Having a compelling demo reel is vital to landing more speaking gigs that pay. Usually the first thing an event planner is looking for when they see your social media page or your website is where your demo reel lives.
It’s going to be a lot easier to be taken seriously (and get paid what you want!) when you have an engaging way to demonstrate your experience.
If you haven’t made a speaker reel yet, or if you need to refresh an old one, here are a few crucial factors to keep in mind.
PLANNING FOR YOUR SPEAKER REEL
If the events you’re currently involved in don’t film the speakers (or don’t give you access to the footage), you’re going to want to enlist a trusted peer to start capturing video clips for you. Thanks to amazing advances in mobile tech, a standard smartphone phone can shoot great video. The sound quality can leave a lot to be desired, but you’ll still have the footage to show event planners what you’re like on stage.
Ideally you’ll want to keep a running list of the recorded speeches or interviews that you think might be great for your speaker reel. This can be a detailed excel sheet, or just a simple note in your phone. The key is to write them down. This will make refreshing your speaker reel (or making your very first one) so much easier because you’ll know exactly what to add. Plus, this guarantees you won’t leave out any of your best work!
Most event planners aren’t going to watch a 15-minute reel. Most won’t even watch a 5-minute reel!
Most likely they’ll only need a few minutes. Think about when you’ve watched other speaker reels…did you know pretty quickly whether you liked the speaker or not? You probably knew within 30 seconds.
So what is the “ideal” overall length for a speaker reel? Tried-and-true wisdom says a maximum of three minutes. A minute or a minute-and-a-half shorter than that fine, but any longer than three minutes is probably too long.
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN YOUR SPEAKER REEL
As for what to include in your speaker reel, clips of you speaking of course! Ideally you can mix it up and make it as dynamic as possible by including clips from interviews, meeting rooms, outdoor shots, indoor shots, emcee gigs — anything that highlights your range of speaking skills.
It goes without saying that you’ll want to utilize speaking clips where you are performing well and look good. After all, your performance is the most important thing. The quality of the video is also important to keep in mind, but when choosing between a quality production clip of a mediocre speech or an amazing speech with mediocre production, choose performance over production.
And always lead with your best. As mentioned in the “Overall Length” section above — most event planners will know if they want to hire you within the first 30 seconds. As soon as they press play, they’re looking for something to “wow” them. Do so with the best clip you have.
And what about music? Yes, you’ll want to include it! Music can help tell a story, compel an emotional response, and help carry the pace of your speaker clip. Just be sure the volume isn’t louder than the video sounds. Here’s a great article about adding music to a video.
LENGTH OF EACH CLIP
Like the overall speaker reel, you’ll want each clip to be short. The maximum length for a single clip should be no longer than 20 seconds, but feel free to vary the length. Just like your speeches, you want your speaker reel to keep moving and keep the viewer engaged — you don’t want it to feel stagnant at any part, and long clips tend to do that.
If you have a particularly dynamite clip that’s 30 seconds long, by all means include it! The guidelines we’re giving to you are exactly that — general guidelines. Yes, best practices exist for a reason, but there are always exceptions to the rule.
A speaker reel will help you market yourself as a high-end professional speaker, get more opportunities, and make more money. If you don’t have a speaker reel yet, or if yours is in need of a serious refresh, follow the tips above to ensure you create one that dazzles!