Pretend someone comes up to you and says, “Brenda, I want to be a successful speaker.” What five pieces of advice would you give?
“Successful speaker.” That’s what I want, too! Truthfully, I haven’t met my personal definition of successful. But if I was to share five tips with a pretend someone, I’d say
- Continuing Education – one of the sites I visit is Larry James’ Authors & Speakers Network. It’s wild and stimulating, but packed with tons of information like the free articles at
http://www.authorsandspeakersnetwork.com/articles.html. Also, attend speaker’s conferences – you can find them at Christian Leaders and Speakers Services (CLASS) or Carol Kent’s http://www.speakupspeakerservices.com/ or various secular conferences through the National Speakers Association (NSA). Speak Up Speaker Services offers a speech coach. Also, attend your local chapter meetings of the NSA, where planned programs with guest speakers will give industry help. Every career demands growth and improvement, so continuing education is the hallmark of a professional.
- Understand Networking – it is not sucking life and information out of every known
associate to get where you want to go. One speaker who travels the country now, published a book and appeared on a major network daytime talk show once came to my office and for two hours asked questions, took notes, and copied some of my ideas. Has this person ever looked back and said, “Thanks” to me or given me an update or even kept in touch? No! Do I feel used? Yes. This wasn’t networking — it was usury. True networking is an equal exchange of ideas and a willingness to help each other achieve ministry goals. Believe me, if you nurture relationships with a caring attitude, it’ll return to benefit you.
- Join a Speaker’s Group – for the fellowship, contagious enthusiasm, learning and network opportunities. You can join Toastmasters, online speakers groups, or even form one in your own community. Don’t try to be a lone ranger. Speaker groups are a way to be with like-minded individuals who share your passion, you can swap idea and leads, build friendships, and keep abreast of the latest industry news and trends. You need to be with other speakers for business-related conversations; those outside the industry don’t always understand or care.
- Pay Your Dues – start out giving freebie presentations. Give away your work so you can practice, develop a following, and give your name and topics exposure. And thank people along the way! Pay your dues to people for their kind help and support.
- Start Small – too many people immediately want to speak at a Women of Faith Convention. . . well, so do I. But, it takes years to develop your brand, reputation, experience, and network before (if ever) you’re invited to mammoth events. Be humble and willing to share with small audiences. Personally, I have such passion for parenting issues that I’m willing to speak to any size audience. Before taking the microphone at an event, my prayer is, “God bring those who need to hear what will be said. And help me say what needs to be heard.” Then I leave the numbers up to Him.
Tell us your speaking journey in a nutshell.
In 1996, I began speaking professionally — yuck, that makes me sound old. OK, I was only 14 at the time. Seriously, in ’96, I resigned my position with the Kansas City, MO school district, where I was working as a Parent Educator, and launched a vertical learning curve into the speaking industry. I had child development/behavior and parenting education knowledge, but needed to learn about public communication and platform skills. Feeling as dumb as a doorknob, I read any books about speaking I could get my hands on, and sat watching videos of other speakers. I also went to industry conferences and meetings (never joined Toastmasters) and within four years joined the National Speakers Association. The NSA bills itself as an organization of “Experts Who Speak.”
Throughout the years, I’ve tried to continue my professional growth and education because audiences want and deserve the whole package. You know some speakers are entertaining, but their content is empty fluff. While others have the knowledge, but are BORING. Hopefully, I can offer the credentials, creativity and credibility to speak at childcare conferences, MOPS groups, in schools, churches, businesses, libraries, hospitals and parenting venues. Abraham Lincoln said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” And that’s my attitude.
Do you have an embarrassing moment as a speaker?
Not an embarrassing moment in front of a live audience, but, worse, one on camera when I was doing my live parenting segment for FOXTV4 in Kansas City. Against my daughter’s wise counsel, I wore white to the studio. (Hint, white makes you look BIGGER on top of the 10 pounds the camera puts on). There I sat, next to a svelte news anchor, spewing forth my pearls of parenting wisdom looking like a puffy marshmallow. Then, and this is bad, I leaned forward with my elbows on the desk and a certain part of my female anatomy laid on the desk. It looked like the marshmallow finally boiled over. ‘Nuff said.
What’s the most memorable speech you’ve given?
Hmm, good question Mary. I don’t have a unique memorable one, but a few stick in my mind. I was privileged to be a featured speaker at one of the MOPS International Conventions and more recently to speak at the Hearts at Home National Convention. In November, I was the keynote speaker for Iowa’s Early Childhood Caregivers Conference and a few years ago at Ohio’s Dream Child Conference. Thanks for allowing me to travel down memory lane.
And, what everyone wants to know: what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Oh honey, anything chocolate of course (mais oui)!
You get 5000 gold stars for that answer! Thanks for stopping by, Brenda!
Stop by Brenda’s website here for more information about her writing and speaking ministry.