Build a Stage for Public Speaking

On the Same Stage Martin Luther King Spoke From in 1963 (2)

As a professional speaker, I’m asked one question more than any other: how do I get more speaking gigs? The answer isn’t all that revolutionary. You probably know this already. But if I spell it out with some kind of order to it, it’ll probably make more sense and help a bit. Before you can get more speaking gigs (especially paid ones), you have to build a stage.

Stages Start With a Marquee

It helps people come to your stage if you put your main message up in lights. Right now, people hire me to speak about mostly social business and social software. They know my message because I blog about it daily here at [chrisbrogan.com]. In fact, I write blog posts that directly tap the shoulder of groups I think I could help, so that they might see what I’ve written about and decide it merits further conversation on a stage of their choosing. But if I didn’t start by putting up my speech in lights, so to speak, on a marquee, then I’d have nothing.

If you’re not blogging about your message, no one knows what you’re going to say on their stage.

Audiences Follow Each Other

In the realm of “chicken and egg,” nothing beats the social proof of audiences. If no one’s reading what you’re writing, then no one’s going to know that you should grace their stage. You have to build community to build your ability to speak on stages. But you have to start somewhere, too. So, what do you do? I built my audience by guest posting and taking writing gigs on other stages. I’m writing for (or have written for) several places, like American Express OPEN Forum, Success Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and on several popular blogs. If you’re not guest posting, get into it. (I really recommend this ebook (affiliate link) by Chris Garrett to get into guest posting.)

Give Your Speech Early

Before you perform on a stage in front of the people you seek to thrill, get out your video camera and shoot short versions of your speech. Do clips of a few minutes in length. Post them to YouTube, and then embed them in a blog post on your site about the contents of the speech. Be very tight in doing this. If you um and uhhh through the recording, delete it, practice, and do it again. Make sure it’s well lit and that people can hear you. Put it this way, if you stick up video that doesn’t seem interesting and appealing, why would someone spend money to put you on their stage.

Make It Easy to Connect

I make it really easy for people to book me for speaking gigs. I have a speaker page that gives people a mix of topics, testimonials, and contact information. My team knows that it’s a priority to connect up speaking gigs as soon as possible, and to serve those people who want my presence with as much as we can give them. Do the same. Make sure that you give people the easiest possible means to connect with you and know what they’ll get if they hire you to speak.

Take Some Practice Stages

There are lots of free and community-based events out there. If you want to do better at speaking, get more stage time. I’ve spoken probably over a thousand times at this point in my career. Early on, lots of those times have been to rooms with less than 20 people in them. Now, I’m excited when I speak to people no matter the size (the most I’ve done has been around 2000 or so live with a bunch more on the web). On the way up, practice. Take as many free stages as you can get. And you’ll learn something every time, if you’re open to learning.

Put Yourself Out There

The #1 secret I have for getting you onto more stages is the same as what’s covered in my friend, Steve Garfield’s great book, Get Seen. How do you get seen? Be there. It’s a little joke between Steve and I, and yet, it’s sound advice. Put yourself out in the wild. Be everywhere you can be. Be on stages. Be everywhere you can be. Comment on people’s blogs. Guest post on sites. Attend many events. Get to know lots of people. Get your name out there. Be sure that people know you, but also know what you stand for. Get your message so tight and tiny that people know what you’re going to talk about, no matter what the marquee reads.

Mine? How to be human at a distance (at least through the first part of 2011).

Put yourself everywhere.

How Else Can I Help?

If you subscribe to the HBW newsletter, I’m going to be offering a webinar on professional speaking. I’d love to see you there. If you have other questions, or ideas on what you want me to cover in that webinar, let me know here. I’m here to help.

See you on stage, I hope!

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  • http://twitter.com/Brainzooming Mike Brown

    Chris –

    All true, true, true.

