Monday, October 3, 2011

Don't Wait for Your Perfect Audience: Speak Anyway!

Who is your perfect audience? 

That's a tough question for any speaker. On the one hand, we don't like to limit ourselves by honing in on an age group, occupation type, income range, management level, etc. On the other hand, we don't want to speak to 'just anybody', because it might be a total waste of time. Baloney. Speak Anyway!

I often hear the latter complaints from new clients when I suggest they get their feet wet at Toastmasters, Rotary, Lions, and other service organizations. "Oh, they aren't my audience", they say. "I'm not going to get any clients, referrals, or book/product sales there", they argue. And my favorite - "I need a group that understands my topic!"

On one level, these arguments make some sense. That level is the speaker who is already well-paid and fully-booked, with an emphasis on fully-booked. I hear plenty of speakers tell me they'll toss in a 'free' service club here or there to fill out their schedule.

For the rest of you, it's time to suck it up and give your local Kiwanis club a call - or at least the one in the town next to you. Your excuses don't hold up. Speak Anyway!

You will rarely, if ever, have the perfect audience. Even if you speak at a "Fill in Your Topic Here Conference", the audience will all be at different levels of understanding and ability to act on your message. Audiences that are off-center from your topic, or even in a completely different hemisphere still offer value, and you never know who might show up with some cash to burn on your '25 Ways to Barbecue Rhubarb Pie' eBook and tape series, or know someone who does.

What's important is to Speak Anyway! You have something of value to say to any audience, and any audience has something of value to give to you. Just going through the act of adapting your normal topic for an individual audience will make you a better speaker.

- Network, network, network!
- Discover new stories to help your material relate to new people.
- Simplify and homogenize your message.

- Ask if you can bring your material. Some will be fine with it, others not. Offer to share proceeds with them.
- Have your introducer mention your website or book after you sit down.
- Pass out a sign-up list for your newsletter or for a free article or book, or even the video of the presentation. Anything that will entice them to become repeat fans.

- If its truly a 'low-risk' audience, trot out some new humor or anecdote for a test-run (not too much, and be ready to go back to your tried and true messages if need be)
- Bring a friend, and camera or two, and get shots of the audience reaction as well as your speaking. Get a testimonial video.

When you Speak Anyway!, you offer yourself an opportunity to improve, receive new feedback, and increase the size of your social and sales circles. No group is so focused on what they do that they have no other interests, hobbies, or needs in their lives. Most of these groups are full of real, live, business people who have an interest in social service, and are exactly the types of people you want to meet, and you get to meet them on less formal ground. The very fact that they are willing to have you come in as a speaker should indicate you have some interest in your audience for you and your topic. 

Beginning speakers, in particular, should be all over this particular approach. In many ways, waiting for the perfect audience is just another method of Self-Sabotage. On one hand, we don't want to speak to the imperfect audience, on the other we'll fear the perfect audience because we aren't practiced enough.

Some coaches will tell you not to go speak at these types of events, and scare you into believing you'll create a reputation for being a free or low fee speaker. If your mindset going in is wrong, this is certainly possible. Easy solution - fix your mindset and Speak Anyway!

- Be clear to yourself that you are speaking for the opportunity, not because 'its all you can get'.
- When you call to volunteer to speak, don't tell them 'any week is fine', even if it is. List two dates that are 'available', and negotiate from there.
- If possible, refer to other, paid, audiences you've spoken to in the past. "When I spoke to the Association of Weed Pullers last month, I told them..."
- Give your product away. It gives you a chance to show it off even if you can't sell it there, and ups your credibility as a speaker. It also builds into an 'abundance' mindset vs. 'free speaker' mindset.
- When people ask what you charge, give them a reasonable answer. Even if you're a 'newbie', if you say anything less than $1500, you're doing yourself a disservice. Position yourself as they are positioning themselves - you are at the club as a service to the community.

Certainly, you don't want to fill your calendar up too far in advance with free chicken dinner speeches. But don't let too many weeks go by with nobody to go speak to if you can help it. Get out there and meet the world, share your story, and become a better speaker each time you choose to Speak Anyway!

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