Tag Archives: Workflow for a speaker

A Speaker’s Guide to Preparing Ahead of Bookings

What does it take to present successfully on-stage?

Many people assume that you must have special gifts or talents to be able to hold the attention of a room, and aptitude definitely comes into the picture, but nothing is as important as prior preparation.

In fact, one of the secrets of top professional speakers is that they tend to have put in many hours of preparation, even for just one hour on the stage. There’s much more to it than memorizing a presentation – it’s about understanding the audience, the context within which they operate, and the little nuances that take your presentation from “just like any other” to “she gets me!”

That said, how do professional speakers prepare for a successful presentation? Let’s take a look:

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Gather material

Every speaker has their own preferences for gathering material that they can use in presentations. For most professional speakers, this is something that they do as an automatic part of their daily processes. There is all manner of experiences or stories that, even if you can’t use them in an upcoming talk, might be useful filed away for another time.

The important thing is to have a good system, so that you’re able to recall those tidbits whenever you need them. How do you file good speaking material? Perhaps you file them under headings related to the key point, for example “managing change” or “setting goals.” The types of material you might gather include:

  • Stories or anecdotes that evoked an emotion in you. Maybe it made you laugh or cry, or it was simply something interesting that made you pay attention.
  • Your own experiences. When you review various chapters of your own life, what experiences or situations can serve as lessons for others? What insights can you impart from successes, failures, high, or low points?

When you’re in the build-up to your next presentation, it can also be useful to keep a journal or notebook, so that you can easily jot down thoughts as they occur to you. You never know where or when inspiration can strike!

Speakers preparing for bookings

Top professional speakers have a system for gathering and recalling speaking material Click To Tweet

Know your audience

Did you know that the average attention span of humans is around eight seconds? Generally speaking, depending on the source you look at, people argue that you have anywhere between five and fifteen seconds to grab the attention of your audience.

For a professional speaker, there is no “rule” about how you’re going to quickly engage the attention of your audience, but one key factor is to know that audience well. In understanding your audience, you can take your best shot at what will appeal to them.

The best professional speakers focus a lot of time on defining who it is that they’re speaking to and where their interests or needs lie. Your aim is to create a presentation that will really resonate with them and to hold their attention throughout.

Some things that you want to know about your audience include:

  • Learning about current issues within the industry, particularly if speaking to companies. This allows you to include those issues in your presentation, or at least be able to acknowledge them so that the audience knows you’ve done your homework.
  • Understand any changes the audience might be dealing with, or problems they might be managing. For example, what if you were hired to speak to an audience at a company where restructuring has been an issue?
  • Learning about their goals, aspirations or dreams. How can you tap into the desires of your audience?

Research is the professional speaker’s best friend ahead of a gig. One of the best ways to go about it is to simply talk to people who fall within that target audience. You can pick up things like the language they use, their feelings on certain issues or topics, the level of information they need, and their motivations.

Understanding and using the language of your audience within your presentation can be a powerful way to hold their attention.

Gather and examine feedback

First of all, top professional speakers always gather feedback from their past events. These days, event organizers are commonly looking to maximize the value they get from speakers, so “speak and run” isn’t going to cut it.

Gathering feedback can also be a useful tool for booking more speaking gigs. It can be quite helpful to show audience feedback to event organizers. Those who book speakers are always looking for ROI!

As far as preparing ahead for your speaking appointments, your feedback can be useful to help guide your presentation, particularly if you’re speaking to a similar audience. Look back at what people liked or didn’t like, aim to improve on what you can, and give people more of what they enjoyed.

Understand what the aim is

One very important point when it comes to preparing for a presentation is to understand what the person or company who booked you is hoping to get out of it. Companies are often booking speakers with specific business goals in mind, so it’s important that you understand what these are and allow them to shape your presentation.

Consider questions like:

  • Why have they asked me in particular to speak?
  • What is the purpose of the event overall?
  • What goals does the organizer have for the event?
  • What would they like their audience to take away?
  • How can you deliver content for which they’ll be able to get measurable results?

Your ability to keep booking further speaking engagements will hinge greatly on how well you are able to deliver value and meet client expectations. This always begins with good preparation – you’ve got to have a clear picture of those expectations in order to deliver.

