While my topic was interesting to the person who booked me for the session, it didn’t seem so intriguing or useful to most of the people in the audience. They were expecting something I can only describe as one-dimensional. All they wanted was for me to give them a list of what to do and how to do it.
If there’s one thing I know about my right people, they’re ready to dig that bit deeper. No matter the topic, I’m always about self-awareness, mindfulness and speaking and leading with your heart. I invite my audiences and clients to do the same.
So, there I was presenting to this group and thinking to myself, “Why am I here? They so don’t get me and what I’m on about.”
It was uncomfortable. Not awful, just uncomfortable. Everyone was polite enough. Really though, I was wasting their time and mine.
Here are the two reminders I took away from the session. I hope they help you next time you’re asked to get up and speak:
1. Ask lots of questions when you’re first invited to speak
It’s not enough to be given a topic that fits with what you do and just say no problem, what’s the date you want me to speak?
Ask questions like this: What are the audiences’ biggest challenges in this area? What do you want people to take away from the session? What do you want them to do differently after the session?
I expect, in the case of my talk, my questions would have been met with Hmmm, I don’t know. Then, I would have said Get back to me when you work it out and we’ll see if we’re a good fit or I don’t think I’m the right person for you. I can recommend someone who is, if you like.
2. Explain your style and approach from the outset
I usually do this, and didn’t this time. The woman booking me didn’t know me. She’d found my website, but that doesn’t mean she’d read much of it. I can’t assume people always understand my approach.
There are all sorts of expectations people have about presenters. Because I used to be a TV and radio presenter, I notice that quite often, people are surprised by my take on what it means to be a powerful speaker.
There are lots of media presenters with great, polished voices who speak with authority. They’re not necessarily powerful speakers though. Most don’t connect with their audiences, and they’re not transforming with their words.
I understand that my approach isn’t the norm. I’m okay with that. It’s what works for me and my right people.
3. Be prepared to say no
Know what you stand for, and how you want to be known.
Rather than trying to fit someone else’s ideas, own yours and choose accordingly.
The number of times people tell me they’re asked to present at work about topics that aren’t their area of expertise astounds me. You can’t own it and be a powerful speaker when you don’t know what you’re talking about.
It’s okay to say: What I can speak about best is ………. I’d love to put together a presentation for you that covers ………. and ………… I think it would really offer/assist/help ……………. (in this way)
Remember, as a powerful speaker, you’re privileged to stand in front of an audience. Make a difference with your words, and you’re giving everyone in the room a very special gift.
Remember too that no matter how much homework and preparation you do, there’ll be some people in the room who aren’t your right people. That’s their problem. Don’t make it yours. Your right people adore you.
The world needs more women to stand up and speak about what truly matters.
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