I’m not a huge fan of doing things for free, but there are moments when it just makes sense. Starting your public speaking career is usually one of those times. For those of you who are already seasoned speakers, you are fully aware when you begin speaking in your local area to networking groups and community service organizations, you’re typically asked to do it for free. And you also know it is a great way to gain new clients. Whether you’ve never given a talk before or you’ve given hundreds, this article will give you some tips on improving your public speaking.
Tip #1 - You can get paid to give a FREE talk.
Again, most local organizations don’t pay for speakers. They usually have a group meeting during breakfast, lunch or dinner. After everyone has eaten, the speaker goes on, and the audience, while not expecting a 15 to 20 minute commercial, is fully aware the speaker would love to gain some new business for their efforts.
So how do you get paid for a free talk? You obtain a commercial sponsor who is willing to pay you your hourly rate, or more, to either wear their logo, handout their promotional materials as well as yours or have you promote their business in some other way.
More than likely, your sponsor would be a business that is related to fitness in some way. For instance, a local cycling shop may want to have its contact info and logo on the handouts you give to each audience member. Plus, you can get them to pay for the photocopies as well!
Tip #2 - It’s super easy to get speaking “gigs.”
I’m often asked by fitness professionals how they should go about getting booked for talks. When I tell them to pick up the phone and call someone, they pass out at the very thought of having to make a “cold call.” When they come back to their senses, I gently explain most of these groups meet weekly, and they need a speaker at each meeting. That means they badly need someone willing to come in and speak for free ! Believe me: they are dying to hear from you.
And they are super easy to find as well. If you belong to a networking group of some sort, I can almost guarantee you they’d love to have you speak. Ask people such as your clients what groups they belong to and whether or not they have speakers. All sorts of religious organizations have meetings with speakers. Search the Internet. It’s simple!
When you call them, just ask for the person who books speakers. They’ll gladly tell you who it is and how to get in touch with them. What do you say when you get them on the phone? “Hi, I understand you’re looking for speakers for your meetings. Is that correct?” I’m confident you can handle it.
They’ll then ask you what you talk about. I think every single time I’ve ever told someone my talk is on fitness, they’ve all responded with the same answer: “We could all use that!”
Tip #3 - Have a bio and description of your talk handy.
When you make the initial contact, there’s a very good chance they’ll want to see your bio and the description of what you plan on talking about. It doesn’t need to be a big production to start. Just have two separate documents. The bio just needs to give a brief background on your experience and credentials. Your talk description is simply the title of your talk and bullet points on what you will cover.
Tip #4 - Have a really cool introduction.
You really want to bond with your audience right away, so come up with something that shows you are an expert but also human. Here’s one I’ve used in the past to get the audience laughing before we even started:
“While at the University of Delaware, Jim Labadie managed to be a Dean's List student by incorporating a steady diet of study, volunteer work, Jack Daniels and Taco Bell. It was this strict lifestyle that allowed him to graduate not only with a degree in Fitness Management but also 40 pounds fatter than he is today.
A reformed party-animal and fast-food junkie, Coach Jim is a passionate fitness entrepreneur, speaker, coach and consultant. He has appeared in Redbook, Men’s Fitness, Self and if you watch local news on Fox, NBC or CBS, you’ve probably seen him there, too.”
Typically, the person who booked you will be the one who is going to introduce you. Make sure they know to read word for word the introduction you have created. If you don’t specifically hand this to them right before you go on and request it, they very well may resort to just reading straight from your bio. Boring! It’s happened to me, so be sure they introduce you the right way to set the tone for a great talk.
Tip #5 - Distribute handouts at the end.
If you’re going to give handouts with some of the tips you’ve given, make sure you distribute them at the end. You want your audience to be paying attention to you, not looking up and down at their handouts. We’re seeking an emotional connection with the people you are addressing, and that doesn’t take place when they are distracted.
Tip #6 - NO commercials.
If you ever want to be invited back or referred to another group, then don’t use your 15 minutes of fame – which is typically how long these free talks last – to tell everyone how wonderful you are. The trick is to educate them while not giving away the store. A great way to do that is teach them all about the myths surrounding fitness. Educate them on why what they have been taught is wrong.
You can give them a little bit of what is right and what they need to do, but remember, you are doing this for free. If they want the store, they are going to have to pay you for it.
Tip #7 – Close for something.
I highly suggest you take questions at the beginning of your talk instead of the end. Why? So you can have a very strong close. While you don’t want your talk to be a commercial, you do have every right to let people know what you have to offer them at the very end of your talk. There are several ways to handle this. You could:
- Present them with a special discount on your training services that is only good for a limited time.
- Offer tickets to a more advanced seminar where they will learn a great deal more on the subject.
- At the very least, you need to obtain their contact info by asking them for their email address so you add them to your e-newsletter list.
The options are really endless. Just be sure you close with a strong offer that they would be crazy not to take advantage of!
Tip #8 – Ask for the referral.
While you still have your audience’s attention, you should feel free to let the group know you are available to speak to other groups as well. You’ll typically find that the people you just spoke to are a member of at least one more group. If you did a good job, they may rush up to you and ask you to speak somewhere else.
And be sure to send a hand-written thank you card to the person who booked you. Tell them what a great time you had, and give them a subtle reminder you are available to speak elsewhere. They may know the person in a different chapter of the same organization they can put you in touch with.
Tip #9 – Be sure to land some publicity.
Public speaking is not only a great way to build your clientele, but it’s also one of the best ways to develop a celebrity image as a fitness professional. There’s a good chance the local TV station isn’t going to show up to cover your presentation at the Rotary club. However, there are plenty of local publications who will be glad to add your talk to the list of events happening in the community. With PR, every little “media hit” adds up. So if you can get your name in the paper, it’s worth the effort. Even better, see if the group will send out a release for you.
Also, be sure the group you are speaking to promote your talk in their newsletter. You want to get business out of your talk, so the more people in the audience, the better. And while you are at it, ask if you could contribute articles or fitness tips on a regular basis to that same newsletter. It doesn't hurt to ask, right?
Following these simple tips will help turn you into a top-notch speaker with talks scheduled on a regular basis. It’s extremely easy and a great deal of fun once you get the hang of it. The only thing stopping you from becoming a regular on the speaking circuit is you!