Practice your presentation

“Let’s just wing it,” said no professional speaker ever! (At least, none that we have spoken with!). The best professional speakers do have some natural ability, but their real secret is in their preparation and the practice they put in ahead of time.

The best practice tends to be either on other people, or at the very least, out loud while you pretend to “work the room.” Speaking as you would on stage helps to engage that memory and imprint it, so that you can present a polished performance.

Another important thing about practicing is that you can discover areas of your presentation which don’t quite flow or come across as you intended. Take the opportunity to polish them ahead of time!

Speakers preparing for bookings

Practice on your friends!

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Final thoughts

The best professional speakers don’t simply whip up a winning presentation out of nowhere. A key to their success is the amount of preparation they put in. For many, this can be multiple hours of work for just a one hour talk – but it is this preparation that helps to ensure they are booked repeatedly.

Top speakers prepare by:

  • Having a system to gather material, and ensure they can recall it as needed
  • Carefully researching their audience
  • Gathering and examining feedback
  • Understanding the goals of the event organizer
  • Practicing their presentation.

Natural abilities will only get you so far in the world of professional speakers – consistent bookings come from careful preparation. What do you do to ensure you prepare effectively?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

What Does a Great Business Workflow Look Like for a Speaker?

What separates a speaker at the top of their game from one who is kind of middling or just getting by?

There are a lot of factors we could point to – connections, marketing, global footprint…but one less talked about is the workflow the speaker uses to keep their business ticking.

Managing the “business side” is often less appealing to a speaker, or perhaps outside of your usual wheelhouse. However, having a well-managed business workflow is what keeps the opportunities coming and your profile growing.

Let’s break this down, beginning with…

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What do you mean by “workflow?”

We like to keep it simple (much more simple than what you’ll find with a dictionary definition anyway!). A workflow is how you get your work done. Usually, you create a process map or series of steps which outline what you need to do in the order that you need to get it done.

The term workflow dates back to early in the twentieth century, where it is thought to have originated with Frederick Taylor, Henry Gantt and the Scientific Management movement. Workflow and the process management ideas developed within this theory are closely intertwined.

Workflows are involved with any process that is necessary to keep your business running optimally and might involve just one person, multiple people, or interacting with some kind of tool to get the work done.

As an example for a speaker, let’s say you have a workflow for following up with your leads or contacts (an important workflow to have!). At a very basic level it might look something like:

Workflow for a speaker

Workflow automation

One of the cool things about the tools that we now have available to us is that there are plenty of opportunities to automate either entire workflows, or key parts of workflows so that you don’t have a “human” bottleneck.

In fact, where possible, we would put workflow automation in place as a best practice. Anywhere you can replace manual processes or actions within processes with an automated response makes it less likely that you miss important tasks. For example, if you had to individually write an email to each lead in your database, how soon would it be before you couldn’t keep up with the job?

Workflow automation helps you to improve your everyday business practices by not only getting important tasks done, but freeing you up to focus on the most important things. For example, rather than sending individual emails to everyone who is top of funnel in your sales cycle, you can be focusing on making the booking with those who are already at the bottom of your funnel.

Speakers: you can improve your business practices through workflow automation Click To Tweet

What makes an effective workflow?

Effective workflows come down to a couple specific questions:

  1. What do I need to achieve?
  2. What is the most efficient way to get this done?

Getting back to Henry Gantt and Scientific Management, he broke down that question of efficiency by looking at:

  • The exact jobs that needed doing
  • Who was responsible for the task
  • The time taken to complete each task.

The answers to those questions can help you to structure a chart or process map (Gantt was the inventor of the Gantt Chart), giving you a basic workflow.  With those factors in mind, let’s now look at a few best practices for creating those workflows:

Brainstorm the workflow

Are you working on your own, or do you have team members who work with you? Either way, getting the elements of the workflow down on paper (or a shared tool) helps you to stand back and examine it for efficiency. Be sure to involve your team members if you have them.

Are there any parts of the process that are ineffective or clumsy? Is there someone else who can look at your processes and give a perspective as to what might make them more efficient? What parts typically cause bottlenecks or other issues?

