5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Speak

As someone who is out there promoting my business and is comfortable in front of groups, I get asked to speak or give workshops at various organizations. I also am the formal Speaker Coordinator for one of my networking groups (the Holistic Networkers Association) and occasionally step in for my Rotary Club as well. What I know from my own experience is that speaking arrangements often happen very informally. “Oh hey… would you be willing to…” A date is set, a topic agreed upon, and before you know it, the day arrives.

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You may have experienced showing up for a meeting where you were asked to speak and find the situation very different than the one you thought you were agreeing to. Maybe the seating arrangement was awkward, the audience was not a fit, or there was a misunderstanding on who was printing the handouts. There are so many things that can have an impact on your effectiveness as a speaker. If you are like me, sometimes you chalk it up to ‘Well… that was good practice… I guess…”

A mindful conversation with the host can help you avoid all that and make sure it is a good experience for all involved. And so, to make it easy, I wrote out the 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Speak in this week’s blog post.

So far my weekly list of 5 has been inspired by events in the week and this week was no different. On Tuesday I was helping a CPL member get ready for a speaking engagement by working with her on a contract. Whoa! A contract? She is speaking to a (very formal) organization and was asked to provide one. This is a bit unusual – lots of the speaking going on out there is a combination of business promotion and networking and since there is no honorarium (a fancy word for getting paid) there is typically no contract.

It occurred to me that this is a good resource for you to have as a planning tool (even if you aren’t speaking yet – you never know when you’ll get asked) and so I also attached a downloadable copy of the blank contract to the bottom of the blog. I encourage you to use it, for free or paid gigs – and even if you only fill it out as a prep checklist for yourself. Even experienced speakers can have butterflies and using this document is one way to make sure you have all the information you need before you step in the room.

If you have been asked to speak – let me know. I love supporting others who are out there being vulnerable.


5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Speak

“Would you speak to our group?” If you are out there promoting yourself and your business, you may get asked this question. Before you say Yes, make sure it’s a fit – speaking engagements (especially free ones) need to be a win-win for you and your audience. Start with these 5 Important Questions to Ask Before You Say Yes:

  1. What is it about you/your topic that the organizer thinks is a good fit for this group? This question can give you a lot of insight into what to expect. “I’ve heard you before and I really think our group will get benefit from your message.” is very different from “We have a diverse group and we are always looking for speakers.”
  2. How is the meeting/event structured? Networking meetings have very different structures from associations, or a corporate lunch and learn. Getting more details about the timing and flow of the event can help you feel more comfortable and lessen the chance for surprises.
  3. What is the demographic of attendees and how many will be there? If you do customization to your talks (and you should) this and a little research online will go a long way towards your audience feeling like you really cared about coming to speak with them.
  4. Can you bring handouts and promotional items and/or Can you sell products or services? Knowing this ahead of time not only helps you know what to bring, it can avoid some awkward – even chilly – moments. If you are speaking to a group that does not allow selling and you make a bold statement like “You can sign up for my class today and I’ll be in the back taking payment” not only do you not fit in with their culture, the person that brought you in looks bad as well. TIP: If you have a book to sell and the organization normally does not allow it (like a service club), ask if you can donate a percentage of that event’s sales to their foundation. It’s a win-win.
  5. What information do they need from you to help promote the event and can you also advertise and bring guests? If it is a regularly scheduled group, they may not do a great job of promoting speakers (because people attend regardless). But if you can help them get attendance up and bring guests, this is a benefit for them and you. Use your email list and social networking to get the word out. If anything, it is advertising that you are available for speaking engagements – so you’ll get asked by another group which will lead to more business!

Want even more?

Below are 2 versions (Word and PDF) of a simple speaker’s contract that will help you define all the specifics with the host of your next speaking gig. This is a free resource. Feel free to use it and change it in any way that you need. Just remember where you got it from and spread the word about CPL :)

Professional Speaker Contract – word doc

Professional Speaker Contract – pdf

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