    Another that you display so well Chris is being distinctive in your presentations in a truly personal way fitting your own style. Having seen you speak twice, I’ve told people that it’s hard for me to imagine anyone else successfully delivering your message in the way you do. You share your perspective in a way that comes across as customized in nearly real-time for the audience you’re with at that moment. Other speakers would seem like they hadn’t prepared. With you the really cool sense is that, “I couldn’t have pre-packaged this….I had to interact and meet with you to create what I’m about to share.”

    Mike

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Thanks for the kind words, Mike. You’re right. I customize as much as I possibly can. I often times write my speech a few minutes before I get on the stage. This freaks out show producers until they see the result. If I’ve done it right, people remember snippets of conversations they JUST HAD with me showing up in the speech.

      But then, that’s just one of my little tricks.

      Others can do their thing. Seth Godin uses this mega deck and just plucks out the appropriate slides and slant for his presentations. David Meerman Scott does one speech a year and just does it well. VERY well. I’m the freak. : )

      • http://www.dogwalkblog.com/ Rufus Dogg

        Maybe not as odd as you think! I do the same thing with my workshops/talks; I don’t do PowerPoint, I don’t do handouts, I have conversations with people who file in early and include them in the talks and I mostly shoot from the hip. ( of course it really helps to know the hip inside and out!) It freaks out organizers to not get material ahead of time, but when the reviews come back, they get over it quickly. People want engaged conversation, not canned lectures. Mostly.

      • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

        Chris

        A freak or really really smart? I am going with the latter as you customize the presentation to the audience. The audience is there to listen and learn from the presenter (in this case you). You speak of certain people in the audience, you use examples that the audience can relate to and you ensure (set out??) that every single person in that room listening is going to learn something. Freak or again really really smart?

        I really believe that successful speakers know their audience and speak in the way that they wish to be spoken to. Some audiences like to see slides, some audiences do not as when the speaker reads the slides, it is almost like um .. we do know how to read ya know. We all have a style and that style/personality has to come through or the audience is lost. Seth and David have their style and it works very well for them in the same way that you have yours and others have theirs. Finding that style and creating the audience around it is what sets people apart.

        @SuzanneVara

      • http://www.kherize5.com Suzanne Vara

        Chris

        A freak or really really smart? I am going with the latter as you customize the presentation to the audience. The audience is there to listen and learn from the presenter (in this case you). You speak of certain people in the audience, you use examples that the audience can relate to and you ensure (set out??) that every single person in that room listening is going to learn something. Freak or again really really smart?

        I really believe that successful speakers know their audience and speak in the way that they wish to be spoken to. Some audiences like to see slides, some audiences do not as when the speaker reads the slides, it is almost like um .. we do know how to read ya know. We all have a style and that style/personality has to come through or the audience is lost. Seth and David have their style and it works very well for them in the same way that you have yours and others have theirs. Finding that style and creating the audience around it is what sets people apart.

        @SuzanneVara

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Chris.

        While I do have the core for a speech which I deliver many times, I absolutely customize. For example, I am now in Malaysia and in my talk tomorrow I will customize (I lived in Asia for ten years so it is like I am “home”).

        If I am in front of a B2B audience, then I’ll do B2B examples more than B2C. Same for nonprofit, etc.

        I see my style of developing a speech like that of a stand-up comedian — I try a new riff at every speech (like comedians test a new joke). If it works, it stays in. If not, it won’t be used again. That tried and true material which stays in forms the core of the speech. And then I tack on localized examples for the industry or market I’m speaking too.

        Having seen you speak and Seth speak, I can say that style matters. All three of us have more speaking gig requests than we can possibly handle!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Chris.

        While I do have the core for a speech which I deliver many times, I absolutely customize. For example, I am now in Malaysia and in my talk tomorrow I will customize (I lived in Asia for ten years so it is like I am “home”).

        If I am in front of a B2B audience, then I’ll do B2B examples more than B2C. Same for nonprofit, etc.

        I see my style of developing a speech like that of a stand-up comedian — I try a new riff at every speech (like comedians test a new joke). If it works, it stays in. If not, it won’t be used again. That tried and true material which stays in forms the core of the speech. And then I tack on localized examples for the industry or market I’m speaking too.

