SPEAKING SMART: HOW TO NAIL YOUR PUBLIC SPEAKING STRATEGY AS A FOUNDER

28 JULY, 2018

By AGORA Member Alex Merry

Public speaking has always been one of the most effective ways of growing a business. I should know. My last company started in 2008 and, along with 2 other co-founders, I would spend several months each year living in the back of a Peugeot 307 (yes, it was as glamorous as it sounds), travelling across the country, delivering this one, perfectly refined talk to audiences 5 days a week. We grew our business from 4 to 250 people in 7 years; huge growth, especially given it happened right at the beginning of the recession.

Essentially, that was it. Public speaking was how we got our message to spread.

It was incredibly expensive, took up all of our time, and to be honest, was a real hassle to organise. If we set that company up again today, I have no doubt that we could have doubled what we achieved and more, without setting foot out of the office (thanks, Captain Hindsight).

And that makes me wonder: why do so many entrepreneurs and founders feel the need to add ‘Public Speaker’ into their social media profiles? Sure, the conference industry is booming, so the demand is there, but who is really benefiting from this equation?

Let’s play it out…

Event organiser contacts founder and asks them if they would like to speak at their conference.

Founder vets the conference, thinks it looks legit and sees it as a good opportunity to position themselves/their company in front of x attendees.

Event organiser says that they can’t pay them but they will get incredible ‘exposure’ from the event.

Founder agrees and then spends hours and hours preparing the talk, possibly stressing about the experience if they don’t enjoy it, traveling to the venue etc. whilst the event organiser uses Founder’s name and company to sell the tickets.

Founder walks on stage, gives away their IP and as a result receives rapturous applause. Post talk, people line up to tell them how great their talk was. They leave thinking they have nailed it, and then…

Nothing happens — the whole process ends up being a complete waste of time and energy for the founder.

Now, it’s not the event organisers who are at fault here. A typical conference model cannot afford to pay speakers to speak and even some of the most reputable conferences don’t. The fault actually lies with the founders.

Here’s a litmus test: If you find yourself accepting more speaking engagements than you’re rejecting, not only are you devaluing your time and IP (caveat: unless you’re personally getting paid £1500+ or bringing in £15k+ of business per talk), but you’re wasting it on an activity that isn’t going to produce a tangible return.

So should you cut out speaking for free all together? No. You just need to speak smart, not hard.

Giving talks can be an incredibly lucrative and time effective way of spreading a message and promoting your business, if you do it right. It’s no longer about speaking as much as possible, nor is it even about needing to become a great public speaker. These days the most effective speaking strategy is to write a short but world-class talk, deliver it once, film it and then let the internet do the hard work for you by implementing a strategy that puts your talk in front of the people who need to see it (investors, clients, employees etc.).

One of my client’s talks has been seen over 2 million times and resulted in a lucrative book deal. Another one opened up a £10+ million investment opportunity from Silicon Valley and generated £300k of extra business; their talk has been seen about 700 times.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? The reality is, to achieve great results you need to invest the time you would have spent speaking at random events into crafting a talk that will both withstand the minefield of distractions that is the internet and remain as relevant in 5 years time as it is today.

When you’ve done that and found an event that, ok, might not pay you, but will invest in getting your talk filmed, edited and produced, you’ll have a piece of media that is working for you while you sleep. Put it this way — a 15 minute talk being watched 96 times a day equates to someone watching your talk 24/7.

Now that is speaking smart.

Alex Merry is a Speaker Coach helping founders land, write and deliver MicDrop Moments on major stages globally, and the Founder of TEDxClapham. He specialises in helping entrepreneurs and organisations use public speaking to raise finance, build brands and lobby governments, creating globally recognised industry leaders along the way. He runs a Public Speaking Accelerator course for such leaders.

Originally published at agoraworld.one.