Public speaking is a great way to help you create an in-demand marketing agency. Want to be a better speaker? One of the best ways is to learn from great speakers—and it’s a lot easier to learn when they’re all in one place.
In this article, I share advice from interviews with 5 top marketing and creative speakers—Ann Handley, Denise Jacobs, Jay Baer, Lenny Terenzi, and Scott Monty. I spoke with them at the 2016 High Five Conference in Raleigh, NC.
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs (@annhandley)
What can you learn from listening to other speakers?
I learn stuff from so many speakers all the time. I like going to events because you can pick up things from just about anybody. Little tweaks, little improvements.
I don’t think you need to go to an event and see an expensive speaker to be inspired. Ultimately you can be inspired just in your own backyard. For me, it’s a matter of what works, what’s effective, and what connects.
How did you start out as a public speaker?
When I first started speaking I just wanted people to buy my book and read it all together in the room.
I was that kind of speaker who would stand at a lectern and clutch it for dear life. I remember hearing Mitch Joel from Montreal, Canada. He’s a tremendous speaker and he was so comfortable on stage. I thought, “That’s amazing. I would love to be able to do that someday.”
What are your tips for public speaking?
Good speakers deliver equal measures of education and inspiration. That’s something that I try to do, which is why I use a lot of humor in what I present.
People find the concepts a little bit more accessible if they are having fun while they’re learning.
Chief Creativity Evangelist, The Creative Dose (@denisejacobs)
How did you get started in public speaking?
I’m most proud of the fact that I had a vision for what I wanted to do. It wasn’t clear and I didn’t know exactly how it was going to happen, but what I am doing now is my dream for myself. Three or four years before I started speaking, I knew I wanted to speak and travel the world, and I wanted to talk about topics that affect people’s lives in a positive way.
What are your tips for those who want to become public speakers?
My story is a template for other people. You don’t need to know exactly what you’re going to do [to become a speaker], and you don’t know how it’s going to happen. Be clear about what you want to happen and then work towards that.
President, Convince & Convert (@jaybaer)
What do you enjoy most about public speaking?
The great thing about the speaking business is that it is so welcoming. Everybody has been where you are, and there’s a lot of empathy with people so willing to help. It’s not competitive.
How did you get started in public speaking?
I’ve been involved in the National Speakers Association for several years now, which I recommend for people who want to get serious about the speaking side of business. I’ve been really fortunate learn from some of the world’s greatest speakers, who have been extraordinarily helpful to me. They’ve mentored me for years, not only on stagecraft and performance, but also the business side of speaking, which is a very specific kind of way to do business. Speaking is different from regular consulting because there’s a lot of nuance to it, relationships, and things like that.
What’s a common speaking mistake you see?
People who speak now and again and want to do it more often tend to have lots of different topics. They are willing to cover whatever the organization wants, just to have a chance to speak.
People who speak all the time only have two or three talks that they customize for the audience. If you’re going to speak for a living, the people who want to book you want your trademark speech. It’s a paradox, and it’s counterintuitive that the more you speak, the fewer topics you have.
What is your advice for public speakers?
If you want to make speaking a larger part of your career, you should be getting paid for it.
Some counterintuitive advice for speakers is that less is more. When you give a talk, beginners tend to think “I need to make sure these people learn everything I know in 1 hour, because I owe them that much.” The tendency is to think the more you tell them, the better the talk is. That isn’t true.
You can’t tell everybody everything you know in an hour. It’s too much content, and your audience can’t keep up or process quickly enough. They will come away thinking it was an interesting talk, but it won’t sink in.
Write your talk and then throw away half of it, then you’ll be fairly close to the amount of content you should have.
Founder, Hey Monkey Design (@HeyMonkeyDesign)
What advice would you give to aspiring public speakers?
We all have our crowds [that we’re used to], so sometimes there’s some fear. If you are afraid of something, that is probably where you need to go.
If someone is questioning “Is this my audience? Should I be doing this?” The answer is yes, because that’s what’s going to push you ahead [to grow].
Principal, Scott Monty Strategies (@scottmonty)
What are your tips for public speakers?
Join an organization and connect with other speakers. Go to conferences where there is going to be a real value exchange and an intellectual agenda. This is where marketers come to become better educated. When you’re in communications, it’s about connecting with your colleagues.
Applying this in your speaking
In my experience, getting better as a speaker means approaching it as a “craft”—something I’m always practicing, and that I can always improve. I’ve already applied new ideas from what Ann, Denise, Jay, Lenny, and Scott shared here.
For more tips to improve your speaking, see my 2015 book The In-Demand Marketing Agency: How to Use Public Speaking to Become an Agency of Choice. You can find it on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Readers get access to free resources that will save you 20-50 hours of work as you start or expand your speaking.
Question: What’s your favorite tip from this article?