I have been asked to submit a proposal for a keynote to a conference. The inquiry was accompanied by a warning: “I must tell you, you’ll have some possible stiff competition – Mr. Big Wig has been contacted.” Mr. Wig is a household name in America, and is almost a cult hero to this audience. Realistically, if he’s available on the date of the presentation and his price is affordable, I stand no chance to be selected. But…
Just as realistically, this not-for-profit organization will likely be looking to keep a few of their dollars or the schedule might not work out, and they will be looking for someone who can inspire, inform, and engage their people and not break the bank. While I don’t wish to be known as “the cheap speaker,” my locale and fees are probably in their range, and that puts me in the running.
But there is no way I can — or should — be hired based only on price and availability (even though knowing someone on the committee doesn’t hurt). I have to show that I have a message that this audience needs and wants and that I have the ability to deliver it in an engaging way. Since I’ve seen presenters to this group quite a bit, I know I am at the front of the pack on issue #2. Which leaves us with issue #1. What is my message?
Regardless of whether you are a for-pay or for-free speaker, regularly-scheduled or once-in-a-lifetime, informational or inspirational, you need a message. I’ve been coaching several speakers in recent weeks who lacked a clear message. We’ve worked on developing a “what-I’m-known-for” tag line and message so that when the phone rings, they are ready. And guess what?! Two of them had just that experience. Once they got their message in a near-ready state, the phone rang and they were asked to present. In one case, it was a radio interview that led to a TV interview that is getting some extreme exposure. In the other, this person got a platform to share a personal passion with people who need what he has. Both are grateful for the opportunity to share what they know with larger audiences. But those opportunities didn’t come when the message wasn’t ready. Having “passion” and a “heart to share” is not enough. You need an organized and easy-to-explain message with a clear and specific audience in mind.
In my case, I have my proven keynote for communication that applies to business audiences, but was able to offer this potential client another message I’ve done several times that feeds off their line of work and pushes them a bit. Having the speeches already in the bag let me give them a quick response with confidence that they had an option and incentive to select me. Now we’ll see what Mr. Wig does.
Develop your story/stories. You never know when the phone may ring.
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