        Having seen you speak and Seth speak, I can say that style matters. All three of us have more speaking gig requests than we can possibly handle!

  • Anonymous

    Terrific advice on all counts.

    The picture is just awesome. Did you feel the ghosts of MLK and the other civil rights leaders? What a way to continue the dream. Hope you share this with your children, it says so much.

    On a lighter note, in another blog post on public speaking the author spoke about “Death by Powerpoint” especially after lunch. That phrase made me drop half of my slides in my last presentation. So true, so true.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I felt a shiver and a huge sense of “I’m not worthy.”

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com Marcus Sheridan

    Love the pic Chris….and really love the points you’ve made here as well. No doubt, I’ve got a few to work on. But for me, one of the main reasons that ‘I’ve put my words on a platform’ (my blog) is because speaking to groups of people is the one place on Earth that I feel utterly complete. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true, and I know the more I put myself out there, as you suggest here, the more I’ll get the opportunity to share my gift. Very exciting times…

    As always, thanks for doing what you do.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      I love hearing it, Marcus. Glad you feel that way. I love a stage. : )

  • Draven Ames

    Very nice post Chris. I recently started a blog, writing about science fiction and horror, and got on google to learn about social networking. Obviously, you are a guy to talk with.

    I agree with your whole post. When I was younger, I was a very social creature and these tips seem like second nature. The hardest part is putting yourself out there. If you get nervous (knees shaking and all that) but you love speaking, is it something you get used to?

    If you ever want to connect to an upcoming author, get in touch. Until then, I’ll be guest blogging and finding bloggers. Have a wonderful day.

    I look forward to reading more,

    Draven Ames

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Totally true, Draven. It takes a lot of work to get our confidence back, but it’s everything.

  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    Excellent advice. You touched on it but I think speakers focusing on content that benefits the audience in some form of ROI is key (ROI being time, money, etc). I see a lot of speakers WANT more gigs but their content doesn’t stand out or their delivery. Gotta work on the two in order to get more.

    BTW… did you know that apparently leaving a comment via an iPad is not compatible with Disqus? Been reading more from my iPad and every time I go to comment on your blog I can’t. Wonder if the Disqus peeps can fix or maybe it’s just a problem on my end.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      You’re right. The takeaway part is important in the speaking content. My post didn’t really cover the content, but I’ll hit that in my webinar.

      I’ll ping Giannii about the comments. I think it’s a Flash thing.

    • http://giannii.com/ giannii

      Hi Daniel,

      Can you shoot us an email with with any errors and the steps you’ve taken to comment? I’ve done a couple test comments via my iPad and I’ve not had any problems.

      help@disqus.com

      Thanks,

      • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

        Thanks Giannii. Will do.

  • http://www.standupandspeakto.us Richard Glover

    Excellent advice. You can have something deeply valuable to share, but audiences don’t just show up on your doorstep. You have to get out there and build them.

    The benefit of doing the leg work like that is that they’re far more receptive than they might otherwise be if you showed up cold.

    Another critical piece to building a stage is to make sure that, even at the smallest opportunity, you over-deliver for your audiences. If you provide more value than an audience expects, even a tiny audience, they will all-but-guarantee your growth through word-of-mouth. This feeds into the “Audiences Follow Each Other” point you make above. Social proof is great, and it’s even better when you have an audience that will rave about you.

    Awesome article. It’s going in my round-up file for the week. Cheers!

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      You’re right about over-delivering. Blowing people away is a sure bet on getting new stuff. : )

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      You’re right about over-delivering. Blowing people away is a sure bet on getting new stuff. : )

  • http://mydarabell.com/ Dara Bell

    I find this inspirational, I do want to speak publically but if I did I think I would find everything I needed in this piece. The main takeways are GETTING STARTING REGARDLESS, I think the wondering WHAT IF is the killer.

    To me starting means your in the frame for moving forward. Starting Regardless Social Media meant I was offered speaking gigs at the BBC on Social Media topics, I really do not want to speak but the STARTING REGARDLESS building a marques, social presence allowed such offers. It was never a goal to become a speaker, much of what is in the post can be applied to numerous areas. One could substitute speaking for sales or consultating for example.

