Guerrilla Tactic What to Talk About

Pick topics according to the following rules:

► The subject must be relevant for your clients.

► It has captured your deep interest.

► You can explore new angles that will interest your audiences.

Identify hot topics by reviewing magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs, academic journals, industry newsletters, and issues discussed at industry events. Look for subjects on the Web sites of trade associations, businesses, and other consultants. Use your client experience to develop ideas for topics.

on the subjects. Design a few informal survey questions. Asking survey questions is a good way to expand your network, so include people you don't know. Plan to use the results in your speech, along with information from more formal surveys (with proper permission, of course).

Follow Your Expertise

Talk about what you do and know best; it's your competitive edge over rivals with less experience. Audiences will recognize that you are knowledgeable and credible. Plus, it's easier to prepare talks on subjects you know and easier to concentrate during your presentations.

All businesses share seven fundamental characteristics that you can build speeches around, as suggested here:

1. A plan for the business: how strategy and tactics improve profits

2. An organization: seven ways to streamline your organization

3. People: improving productivity while forcing employee turnover

4. A planned outcome: six ways to stretch your distributed network

5. Activities to make the plan work: management techniques for large-scale projects

6. Performance measures: building reporting measures that work

7. Future or emerging trends: five trends that will shape consumers' shopping experiences

If you're a business process expert, you can examine any process for ways to enhance performance, consolidate activities, or compare and contrast performance or organizational models. You can compare the activities of leading organizations to identify breakthrough strategies. Or you can talk about the future of a process.

A change management consultant might fashion a speech on how change will impact an organization's people or its organizational structure. Or, you might focus on change to the organization's long-range plans.

Turn Your Back on the Sunset

The most creative photographers say that when everyone else is capturing the image of the sunset, you should turn around and shoot behind you for an entirely different, but stunning view. As you think about your point of view for your topic, try to look at it in a new way. Your speech will be much more interesting to meeting planners and audiences if you zig where everyone else zags. Take a stand. Stimulate audiences to think.

What the Heck Are You Saying?

Once you have selected a topic and decided on a point of view, isolate the core message of your presentation. What do you want to stick in the minds of your listeners when they leave? Try to summarize your core message in one or two sentences. Build the rest of your presentation around that theme.

Once upon a Time

So much has been written about including stories and humor in speeches that you'd think we'd all be master storytellers by now. Sadly, we are not. Yet stories are critical to connecting with your audience. Mark Victor Hansen, coauthor of Chicken Soup for the Soul, points out, "Storytelling helps speakers make a lasting impression on their listeners." He says that's because we ". . . understand everything through the context provided by story."6

Grady Jim Robinson, premier storyteller and author of Did I Ever Tell You about the Time, says, ". . . story, with its potential for symbolism and use of innate universal archetypes, is a powerful way to deliver your message, whatever that message may be."7 Robinson advises speakers to use personal stories that ". . . contain just enough self-revelation that your audience will begin to feel comfortable with you, understand a bit of your past history, and sense where you are coming from."8

Like public speaking in general, effective storytelling is a skill that doesn't come easily. But both can be learned with training and practice. And if you can effectively weave a story and humor around your core message, it will resonate with audiences and stick in their memories.

► Step 2: Get a Speaking Engagement

The word is out. The advantages of public speaking are no longer secret, and the competition is fierce. Thousands of want-to-be speakers are now vying for a limited number of slots, and many are accomplished performers who put on highly entertaining shows. Industry events need great speakers. Many events are built around the quality of the speakers they present, and without them, their attendance would dwindle. That demand sustains an industry of professional speakers who have impressive credentials and decades of experience.

A research report by the National Speakers Association found that 35 percent of respondents had been speaking for 11 to 20 years and 28 percent for 6 to 11 years. That's some stiff competition. The good news is that consultants have qualities that audiences and event planners crave:9

Expertise: Audiences want to hear from the best. That's why more than 75 percent of all event speakers are industry experts.10

Value orientation: Consultants understand what constitutes value to the clients and industries they serve and can frame their presentations accordingly.

Up-to-date information: Consultants can provide audiences with the latest information. They can also provide current data within the historical context of their specialty areas.

Insider's perspective: Consultants speak the language of the industry and know the players.

Referrals and Other Resources

Referrals remain the best way for you to get speaking engagements, especially recommendations from people who have heard you speak. Therefore, it's vital to build a network of people who will recommend you as a speaker to their contacts.

Industry associations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations regularly need speakers. Check Web sites for events and look for directories with information on groups. The Directory of Associations, which is published by the Concept Marketing Group, provides information on over 35,000 organizations.

Organizations frequently issue requests on their Web sites for proposals (RFPs) from speakers. They state that they're looking for speakers on various subjects and ask you to submit your biography with a brief summary of your speech. While you're looking for RFPs, also check schedules of upcoming events for other opportunities.

Many sponsoring organizations require potential speakers to furnish an audio or videotape of past presentations. If you expect to be paid, you will need to submit a videotape to even receive consideration. Keep in mind, however, that a professionally made video showing you in the best light can be a substantial investment and a questionable use of your resources if you don't plan on becoming a professional speaker.

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