I still remember the day I told Matt Charney I wanted to be a speaker. I think his exact response was, “you don’t.” I thought he was joking because, Matt. He wasn’t.
I didn’t listen. I also didn’t know what I wanted. My life felt like it was falling apart at the time. I recently left a job and a bad marriage in weeks. I don’t think I wanted to be a speaker. I tried to get away from my problems and out of my house. Speaking seemed like a sponsored way to make that happen.
Speaking is marketed well. The experience is not recommended. “Getting away from home” is exhausting. There’s so much work that goes into preparing a presentation and practice. Then, the travel is nothing like I thought it would be. You do not start out going to lovely places, and they only pay for the cheapest flight. They don’t take you to resorts to get on stage. You’re not speaking to crowded rooms.
I kept going anyway. Why? In the process of staying up late and nurturing hangovers earned in hotel bars, I found a real love for telling stories. Stories are my passion and my purpose. I feel alive when I’m writing and telling stories.
So whether I’m in rural Montana or going somewhere unique like the Maldives, it doesn’t matter. OK, it does matter but let me make my point anyway.
My point is that passion gets me through poorly-planned travel. It inspires me to practice and create new stories that change how people think about work and each other. That’s what keeps me up at night practicing, trying to do better. I can change someone’s mind, and that means they can change someone else’s whole life. That’s something special.
Speaker Situation: Advice Every Speaker Needs
Despite that passion, there’s a lot more I wish Charney would have mentioned before getting me into more speaking gigs. If you’re stubborn like I am and would’ve marched right past him, too, there are a few things I should tell you.
- The pay thing. It would be best if you got paid. You probably won’t for the first few gigs that give you access to a big audience. Here’s what I would tell you: always ask. You’ll be surprised how many times people come up with money simply because you asked the question.
- When we travel again, they need to at least pay for your flight and/or hotel. Don’t go broke on speaking gigs. Pursue speaking to the point where you know you’re getting contacted because of it; otherwise, you’re losing because empty rooms don’t pay bills. No one can guarantee a room will be full, so don’t risk it.
- Always be prepared. Practice. It makes me so mad when speakers are in the room finishing their slides. If you said yes to the gig. Show up like you give a fuck. That means practicing at least two times before you show up, assuming you have not done this presentation before.
- Teach one topic. Pick something to be the expert at and teach every angle of that. I think our presentations suffer from generalist paralysis. Everyone does everything and wants to talk about all the things they do. It’s far more interesting to learn from an expert than someone who can give me the same advice I get from Wikipedia.
Speakers I Want To See On Your Stage
Now that we don’t have to talk about travel expenses and being out of the office for a week, organizers have more access to speaking talent than ever. Finding them is another challenge altogether. Unfortunately, most people take the easy road out and look at other conferences.
I want to see something different. No excuses anymore – I’ll tell you who to call.
A few weeks ago on Twitter, I asked people with a passion for speaking to share their topic. We had a ton of responses. You can see all of them here.
When I went through all of them, I hand-picked a few of them I’d love to see on your stage.
- Madison Butler – @CorprteUnicorn – Deconstructing Gendered Language: Creating Inclusive Communications
- Heidi Pancake – @PancakeHR – Transparency is a Buzzword
- Renee Branson – @ResilientBounty – Trauma In The Workplace
- Cara Pelletier – @RadicalWelcome – Creating An Inclusive Experience For Candidates With Disabilities
- Latesha Byrd – @Latesha_Byrd – Career Empowerment
- Kristal Garcia – @kristal_g_ – Intentional Underrepresented Hiring in Tech: Not hiring enough Black, Indigenous, and Latinx engineers? It’s not the talent pipeline. It’s you.
- Kyle Elliott – @CaffeinatedKyle – Identify & Own Your Fabulousness
- Kristina Minyard – @HRecruit – Recruiting 101: Turning Hiring Managers Into Great Recruiters
Please hire them.
I want you to take a chance on them.
I’ll be there to cheer all of you on. If you have one more spot and want to learn a little something about job postings, you give me a call.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.