    I like Steve Garfields book, for as a book like Crush It has great video tips Garfields book however has very indepth knowledge past the Tube Mogul and Viddler tips in Crush it. It gets specific!- both will help you thru though and Crush It is cheap.

    Lots to chew through and apply!!

    Dara

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Crush It covers a lot of ground. Steve Garfield goes deep on one part of it. I think both have their spot.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Crush It covers a lot of ground. Steve Garfield goes deep on one part of it. I think both have their spot.

  • http://mydarabell.com/ Dara Bell

    Afterthought
    What happened to make Boston such a powerhouse of blogging?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Dunno. We have Christopher S. Penn, C.C. Chapman, Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah, Ed Botches, Todd Defren, David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillin, and dozens and dozens more. It’s nuts, eh?

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Dunno. We have Christopher S. Penn, C.C. Chapman, Brian Halligan, Dharmesh Shah, Ed Botches, Todd Defren, David Meerman Scott, Paul Gillin, and dozens and dozens more. It’s nuts, eh?

  • http://mydarabell.com/ Dara Bell

    Afterthought
    What happened to make Boston such a powerhouse of blogging?

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul @ MazaKaro

    I totally agree with this , this is an interesting topic any way and i do agree it’s all about making your own stage and starting collecting a special audience , it’s about sharing and communication and being the leader !! :) Great post and nice tipss

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Happy to help. : )

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Happy to help. : )

  • http://socialdeviants.blogspot.com/ janet

    this picture just made me smile.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Thanks. I enjoyed that stage a great deal. My friend, @cherilhendry , brought me there. : )

  • http://twitter.com/MonicaRicci Monica Ricci

    Very good content, as usual! As a speaker myself, staying booked is always the biggest challenge. I appreciate your insights Chris! Thanks!
    ~Monica

  • http://twitter.com/MonicaRicci Monica Ricci

    Very good content, as usual! As a speaker myself, staying booked is always the biggest challenge. I appreciate your insights Chris! Thanks!
    ~Monica

  • Jackie Singing Chef

    If your serious about getting more gigs and really testing and honing your speaking skills I highly recommend getting involved in a Toastmasters club in your area.

    I have had years of experience speaking and performing live, but I joined Toastmaster to tweak my skills about a year ago.

    At Toastmasters, you get countless opportunities to learn by speaking and watching others. You get to test and refine your material.

    You learn how to give impromptu speeches and work your way through giving every kind of speech imaginable. Every speech you give is evaluated by an evaluator and you get really valuable feedback from every member of the club each time you speak. You learn how to evaluate speeches and how to write an instant speech. Your evaluations are also evaluated.

    Plus you get to be inspired by the other speakers and learn tricks and techniques from watching them in action.

    It’s also an excellent place to network. It’s incredibly robust and it’s really inexpensive.

    I’ve been a member of a NY club SEC Roughriders for almost a year. Check it out.

    Jackie

    • http://twitter.com/joebaz Joe Baz

      Great points, Chris. Your examples are also helpful.

      I am also going to reconsider doing Toastmasters per Jackie’s suggestion. I attended one a few months ago, but felt like I would be wasting time from my business by doing speaking about topics that weren’t core to my business. I think that was the wrong mindset to have for “building the stage”.

      Don’t know if you have any experience with Toastmasters, but I would love to hear it if you do.

    • http://twitter.com/joebaz Joe Baz

      Great points, Chris. Your examples are also helpful.

      I am also going to reconsider doing Toastmasters per Jackie’s suggestion. I attended one a few months ago, but felt like I would be wasting time from my business by doing speaking about topics that weren’t core to my business. I think that was the wrong mindset to have for “building the stage”.

      Don’t know if you have any experience with Toastmasters, but I would love to hear it if you do.

