We sat down with some professional speakers and asked them about the challenges and keys to success in their profession. Doug Devitre talked to us about cutting through the digital noise, combining low and high-tech touches, and collaborating with audiences in real time.
What are the top day-to-day challenges of a professional speaker?
First, I think there are a lot of people out there who say they are speakers when they aren’t. Maybe they’ve been a panelist or have given one speech and they weren’t even paid for it. And they’ve labeled themselves as professional speakers. With the amplification of media channels, it’s a lot harder to break through the noise. There’s so much noise.
As a speaker, everyone has an event that they’re trying to put together, but rarely do they know what outcome they’re trying to accomplish. There is an annual event, a time slot, and a topic chosen by committee or your client’s leadership — but when you get down to it, they don’t know what outcome they are looking to achieve. So It becomes difficult, especially when you’re collaborating on an event that’s in their best interest and not something off-the-shelf.
The more you collaborate, the more value there is. The more you talk to your clients, the more you can help them figure out not just what they want you to talk about but the end goal they’re trying to achieve.
What unique strategies do you use to tackle these challenges?
One key to cutting through the noise is to develop stronger relationships and leverage referrals through relationships.
It all goes back to combining high-tech/high-touch with low-tech/high-touch. For a low-tech example, the handwritten thank-you note is always in my arsenal. If someone connects with me on LinkedIn and I want to nurture that relationship, I’ll send a handwritten thank-you note. On the high-tech side, I’ll connect with people over webcam or video conferencing and nurture that connection screen-to-screen. Once you overcome some typical barriers with video conferencing, such as bandwidth issues, you can really collaborate more effectively with people on screen than you can over the phone.
Another way I overcome the noise and work to make connections is I’ll ask to participate in a potential client’s decision-making meeting, either in person or remotely. If I can appear on their screen in a video conference and help them work through some challenges, I can build that relationship. It increases the likelihood that I’ll get the job because I didn’t just email them a PDF of my proposal, I had a conversation with them.
What’s the secret to your success as a professional speaker?
Your best marketing is your speech. You need to always stay on the cutting edge of your content and your delivery. It’s not just what I say but how I say it.
I see creating value as a collaborative process. I look for low-tech, low-cost content I can send along to clients that they can get their audience plugged into, to get people excited about the event. I’ll send along:
- Pre-recorded videos
- The powerpoint slides of the presentation
- A download of the first chapter of my book
- A checklist to prepare for the presentation
This does more than just get the participants engaged beforehand. It also encourages a higher-level conversation during the event because the audience is more prepared.
In the event, I look to engage the audience so we’re collaborating together. For example, I use a digital whiteboard. I can share my annotations of my slides so that we’re creating the presentation together. It’s not just me ranting for 50 minutes. I also add in livestream, so people who can’t be physically present can also benefit from real-time collaboration.
Afterward, I send along a recording, and I follow up with a video conference 30 days after the event. Once people have had a chance to implement the ideas, we talk about how they might overcome stumbling blocks they’ve encountered in the past month. It’s another way to take action on the value you’ve worked so hard to provide.
What are your predictions for the biggest trends in professional speaking in 2017?
One trend that I’m seeing is the increased ability for speakers to present to small and large groups through video conference.
With the one-on-one setting, you can add video and screen share to demonstrate your expertise. I go to Zoom, which is primarily for video meetings. Facebook Live is good for awareness, but Zoom is good for conversions. It’s good to be flexible enough to go live and broadcast but also have the skills to guide someone more effectively in a more private environment.
I believe my book Screen to Screen Selling is still so far ahead of the curve that it’s still the trend. But it’s still not adopted as much as it could be.
Looking for more on professional speakers? Check out our entire interview series.