Congratulations, you’ve booked a speaking gig, the proposal is signed, and the event is approaching.
The days and even hours leading up to your speech are some of the most important.
We’re not talking about how to get in the right mindset before your speech (though we have covered that in another blog right here!).
We’re talking about the practical steps you can take to ensure you deliver a great speech and a fantastic experience for all involved. You’ll learn how to make a great impression on the audience, the event coordinator who booked you, and any future clients who may be at the event.
Be Prepared for the Worst
Much of life is out of our control. And if you’ve been a professional speaker for any length of time, you know that anything that can go wrong, does! We can’t control accidents, delayed flights, or lost baggage. But, we can ensure we are prepared and have our essentials on hand.
If you’re engaged in a virtual event, you’ll want to check that your Internet connection is solid and that your smartphone can provide a sufficiently powerful HotSpot if your Wifi goes out. You may also want to invest in a battery backup for your laptop and other technology.
If you are flying to events, never put everything in your checked bag. If you’ve ever experienced the hassle of an airline losing your luggage, then you’re probably already doing this one! If not, then always be sure you pack an extra presentable outfit and all your must-have speaking tools in your carry-on.
And as an extra tip, if you are flying to an event, be sure to dress like a professional speaker the entire time. That includes on the flight, at the hotel, and wherever else you might be seen by others. You never know who you are going to run into. It could be the meeting planner who hired you, or a fantastic new networking connection. This is a small, simple action that can make a significant difference with your first impression. Plus, it can do wonders for your mindset, too.
Think Like a Meeting Planner
As soon as you arrive at your destination, call your contact person or the meeting planner to let them know you’ve arrived. Even if — or, especially if — this is the night before an event or convention. Most event planners will be relieved at being informed and will appreciate the proactive communication. This is one more thing they can check off their list and not worry about, and you’ll stand out for that. Plus, if it’s the evening before, you may find yourself invited out for a dinner or a drink (and an opportunity to solidify a network connection).
Depending on the kind of events you are speaking at, you may want to include an offer (or upsell) to supply your own marketing materials. Again, this depends on the organization you’ll be speaking with, but an offer or upsell of 3 - 5 enticing emails and some design elements for online or print use can be the extra thing that puts you above and beyond other candidates.
Create Audience Connections Before the Event
Always show up early. If possible, you’ll want to use that time to converse with audience members who might be milling about. Go beyond the typical handshake-and-hello, and focus on connecting with at least a few people on a deeper level.
What you’re looking for are interesting stories or tidbits that you can call out during your presentation. Get their names, get permission, and then plan how you’ll utilize the info during your speech. Here’s an example of how you can work this into your speech: “Earlier I was visiting with Sally (waving toward Sally), and she told me a fascinating story that perfectly fits this example. She gave me permission to share with you…” Then continue on with the interesting story.
This pulls your audience into your speech, engaging them and also highlighting that it’s not “all about you.” But if you try this, don’t forget to get permission from the person first. You never want to assume — you don’t know what may embarrass someone or be viewed as a break of trust.
One of the best pre-presentation tactics we can give you we’ve saved for last: if something does fail or disaster strikes, remain calm, go with the flow, and keep it to yourself. Rather than airing out all of your grievances and disasters for everyone to hear, a calm and collected demeanor will help you stand out for the right reasons. It’s attitudes like this that nurture more connections and business.
You should also supplement your pre-presentation tactics with speech follow-up strategies. Check out this blog for all the details: “Speaker Follow-up Strategies for More Profitability.”