After proposing lots of talk ideas, a wild speaking opportunity will appear! Congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. Your role now moves from idea person to decision-maker.
As you know, speaking engagements come in all forms and sizes. You must determine how well the offered opportunity will benefit you on your quest to become a speaking master. I will help you learn to judge an engagement’s reach, compensation, comfort level, and subject matter with the intention of accepting or rejecting a speaking gig.
Please note that you will have a smaller pool of opportunities to pick from as a new speaker. Don’t ignore the pygmy while aiming for the behemoth. Less populous, more intimate engagements give you chances to practice for larger events. Start small and work your way up to the big stage!
The first thing to consider about a public speaking opportunity is its overall topic or focus. How does it align with the subjects you’d like to speak about? If it doesn’t directly correlate to your interests, can you be an ambassador and use this opportunity to spread word about what you do?
You might, for example, agree to speak at an Android development conference and act as a design advocate. However, you can also decline if the opportunity doesn’t make sense for you. As a case in point, you have the right to say no if an organization wants you to speak about a subject you are not comfortable with.
Spend time researching the scale of every opportunity you receive. How many followers or attendees does it garner, and what are the audience demographics? Think about who needs to hear your talk. Does this opportunity align with your goal?
As you take on more speaking gigs, you may aim to share information with larger groups. In this case, the reach and credentials of potential engagements become exponentially more important. You might want to find out how long the organization has run, how much clout it has in your industry, and how much it aligns with your career goals.
Once you have learned about an event’s subject matter and reach, think about compensation. What, if any, money will you take home for your effort? Public speaking takes a lot of work, especially if you plan to do research and create slides for a presentation. At the very least, I suggest asking for reimbursement from opportunities that require plane or train travel.
Expense reimbursements are generally separate from what speakers charge for their time. If you need a baseline speaking fee, consider requesting at least $500 for conferences and $150 for appearances at for-profit educational institutions. As you speak at more events, you can increase your rates.
Some organizations do not pay speakers for their time. This is more prevalent amongst groups that hold calls for proposals. In that case, you need to decide if the opportunity provides another form of compensation outside of “exposure”.
For example, I occasionally accept speaking invitations for groups that teach marginalized young people to code. These engagements don’t compensate me financially, but do I gain a sense of fulfillment. Happiness won’t pay the bills, but it does affect how I feel about my work. Ensure that you get some sort of value from all speaking gigs you accept.
Your well-being is crucial to delivering a good talk. The goal of this research is to decide whether you will feel safe during the engagement. This opportunity may not be worth your effort if the possibility of harm hinders your ability to properly perform.
Look into the event venue’s surroundings, especially if it is located in an area you have yet to visit. Do you know the local language, and if not, are you willing to learn enough words to navigate comfortably? If you have never traveled alone, consider if you are willing to do so for this case.
Are other people you know attending the event? Does it have a code of conduct that makes you feel comfortable? These are just few of many questions you may ask to assess the safety of this opportunity.
After looking into the above criteria, think about how you feel regarding the opportunity you received. You may also want to consider other information about the event such as diversity of people on the speaking roster. Although event organizers need to find speakers from different backgrounds in order to have an interesting range of subjects, many rush to fill spots without creating a diversity strategy.
The right speaking gig feels exciting and possibly a little scary, although not unsafe. Change is nerve-wracking, but often not dangerous. Jump on engagements that will stretch your abilities the most, especially if you can afford to be choosy! If the opportunity doesn’t interest you, pass it along to someone else.
Next step: Prepare content
Once you accept a talk, the fun part begins: writing the talk. In the next post, I share ways to prepare content for your speaking gig.
Tools for self-improvement
Over my many years in design and technology, I have created a variety of free and low-cost tutorials, printable worksheets, and more.
Support my work
I love writing and sharing tips, but it's time-intensive and takes a lot of effort. This kind of labor is not cheap.
In this panel discussion, Women Talk Design has invited a few incredible design and tech conference speakers to share their experiences. Learn how they got their first speaking engagement, what conferences they attend, how they prepare for giving a talk, and what advice they have for those getting started. You'll leave inspired to share your own ideas and experiences, and get out there and speak.
Emoti-Con is NYC's biggest showcase for young designers, makers, technologists, and tinkerers who believe in digital innovation as a tool for positive change in the world around them.
Want to talk?
Got feedback, looking to suggest a future writing topic, or want to invite me to speak at your organization? Send me a message and I'll get back to you as soon as possible!