Rules are there for a reason

Did you hear that a lot in your school days? Even though most of the rules seemed a bit, well, stupid? I certainly did!

A few weeks ago, I broke one of my own rules. It was a good rule and there to protect me, but I was doing somebody a favour to help them out. (You’ve probably made the same excuses yourself)

A training company was looking for a speaker at short notice and a colleague recommended me. There was a lot of backwards and forwards to see if I was a good fit which meant that time was even tighter by the time it was all agreed. And then they sent over their terms and conditions for signature which were different from my standard speaking terms in one main respect. There was no up-front payment.

As most of you aren’t professional speakers, I’d better explain that, for a speaking assignment like this, I would spend 2 days learning the material (I usually spend a similar amount of time writing my own) and rehearsing so that everything is flawless without looking over-rehearsed. I spent a day travelling and a day delivering the content and incurred related expenses. 4 days work plus travel and hotel costs.

Event organisers may charge attendees up-front, but they prefer to pay their speakers after the event (Although far too many expect speakers to work for ‘exposure’, but that’s another problem). Event organisers often cancel at short notice if they don’t get enough people signed up which can leave speakers with wasted time and prebooked travel costs. This is simply solved by charging a deposit at the time of booking.

As everything was done at short notice to help out the new client there wasn’t time to negotiate a deposit.

So, I did ALL the work and incurred all the costs before invoicing them at the earliest possible moment and guess what?

They didn’t pay on their agreed date! And they didn’t even bother to let me know why not!

Anyway, several weeks later and after wasting far too much time chasing, I finally got paid.

But I won’t be making that mistake again.

Please learn from my mistakes and get paid up front where possible. At Minerva Accountants our annual fee is all paid by direct debit before the year end. Have a look at your terms and conditions and see if they could be tighter.

Do you invest in yourself?

Several years ago I started speaking to promote my old accountancy business, Hudson Accountants. Like most people I hate public speaking but I went to a school that taught this useful business skill and, by about the third event, I felt reasonably comfortable.

Until I joined the Professional Speaking Association!

Being an occasional speaker is very different from being a professional speaker and so I felt that I needed to relearn my craft. Fortunately the PSA is really good for helping speakers to speak more and speak better and I am now a full member, a former Regional President, and I’ve been invited to speak at one of their national conferences for the second time.

Usually I speak to accountants and business owners who are more interested in my content than the way I deliver it. At the PSA my peers will (kindly) analyse the way I deliver my expertise too. It can be quite scary but I know that, if I’m brave enough to ask for feedback, they will be very helpful.

How do you make sure that you’re always getting better at what you do?

PS. If you’re new to speaking then I recommend joining your local Toastmasters or ask me about individual speaker coaches.

“I don’t need a microphone”

With the return of face to face events this is one thing that I haven’t missed.

During Q&As the event organiser will offer a microphone to the audience member asking the question and a fair number will reject it announcing “I don’t need a microphone”

Well, I’m going to burst your bubble and tell you that you do. And here’s why:

  • I’m a professional speaker and quite capable of projecting my voice to a significantly sized theatre and I still use one to save the quality of my voice.
  • People fade as they speak. Especially if it’s one of those long questions that involves sharing your life history (don’t do this either; nobody is really interested)
  • Your voice mainly travels forwards to it will be fainter for those behind you
  • The event organiser will often be recording the event. If you don’t share your question via the microphone that is hooked up to the AV deck the speaker will have to remember to repeat the question “for the tape”
  • Those wearing hearing aids will set them to a particular position for the best sound reception from the microphone. Use it in order to be accessible.

Also remember that the slot for Q&As is often limited so:

  • Keep it brief
  • Ask a question; don’t make a statement
  • Ask yourself if it will really help the rest of the audience.

Speaking for business

As you probably know I speak professionally, and so I often get asked for tips on how people can improve their speaking. 

Please see my article on basic Zoom meetings. Get your camera angle, lights and sound all set up even for normal meetings. 

For speaking on webinars rather than just meetings:

  • I speak professionally after years of practice and training from the Professional Speaking Association! (The speaker’s equivalent of ICAEW). If you want to run a professional event hire a professional speaker, just as you would use a professional accountant.
  • I don’t use a script so, after writing the talk, I set aside a whole day or more for rehearsing in the week before the event.
  • Any slides should enhance your event. If you’re just going to read from your slides then you’re not adding any value.
  • I have crib notes on my keyboard for any facts I might forget but they need to be big enough to read without my glasses!
  • As I’m talking about my own subject matter I can tweak the talk as I go to adapt to timing (often needed when other speakers overrun). In an event where I can see my audience I can even adapt the content to spend more time on a topic where they look engaged and skip over anything that is of less interest to them.
  • DO NOT OVER RUN as it is rude to other speakers and the event organiser. If you’re organising events please be clear on how long the actual talk should be and whether introductions and questions need to be included in this time.
  • If I’m MCing an event I hold cue cards in my hand (or on my keyboard) but I still try to rehearse introductions beforehand so that I can look at the camera/audience as much as possible.  
  • Use a professional MC for your events. They will ensure that everything runs to time even if you have less experienced speakers.
  • Have a dedicated person to look after your AV.
  • Ensure that you have a diverse mix of speakers. If anybody needs help with this then feel free to contact me as I know hundreds of speakers who cover a range of topics.

A lot of people are setting up online courses so I’m hosting a webinar on Tuesday 20th October to share how I create and host our coaching programmes on Thinkific.