Being a Guest Speaker
11 25 by Stephanie Gibney
Everyone growing a business hears that they should be trying to get on radio shows, tv interviews and have speaking engagements. I have been avoiding it for years, though the request come in, for numerous reasons. The first is due to lack of time, most of the media request come during tax season which is my busiest time and are EARLY slots and I worry that if my brain isn’t fully awake I’ll come off crazy. Next while I am great at speaking one on one I assumed I’d be nervous speaking in front of a large group. I finally bit the bullet and did my first speaking engagement as part of a business panel for the 1st ever annual Femworking conference and this is what I learned:
1. Know your audience: You can easily determine who you audience is by researching the organization that has asked you to be a guest speaker/panelist. Attending another event or planning meeting can also let you know who their members are.
For Femworking the majority of the attendees were small businesses who provided a product or bloggers. If as a business panel we came ready to answer questions from a corporate perspective it wouldn’t have been relevant.
2. Know your panelist: This can be tricky. I was a last minute addition so the two panelist who signed on before me would have gone in blind. You can always ask who they are planning to have as panelist.
For some of the panels I was not on I noticed a trend which was the experience of the panelist varied greatly. I think for the panelist with the most experience this was great they looked wonderful; for the one with the least it was glaringly obvious and probably did not illicit the results they wanted.
3. When possible get a list of questions ahead of time: As a panel we were provided the questions the moderator would be asking weeks ahead of time. The questions were split between the three of us. My advice be prepared to answer all the questions if you can. Many times the moderator may ask several panelist to weigh in on a particular topic. Panelist who are uncomfortable answering questions (maybe it’s not actually their area of expertise) may ask fellow panelist to weight in.
4. Be prepared to answer follow up questions: Many people in the audience may not feel comfortable enough to ask questions during the Q&A because they are not comfortable speaking in public. Don’t assume if only 1 or 2 questions are asked that the panel wasn’t a success. Plan to stay for 15 to 20 minutes afterwards (at the least) to allow for people who have questions to engage you one on one.
Would I be open to doing more speaking engagements now that I have one under my belt…ABSOLUTELY! I had a wonderful time and FemCon13 was an excellent event. I am glad that I started with a panel, I think being a guest speaker may be something I should work towards, but a panel allows the focus to be spread over the group.
If you’re a local organization who need an expert in the field of accounting or tax to speak at an upcoming event please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.