Most people avoid speaking in public like the plague. Sharing your story on a stage however remains one of the best ways to influence stakeholders and build reputation.
To add another dimension to your public relations efforts, keep the following in mind when you are approached - or actively searching for - a speaking opportunity:
Is the occasion relevant to what you or your organisation want to achieve? Speaking engagements take up a significant amount of time, and this time is best invested if it is related to achieving strategic objectives.
You can test the relevancy of a speaking engament based on:
- the audience that will be attending,
- the overall theme of the event,
- the speaker guidelines that might allow or restrict certain types of presentations, and
- how confident you are with the topic you need to address (irrespective of your comfort with public speaking).
The value of a speaking engagement doesn't necessarily lie in the fee that might accompany it, but how you can maximise the activity around it. If the organisers are promoting the event and/or speakers via social media, make sure that you share their content with your own network. Famous by association is still very much a "thing", and your connection to an event of the right calibre and type might be of great reputational value to you.
If you develop custom content (presentation, whitepaper, article) for the speaking engagement, make sure that you share the content on various other relevant platforms after the event. Linkedin allows for sharing content in numerous formats, and is also the best place to share business related content.
Use a speaking engagement to empower, enlighten, or energise the audience. Never use it to sell a product, share a history, or show off your accomplishments.
Executives are often invited as keynote speakers or programme directors, but they might not necessarily be the best person for the job. If you are approached for a session that you feel is about your current level of speech delivery expertise, rather request whether a different type of session is available. As your speaking expertise improves, you'll be able to accept a wider variety of engagements.
Always consider the amount of preparation necessary for each speaking engagement. It is always a good idea to customise your content somewhat according to the event and audience, but accepting speaking engagements are much easier if you can rely on content that you are very confident with, and have existing presentation material ready for.
Never fall into the trap of having someone else prepare your speech or presentation material on your behalf right before a speaking engagement. A nervous presenter is forgiven much more often than a poorly prepared one.
THE ROBOTS ARE COMING!
Depending on your personality type, your appetite for risk and popular opinion of the people that surround you, your reaction to this statement will either be one of excitement or one of absolute terror.
The future is often described as an insurmountable obstacle racing towards us at a frightening speed.
We are however not as unprepared as we might think, even when we take into account trend predictions made by futurists. Developments over the past decade have already provided us with guidelines and structures to prepare for the future.
All we need now is a shift in mind set.
Disruption as base for vision
When we set the direction for the future we need to have a basic understanding of the innovations that are predicted to disrupt the industries we operate in and rely on.
With social media enabling the instantaneous sharing of ideas and discoveries, keeping our finger on the pulse of innovation is easier and cheaper than ever. In most instances it is not even necessary to understand the intricate details of all the innovations; a broad awareness will help guide leadership decisions toward setting a direction that is less likely to be surprised by disruption.
An honest look at what our world may be like in the future will enable us to focus on what is necessary to keep fulfilling the purpose of our effort.
We need to have a clear purpose for our efforts combined with a firm understanding of innovations that will have an impact on those efforts.
The purpose of an organisation can no longer be merely self-serving. Society demands that all organisations set a direction for responsible effort in the triple context of profit, people, and planet.
Sustainability as a habit
Sustainability is a term often used interchangeably between the continued existence of an organisation and the environmental impact of a product.
It should however be used as combination of the two and adopt the King IV Report on Good Governance description of “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”.
This description refers not only to the responsible use of existing limited natural resources, but also to the investment needed into alternative materials and methods that will reduce the negative environmental impact from decisions made by previous generations.
We need to consider how each decision we make now - as individuals, communities or organisations - will change the quality of life of our children and their children's children.
We must also understand that future generations will not live in the world that we know now. A change from automation by machines programmed by humans to robots that function on their own through artificial intelligence, is merely one of the changes that is no longer a prediction, but already a reality.
Communication as a hard skill
It is therefore necessary to ensure that we do not merely build our awareness of potential disruption, but that we also share it with others and prepare them for it.
Change management programmes and the communication plans that go with them has become a specialised function, but it seems to have little impact where disruption is concerned.
The problem with change management is that it is a linear process, while disruption is known for change that has changed by the time you deal with it.
Effective communication that attempts to prepare teams for disruption is barred by human nature that triggers an automatic resistive response once we're faced with something new and unfamiliar.
We need to distinguish between communicating change and communicating crisis by training our teams to form a habit of seeing disruption as an opportunity, not a threat.
To achieve this we need to stop delegating communication to marketing teams as a support function. We need to retrain our workforces to develop communication capabilities as a core skill, as that is predicted to become our saving grace for when the robots do come.