Brian Palmer, the president of the National Speakers Bureau (NSB), is a long-time supporter of NSA, as was his father the legendary John Palmer and founder of NSB. I asked Brian, “In your seasoned opinion what does it take for professional speakers to be perceived as powerful on the platform?” Below were his responses.
- I often suggest to speakers that they get some sort of speech coaching. Many would be surprised by the sort of work and preparation that a lot of famous celebrities and big-time speakers engage in. You need to educate yourself more, record your presentations and listen critically, and study the craft of speaking. If you want to get paid thousands of dollars to do something, you better work hard at it.
- Many speakers are a little bit too scattered in the topics that they will address. I often get asked, “What’s a popular topic?” and my response is “Why do you ask?” It’s a sign of somebody that perhaps isn’t serious about their craft. My best advice is you need to speak about what you know, not what you’ve read a few books about. Audiences are far more critical and impatient than they used to be.
- It’s very important for speakers to do some sort of audience analysis and account for the event objectives. You can’t get away with pretend personalization—you need to deliver content in every presentation that might not be relevant to any other group in your recent past or near future.
- When somebody looks at your website, it needs to be clear what you can do, and why you’re able to make those presentations and do those things.
- From a big-picture perspective, people in the audience should want to aspire to be like the speaker in some way. In addition to the thinking part, the reality is that includes looks. You need to show up in well-tailored, reasonably fashionable attire—but don’t go overboard. Just because you have a lot of money and can afford that really fashion-forward outfit doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s appropriate for the platform. And while we’re talking appearance, professional presenters ought to be very aware of what they eat and don’t eat—it’s worth the work to maintain a body mass index closer than further away from the ideal.
- Understand the buying process. As the spending for events becomes more carefully scrutinized, our clients want to make sure that a speaker is going to be able to deliver and do the job. After all, they’re idling 500 of their top people for the event. As a result, a group of seven or more people may be involved in choosing one speaker—and our female NSA members will not like this, so do not shoot the messenger, it’s more difficult to get a group of seven to decide on a woman.
- Looking into the future, it is bright for skilled speakers who consistently do excellent work. When it comes to being powerful, it’s important to recognize that about half the audience wants their minds touched, and the other half wants their hearts touched. Exceptional speakers are able to go back and forth, reaching the brain, as well as making an emotional connection.
Written by Patricia Fripp for Speaker Magazine. Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, is a keynote speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills expert and past president of NSA.