If you are trying to earn an income teaching, speaking, or presenting, a critical component of your business plan is being invited to events as a paid professional. For some it appears that their schedule fills easily; for others it is the opposite. If you relate more to the latter there might be some reasons for this that will surprise you.
The good news is that most of these can be fixed with a little bit of effort on your part. The challenge will be honest self-examination. And be prepared that you still need to be patient; even if you make the necessary changes, you probably will not see results instantly. This is a long lead-time business, and getting hired as a public speaker doesn’t happen overnight. But the investment you make today will pay off in the future.
The Word is Out!
And that word is that you are difficult to deal with. I know the reason I got my first professional teaching gig was due primarily to the fact that I was low maintenance as a vendor at the same conference. I turned in materials on time, I did what I said I would do and I only raised issues that were legitimate issues and only if I could not solve them myself. The event organizer is responsible for making “everybody” happy, particularly their customers. If you are part of the solution, you will be invited back. But if you are demanding too much of their time, particularly at the event, you are more hassle than you are worth. I am never going to be the biggest “name” they can hire, but I can be one of the easiest to work with!
No Sense of Time
Events, big or small, are scheduled and coordinated from beginning to end. Some folks have a good internal chronometer while others do not. But that is no excuse: watches are cheap and every professional should be aware of the time. Showing up late, running long or missing social events is a big problem for event organizers. Occasionally something will go wrong, but if you have established yourself as prompt and timely, the infraction can be forgiven. If, however, lateness is your standard operating procedure, it just makes working with you more difficult (see above). Get a watch and be prompt.
It’s Not About You
Although folks have come to listen or learn from you, what they are really interested in is how your knowledge will help them. If your content does not address the needs of the audience, you will quickly become known for lack of substance. If your primary job is entertainment, then the substance is less critical, but you’d better be entertaining! Information is more available today than it has ever been and attention spans have shortened significantly. Make it easy to relate, be focused and provide useful, applicable content for your listeners and you will be a hit every time.
It’s Who You Know
Event organizers are excellent at networking. And you never know who might be in your audience that will be the next person who will hire you. Even if you are an introvert, you have to get comfortable chatting with the crowd. Most professional presenters are first contacted because of some sort of recommendation. When I first began teaching professionally I was willing to negotiate if I knew that my audience was composed of many potential buyers of my services. And whenever possible and appropriate, I make sure to give myself a plug. Your next gig is probably sitting in your audience; don’t miss the opportunity.
The Fit is Wrong
Sometimes you just aren’t the right fit due to price, topic, locale, timing or any of a number of reasons. But if you are never the right fit, it is time for some serious reflection. Is your pricing appropriate for the market and your particular level of experience? Ask others in the industry for a range to help get an idea if you aren’t sure. Is the topic appropriate for the market you are trying to reach? Sometimes you just need to make a small tweak to your focus. Is it too expensive for you to travel from your locale? You might need to make adjustments to your travel expenses until you get established. Does your presentation not meet the industry standard? If you are too long or too short that makes using you difficult, so adjust your content appropriately.
Most importantly, remember that not every event will be right for every professional presenter. Organizers extend invitations based on what they believe is the best business decision for their group. Professional presenters accept or decline these invitations based on their own business models as well. Even so, if you are easy to work with, are conscious of time, provide excellent content, network appropriately and continually re-evaluate, before you know it your calendar will be filled. Getting hired as a public speaker won’t be such a mystery after all.
[reminder]What is the surprising reason you have been given for being or not being hired to present professionally?[/reminder]