Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Don't get caught without video of your thought leader's speeches

Recently, I was having dinner with two communications directors from different organizations, and our talk turned to TED talks, keynotes and other high-stakes speeches. I've coached the TEDMED speakers for the past few years and while I don't choose speakers for conferences, I work with plenty of conference organizers who share their search methods when looking for keynote or featured speakers.

When I urged these communicators to routinely publish video of their leaders' speeches and presentations, I was in for a surprise: Neither could point to a single video online of their frequent-speaker CEOs giving a speech.

I realized then that I needed the reality check. On my public speaking blog, The Eloquent Woman (which I hope you're reading), publishing speeches in all formats is a frequent topic. That's in part because women's speeches are rarer and also harder to find even when they are given. As I wrote in Why (and how) you should publish your speeches, "If you want to silence yourself, failing to publish your presentations is a good way to start." But I'm not sure I've emphasized that point as frequently on this blog, with the communicators who do most of the strategy and legwork around leaders' speeches.

Don't just take it from me. I asked conference organizer Sarah Milstein--a veteran of many top-level conferences and current CEO of the Lean Startup conference--to share her perspective in What can video do to help you get that speaking gig? An organizer's tips. Communications pros should take a hard look at this gem in the big pile of diamonds she offered:
We require video because we care about presentation style--will this person connect with our audience?--and nothing else gives us even a sliver of a hint of how the proposed speaker will appear to audiences. Sometimes, a good writer turns out to be a lousy presenter. More often, a PR person writes and submits a proposal on behalf of a speaker--who may not even know about the submission--and then we really get no representative info. Video helps overcome all of that.
In seeking good communicators, we're not necessarily looking for classic presentation skills. Indeed, some of the most compelling videos we've seen were shorts that people made for us and that included title cards or walking-through-busy-NY-streets or funny interstitials. Without the usual tools, they did a good job of connecting and telling us that the presenters were thoughtful communicators. Of course, we've seen lots of good videos that simply put the speaker in front of a camera and let 'em rip for 120 seconds.
There are plenty more tips in Milstein's post, from production values to when to chuck what's available and start fresh, so read them all and take them to heart.

It's not that video will get you instant invitations. But it may be how your speaker is found, keeping in mind that YouTube is one of the most-used search engines on the planet. It also will give your pitches a second look, in many cases, and put across the answers to questions that the organizers certainly have, but might not ask.

Let me put a fine point on it and add that yes, you should put these videos online, not just on your own website, but on shareable sites. Don't hoard them, waiting for the organizers to ask. Make it easy for your would-be speaker to be found.

One last note: Don't, by any means, use a fake live audience, populated with staffers or actors. I've had potential clients come to me for speaker coaching and say, "Get a sense of how I speak in this video," only to find it's a slick production number with a uniformly good-looking audience of people smiling, nodding and clapping. On which planet does that ever happen to a speaker? You'd do better with no audience, or with an everyday presentation in front of the home crowd. You don't need to only feature the big talks and perfect delivery moments. So, let me ask you: How many of your leader's talks and presentations can we find in video online? Email me at eloquentwomanATgmailDOTcom if you want a coach to get your speaker ready.

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