One of the secrets to building a business that is scalable is to have processes in place that are clearly defined. This includes anything that you need to have going to keep your business running – marketing, sales, accounting, customer support, etc. When you brainstorm your workflows, don’t leave out any steps. For example, if there’s often a holdup at some particular point, what happens then as a result? You need the bigger picture to look for improvements.

Many speakers don’t have any processes for their business. If you’re starting from scratch with formalizing processes, that’s a good place to get going from anyway. Top workflows which we suggest a speaker needs include:

  • Obtaining leads
  • Nurturing those leads / keeping your networks “warm”
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Gathering feedback
  • Planning presentations and/or events.

Examine any flaws

Where do the inefficiencies or flaws lie in your processes? As an example, a typical issue in a speaker’s business might be that their referral pipeline has gone quiet or completely dried up. On closer inspection, you might find that there is little follow-up with those contacts. Perhaps they are entered into a contact database but then rarely hear from the speaker, putting them out of sight and out of mind.

Some other typical flaws you might find include:

  • Time-consuming, manual processes that could be automated
  • Degradation of information transfer, meaning that something gets lost along the way. A typical example is when you call a customer service line, then have to repeat your problem every time you get transferred. In your business, are you recording key information about contacts, such as where you met them, what their interests are and who they work for?
  • Following that last point; information that is kept in different places, making it difficult to bring together. For example, contacts, history, and customers.
  • Steps that are duplicated or unnecessary
  • Steps that aren’t clearly assigned to a person (where you have a team)
  • Lack of oversight or reporting on progress.
  • Tasks that can be completed simultaneously being recorded in the process as being sequential. If it’s just you in the business, this isn’t such a big deal, but in teams this can create unnecessary bottlenecks.

Streamline and document the processes

With all the parts of your processes laid out in front of you, what can you now do to streamline them? As a first step, we would look to automate anything that possibly can be taken care of that way.

This may mean investing in the right tools for your business; for example, if you’ve been managing contacts via a spreadsheet and a scratched-together system with email, you might consider putting in place a CRM software which keeps all of that information in one place, and can automate sequences for you.

Documenting processes is also an important step if you have goals for growing your business or delegating more tasks to team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that team members can pick up where someone else left off. You reduce back-and-forth, or training time needed when processes are clear and accessible.

Lastly, be clear about who is assigned to what wherever there is a task that requires review or cannot be automated. This leaves nothing up to chance within your system.

Review processes

As a final best practice, to ensure that you keep your business running as efficiently as possible, review your processes every now and then. Sometimes you will find a new technology has arrived which will help to automate something that you couldn’t previously. Sometimes processes become obsolete or unnecessary (paper-based files have fairly rapidly been replaced by cloud solutions).

Sales workflows

Let’s talk briefly about sales workflows. If there’s any particular workflow that a lot of speakers need to improve, it would be sales. Specifically, often there is an issue with following up with leads and ensuring that people remember who you are. Sometimes this happens when the sales system is an ad hoc activity, or sometimes it’s because the workflow is not set up well, or does not have automation where it could.

What do you have to lose when you do things ad hoc? Well, speaking gigs for one! If you’re not managing your leads and continuing a strategic program of following up, then you are potentially missing out on a lot of opportunities.

An effective sales workflow is about smarter selling of yourself. It’s about having an understanding of the right timing to reach out to people and how to market yourself to capture their attention. The thing that a good sales workflow delivers is consistency. You can systemize your sales process so that your pipeline is kept busy.

If you’re looking for a place to start with assessing the efficiency of workflows in your business, we’d suggest that sales and lead follow-up is it. Don’t let those opportunities go begging!



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Final thoughts

At a glance, the very word “workflow” sounds like, well, work! In breaking it down however, it’s an efficient way to ensure that you have clear processes in your business that keep it powering forward.

A common worry for speakers is that they aren’t managing leads and contacts as they could be, which potentially means they’re missing good opportunities. A sales workflow might sound a little daunting, but it is a friend to the scalability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about a scalable sales process for speakers, we wrote a brief ebook on the subject. You can download The Professional Speaker’s Sales Blueprint for free here.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.