ Association
- National Funeral Directors Association
- Professional Apparel Association
- International Association of Conventions and Visitors Bureaus
A great place to find these organizations is with Weddel’s online association directory. But to really get to the heart of the matter will require a couple of hours at your local library as you peruse the Encyclopedia of Associations.
Once you have found some organizations that closely match your experience or niche you’ll need to contact them and see what their requirements are for speakers and when and where they have their meetings. Now you need to match your message to the audience. A great way to do this is to write articles for their trade magazines, be active on blogs and discussion groups and connect with key members on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Once you have developed a voice in your key niche, you’ll need to coordinate with meeting planners and convention personnel to find out about speaking at one of their conferences. Crafting a well organized one-sheet and speaker outline will help you put your best foot forward.
If you are truly serious about speaking, spend some time researching organizations that fit well with your niche. A few hours of research can pay big dividends. You may find that local Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, and Kiwanis clubs may provide leads and free speaking opportunities to fine tune and market your message in your nearby community.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some marketing materials for speakers, to help you take the next step from free to fee.
Question: What speaking niche do you fit into?