One of my twelve personal goals this year was to do public speaking about digital marketing at least once. Could be on a panel or solo on stage, I wanted to share knowledge in front of a crowd at least once. Gladly, this worked well and I’m closing 2018 with four public speaking gigs!
For someone who used to hide as much as I could during presentations in primary school, deciding to speak to a crowd with no obligation or pressure to do so, it’s a huge step. I guess most of us would be embarrassed to talk to our classmates about some subject we probably didn’t have a huge interested in it, but after years attending conferences and learning from so many people, I felt was a natural step in my career to start becoming one of the people I admire.
The positive outcomes are many: this helps one to establish authority in the industry, get people interested in you, more business opportunities and ultimately make you a better marketer and, why not, a better person too.
If you’re thinking about going to public speaking or has recently started on this field, you probably have some of the same wonders than me. I hope my little experience documented below can help you to get a little better at it!
Scoring a gig
You will be surprised at the number of events happening around you, maybe just a few minutes away from your office on a week evening. Start looking at events you’ve been to, ask other marketers, sneak a peek at meetup.com or Facebook. Check which events you think would be a fit, attend it and ask how they look for speakers.
Often in digital marketing events, there is no formal pitching process, so just come over with an idea you think would be relevant. Make sure to talk about something you know inside out or make it clear you’re figuring or testing something. Ask yourself: what attendees are taking away? Will people feel they learned something or at least can they bond with your words?
I’ve watched a lot of talks where I didn’t learn something new, but I could agree with every single point a speaker was making. I still left satisfied as it was a reaffirmation of my knowledge or direction, which has helped me more confident as an SEO and a marketer.
Make a small list of ideas you would feel confident to speak about, create a title and a brief description. Once you know if an event is open for new speakers, go ahead and pitch your idea.
Mimicking your inspirations
I’ve always wanted to be in a rock band, but never actually learned how to play an instrument. Not sure why, but I think the adrenaline of the stage is somehow similar to being in a band. A bunch of people watching your performance, a few friends to give you moral support and people talking to you after the show.
I’m probably never gonna be a rockstar or compose a hit. I probably also won’t jump on the crowd while talking about SEO, but I somehow feel like playing a guitar when having a clicker in my hand. You’re laughing now, I know… But it’s how I feel!
While I can’t copy my favourite artists in their performances, I also have marketing speakers as my inspiration and, gladly, I can use them as a reference while attempting to create my style on stage. Rand Fishkin, Purna Virji, and Wil Reynolds are some of my references, among many others. How they create a story, interact with the audience, make great slides and so on.
Rockstar desires aside, what I suggest you is to keep watching your favourite speakers and why you like them so much. I bet you’ll take bits and pieces to improve your own gig!
Know your audience
Pretty obvious, right? But once you start talking about technical stuff, you can easily get people confused. Most of the gigs I had so far were for digital marketers curious about SEO, but not specialised on it. So even something trivial for SEO, let’s say backlinks, needs a basic explanation before you dig into the subject. I enjoy making real-world analogies to explain SEO terminologies such as redirects.
Can I see shaking heads agreeing with me or a group of people saying “oooohh” in front of me? Great, I got their attention and move on the topic. On the other hand, if you’re talking to a group of specialists, explains what links are will make them bored or potentially stand up and leave the room. That’s not just me saying but take the words from BrightonSEO Pitching page:
“We’re far more likely to programme specific talks, If you pitch an idea like ‘social media marketing’ or event ‘link building’ it’s very hard for us to know exactly what you plan to talk about. The more detailed the title and description the greater the chance we’ll like the idea.
While there are some beginners who attend BrightonSEO it is best to avoid general theorising on abstract subjects and basic, obvious tips. Our audience is not new to the digital marketing field”.
Are you unsure? Just ask the organiser or meet them for a coffee to get some insights on your audience!
Preparation: Slides and Rehearsal
I was once given an advice to not start a presentation directly in front of the computer, but with pen and paper instead. Get some cards and start building your story, move your cards as they fit the story, all before thinking about your fancy slides.
Once you’re happy with the story you want to tell, then go to PowerPoint or Keynote and start putting together exciting slides. This is the moment I start mimicking other speakers, imagining the gig and doing things like asking a question to the audience and showing the answer on the screen instead of answering directly. I find this a nice transition into keeping the audience engaged with you but also your slides.
Not to forget: know your slides and rehearse. Prior to my first event, I talked to myself alone in my living room at least 8 times. I was nervous just to picture the situation and was “blanking” even though I had no audience to judge my performance.
After a couple of runs, I sort of learned the details, what’s on the next slide, jokes and so on, not without going back to the slides and making adjustments. When the day came I was a completely different person, slowing down my pace and confident of my topic.
I also like to time my rehearsals to be confident that I won’t run late, as well to leave a gap of a few minutes to make sure the timing is right. It’s guaranteed you’ll still be a little nervous, but knowing your slides, the audience and timing will make you a much stronger speaker!
It’s your turn!
I never read much about public speaking and this all based on advice I received this year from people in the marketing industry such as Michael Clancy, Mark Scully, and my teammates at Wolfgang Digital.
We all can take different paths to achieve similar goals, so if you have any extra advice for me or readers of this post, please share with us. Everyone gets a little apprehensive before getting on stage, but guess what? If you take your time to prepare, most people won’t notice that.
I hope my limited experience shared here has helped other newbies to take the courage to grab a microphone and face the public speaking challenge!