How to let your talks, not your title do the talking.
The number of people that proudly display the title, ‘Speaker’ in their social media profiles these days is absolutely mind boggling. At first glance, this might seem quite a counter-productive piece of advice coming from a speaker coach; someone that makes a living from helping people write and deliver keynotes, presentations and TEDx talks.
As the Curator of TEDxClapham, I get approached by people that want to add ‘TEDx speaker’ to their list of achievements on a weekly basis (I’ll save that rant for another day) and more often than not, I’ll find ‘Speaker’ along with a number of other glorified titles on their social media profiles.
The first thing that comes to mind is, I don’t believe you. In fact, I’d be willing to bet I could count the number of times they’ve have given a talk in the last 12 months on one hand, so even if they do speak regularly, that label is already doing you a disservice when it comes to creating a good first impression. The second thing that comes to mind is, speak about what?!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I can see why you do it. Perhaps it’s because you want to create more speaking opportunities, maybe even some paid ones (How’s that playing out for you by the way?). More likely it’s because you want to be seen by your peers as an industry leader and if that is the case, you’re going about it completely the wrong way; along with anyone that labels themselves an Entrepreneur, Leader, Guru, Educator, Writer (I’m afraid the article that the Huffington Post published does not make you a highly acclaimed author), the list goes on… Let’s face it, anyone who feels like they have to call themselves a leader isn’t one and the same goes for speakers.
My advice: leave the labelling to others and focus on what actually gets you noticed. Curators don’t care about your speaking history. They care about your content and your talk’s purpose and their reservations certainly aren’t going to be relieved by a self-proclaimed title.
You could be the world’s worst speaker, but if you have mind-blowing material and your talk solves a problem, changes a behaviour or teaches us something new (i.e. your life story isn’t the talk’s central theme), we can work with you on your delivery. Speeches must always serve a purpose that’s bigger than the speaker themselves. Chris Anderson (TED’s CEO) summed it up perfectly in his new book, he said that an idea is something that ‘changes how people see the world’. If that is the case, a speech is nothing more than a vehicle for your message, which means that far more important things to be worrying about than whether or not your profile puts you on a high enough pedestal.
And don’t just take my word for it…
Google ‘Martin Luther King, Jr.’; not once is he described as a speaker. Why? Well, because he wasn’t one, he was a minister and an activist. For him, speaking was nothing more than a tool that could drive his movement. The same goes for anyone who has given a talk worth listening to.
If anyone had the right to label themselves a ‘Speaker’, Sir Ken Robinson would rank high on that list. His talk, ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?’ is still the most watched TED talk of all time and he has been giving speeches across the world for years. Yet, he doesn’t.
What most people don’t realise is that our fear of public speaking doesn’t come from worrying about what other people think of us, it comes from not knowing if what we have to say is actually worth listening to. It has never been easier to become a ‘speaker’ but ultimately, speaking is just a form of communication, just like sending an email, or picking up a phone.
That said, I believe that speaking is the most effective way of driving a movement and establishing yourself as an industry leader.
All I ask is that you let your talks, not your title do the talking.
For those of you who are looking to speak more, click this link to find out how to land your next gig in an hour.