  • http://socialthreat.com Davezilla

    Awesome, Chris! I think you neglected one of the easiest methods: Just ask. Sometimes all it takes is a nice email to the promoter (sent early!) explaining what your topic is and why it’s appropriate for that event.

  • Rick Ladd

    Excellent advice, Chris, but my favorite part is “How to be Human at a distance.” I think I might want to add “and how it will change the world!”

  • Terry Jaymes

    Your information couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. With my contract on my syndicated radio show coming to an end – I’ve decided to grow up. I was recently asked to speak to a Dallas business group (to which I reluctantly agreed.) It could have been the best thing to ever happen to me. I can’t thank you enough for your gift this evening. I love the way the universe works.

    All the best,

    Terry Jaymes

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisHaviaris Chris Haviaris

    Ditto the Toastmasters suggestion….extremely helpful whether you’re a total newbie or looking to tweak your skills as Jackie said. They’ve got it down to a science and it really is a supportive environment. Nice to speak in a room where everyone wants you to succeed. Great post Chris, as always!

  • http://www.JackieUlmer.com Jackie Ulmer

    This is very helpful Chris. Have you ever approached someone and asked to speak at their venue?

    EXPECT Success!

    Jackie Ulmer

  • Ron Fink

    Put yourself in position to get speaking opportunities, then practice, practice practice to become audience worthy of bigger and better gigs.

  • http://www.thewritedesignco.com/ BillionDollarBlogger

    Chris, you are in my head. AGAIN. I checked this message while attending a Toastmasters conference. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s time for me to move to the next level.

  • http://www.thewritedesignco.com/ BillionDollarBlogger

    Chris, you are in my head. AGAIN. I checked this message while attending a Toastmasters conference. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s time for me to move to the next level.

  • http://www.thewritedesignco.com/ BillionDollarBlogger

    Chris, you are in my head. AGAIN. I checked this message while attending a Toastmasters conference. I’m taking this as a sign that it’s time for me to move to the next level.

  • http://twitter.com/GoodPeopleJapan Jason Ball

    Excellent

  • http://www.mikemccready.ca/blog/ Mike McCready

    As someone who trying to get his name out there for presentations, I really appreciate this post. I actually have a ‘practice’ event coming up sharing with the local home builder association on how social media can help them.

    Thanks for sharing these points.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Very happy to hear it, Mike. Let us know how it turns out? : )

  • http://twitter.com/sholtconsulting Steve Holt

    Great advice. This is what I have been trying to do, and it is slowly starting to pay off. Thanks for leading Chris!!

  • http://twitter.com/sholtconsulting Steve Holt

    Great advice. This is what I have been trying to do, and it is slowly starting to pay off. Thanks for leading Chris!!

  • http://twitter.com/sholtconsulting Steve Holt

    Great advice. This is what I have been trying to do, and it is slowly starting to pay off. Thanks for leading Chris!!

  • Laura Lear

    I can’t wait for the professional speaking webinar. I am so there! Thanks.

  • Marly Allen

    It isn’t necessarily the skill or knowledge you want to talk about that can get you a speaking engagement. For example, most of my income as a massage therapist comes from doing chair massages for various businesses and organizations, but I’m just starting on a career in stand-up comedy and storytelling, and need lots of practice. I called the Commission on Aging about doing chair massages for their staff, and mentioned that I was getting into stand-up comedy. The Director immediately asked if I’d be interested in doing my routine for their monthly Parkinson’s Disease group and during lunch hour at the Senior Center.

    • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

      Practice most definitely helps, and humor never hurts, either. : )

  • Diyana Alcheva

    Great info, Chris! I’ve been on stage a few times and looking forward to turning that into hundreds and to where you are now. I am looking forward to your webinars.

  • Diyana Alcheva

    Great info, Chris! I’ve been on stage a few times and looking forward to turning that into hundreds and to where you are now. I am looking forward to your webinars.

  • http://jobspert.com/placement-papers/ John Papers

    Thank you for sharing this helpful information..
    John..

  • http://www.leadtrends.com/ latest Fashion Trends

    lovin the ease of the point and shoots

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