Groups and Clubs Offer a Steppingstone to Celebrity
Ever read the club listings or the meeting announcements in the local section of your newspaper? There’s a group for everything, it seems! Of course, you’ve got your Rotarians and Optimists, but there are a raft of others, from knitting and gardening clubs to chapters devoted to toy cameras (I kid you not!) and antique farm tractors.
What does pretty much every club do, besides collect dues? They meet! That’s fertile ground for those of you who have a message and want an audience because some volunteer officer is often scrambling to fill the “program” segment with someone new and different.
Usually when I talk about “celebritizing’’ yourself, I share tips for building your reputation among journalists as an expert in your field. When they turn to you as a source for news stories or a guest on talk radio or TV, you gain exposure for yourself, your website, and your company, product or book. You also get their implied endorsement – “Hey,” the audience says, “this guy must be good if the newspaper/radio/TV is talking to him.”
Speaking engagements don’t reach the mass audience of a media outlet, but they do offer benefits.
If you’re just launching your promotion, they’re a good way to hone your message and get practice engaging with audiences. You can see how they’re reacting and adjust your presentation accordingly. (If people are falling asleep, you know you need to spice it up; if you’re getting laughs in the right places, you’ve got keeper material.)
Building a devoted local fan base can help as you seek to broaden your audience. Those fans may become friends and followers on social media; the more you have, the greater your credibility. They’ll spread the word about you, refer you to other groups in need of speakers, and help you extend your network to other parts of the country.
While you may not always get paid for your speaking engagements, neither will you have to pay to appear – beyond the costs of getting yourself there.
So, how do you get these speaking engagements? First, check to see whether your community has a volunteer speakers’ bureau. Many communities have these and they’re often run through a community booster organization. In the Tampa Bay area, for instance, where we’re based, an example of this is the Tampa Bay & Co. Speaker’s Bureau. It promotes the hospitality and tourism industries and offers groups free experts on all manner of related topics, from cooking to boating.
You can also look for clubs and other groups that would find your topic relevant. The Toy Camera Club, for instance, would likely welcome speakers on photography, vintage toys, alternative art forms, “styling” a shot – you get the idea.
Now that you’re lined up as the “special program” for a group’s monthly meeting, what do you do? I’ll give you the same advice I give anyone planning a stint as a radio or TV guest.
Be entertaining. Remember, you weren’t invited because the audience wanted to hear a sales pitch. They want to be entertained and to learn something. So relax, be authentic and likeable. Talk to your audience as you would your family, friends and co-workers. Engage them. Smile a lot – it makes your voice sound richer and happier. Enthusiasm is contagious, so don’t hold back on your passion for your topic. If you’ve learned any of the group members’ names, use them when you answer their questions or if you chat with them afterward. People feel special when you address them by name.
Be informative. It’s important to entertain but it’s equally important to give the audience something they didn’t walk in with – some new useful or helpful information relevant to their interests. Two or three key take-away points are enough for a 20-minute presentation; data overload will just leave them dazed and shell-shocked. And don’t try to impress with technical terms and jargon. Your audience won’t appreciate what they can’t understand, and you won’t be thought of as a great communicator if you can’t express your thoughts in layman’s terms. Finally, tell your audience how the information applies to them. It’s a good way to involve them in the discussion and keep them tuned in.
Motivate with your message. If what you offer – be it your company, product or book – will solve a problem for people or otherwise benefit them, instill your message with a sense of urgency. For example, a nutritionist might speak on “The five worst foods you can eat,” and describe the consequences of eating them before delving into the list. A banker might talk about the “three ways you can prevent identity theft” after discussing the morass of problems identity theft victims experience. When you motivate your audience, they will often want to learn more.
I enjoy speaking to groups of people. The intimate setting, instantaneous feedback, and the warmth you get from a nice round of applause are rewarding. If you haven’t done a lot of public speaking, remember, if you know your topic – and you do! – you’ll feel confident and comfortable talking about it.
And the more often you speak, the more confident, relaxed and better you’ll get.
Hoping you’re motivated now!