13 Ways to be an Awesome Guest Speaker


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If you are ever asked to be a guest speaker for an organization, these 13 tips by Prof. Barbara Nixon from Southeastern University will help you prepare.

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  • 13 Ways to be an Awesome Guest SpeakerBy Barbara B. NixonBased a blog post of Barbara’s: http://publicrelationsmatters.com/2010/08/12/14-ways-to-not-suck-as-guest-speaker/Image Credit: http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080804210850/uncyclopedia/images/5/52/Awesomesauce.png
  • Learn as much as you can about your audience before you speak. (This is a good tip for any public speaking situation.) Even if you don’t know much about the organization beforehand, you can learn a lot during the mealtime, if that’s part of your engagement with them. During the meal, listen more than you talk. When your presentation begins, weave in examples that you know are relevant to this group.Find out from your contact at the organization what the norms are for speaking engagements like this one. Will the audience members expect handouts? Is there usually a Q&A session? What’s the best way for you to share your contact information with every audience member?Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marfis75/2459534903/in/photostream/
  • Tailor your presentation to your audience. Use examples and language familiar to them.
  • Let your contact know what your A/V needs are as far in advance as possible, and only request what is necessary. Avoid last minute surprises, as they often cannot be accommodated — and they turn you into that speaker (the one NO ONE wants to work with).Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/didmyself/6530383417/in/photostream/
  • If you refer to websites or blogs in your presentation, create a set of social bookmarks for your audience so they can go to one URL to find all the links and not spend time during your presentation attempting to furiously scribble down all the addresses. I use used to use Delicious for my social bookmarks; I’ve recently started using Pinterest. Let your audience know early in the presentation where they can find all the links.
  • Upload your slides to SlideShare at least a day before your presentation if you want your audience (and others) to have access to them. You can choose to keep the slides private until just before or after the presentation, if you wish.
  • Know how to use the technology you will be using, inside and out. Practice hooking up all the cords and cables and know how long it will take you. Know how to easily blacken the screen during your presentation when the slides are not needed (in PowerPoint, simply press B to blacken the screen, and then any other key to bring the slide back up). Do you have something new with you? In front of your audience is not the place to learn how to use your new presentation remote.Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/3318600273/in/photostream/
  • Plan for the technology to fail. Always have hard-copy notes for your presentation, just in case you cannot rely on a PowerPoint slide to jog your memory for what to say. Save your presentation as a PowerPoint and as a PDF, and store it on your computer and a USB drive. (Yes, it’s like wearing a belt with suspenders. Twice. And I’m okay with that.)Image Credit: http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/blue-screen-of-death-bsod (Bill Gates demo-ing Windows 98 beta)
  • Never let your audience see anything on your computer other than the slide deck or other information you intend for them to see. They don’t (or at least shouldn’t) have any interest in watching you boot up your computer, open your file and put it in presentation mode. Keep the projector screen blank until you have your opening slide up. (And never be that speaker who preps her presentation in full view of the whole room while someone else is still speaking; I find this terribly rude to the other speaker.)Image Credit: Wizard of Oz
  • Don’t count on the Internet working 100% perfectly. If I plan to show a YouTube video clip, I always download the video to my computer and show it from there. (I’ve recently been using YouTube Downloader, a free app, and it works quickly and easily for me on my PC.) If I plan to demo a certain website, I’ll use Snag-It to take and save a few screen captures to show in case I cannot access the site during my presentation.
  • Arrive with your speaker’s toolkit in tip-top order. I think I almost got a hug from the conference room tech guy at my last speaking event because I had everything I needed, and more. What’s in mine? Here’s what I typically carry with me: Computer & power cordPower stripExternal speakers with their power cord (just in case there’s no sound system attached to the projector)3.5mm cord to connect speakers to computer (even if I have my Bluetooth-enabled computer and speakers with me, I have the cord as a backup)Projector (only if I know that there is not one available for me onsite)Presentation remoteExtra set of batteries for anything that uses batteriesHard candy or throat lozengesMore business cards than I think I could possibly needImage Credit: http://cleanituplondon.blogspot.com/2012/01/how-to-restore-your-supply-tool-belt.html
  • Plan your presentation so that you can expand it or contract it as needed. Even though you may have been told you have 45 minutes, you may discover that the business portion of the meeting has run long, and you end up with just 30 minutes. Make no mention of shortening your presentation to your audience; just do it. Gracefully.Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/funch/2594515103/in/photostream/
  • Allow extra time in travel to arrive at the meeting location, especially if you have never been there before. Some things to keep in mind: Is there construction along your route? Do you cross train tracks on the way? When do the trains typically stop traffic? Do you know how to get into the parking lot? How far is it from the exterior doors to your meeting room? And never trust your GPS 100% to get you to a new location.Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vxla/6097285277/in/photostream/
  • The show must go on; be prepared to speak even if you don’t look quite perfect. For example, yesterday, I got caught in a deluge just as I opened my car door arriving at a speaking event. Even with an umbrella, I was drenched (kind of like the cute, wet puppy at the top of this post — at least in my mind). My shoes and blazer sleeves were literally dripping when I entered the venue. What did I do? Dashed into the restroom, grabbed some paper towels, mopped up what I could, and put a smile on my face.Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29071316@N06/5586935870/in/photostream/
  • 13 Ways to be an Awesome Guest Speaker

    1. 1. Barbara 13 Ways to be an Awesome Guest Speaker Barbara B. Nixon
    2. 2. Learn aboutyour audience
    3. 3. Tailor for your audience
    4. 4. Create social bookmarks
    5. 5. Upload to Slideshare
    6. 6. Know your technology
    7. 7. Plan for the technology to fail
    8. 8. Only show what audience needs
    9. 9. Don’t count on an Internet connection
    10. 10. Have a speaker’s toolkit
    11. 11. Be able to expand or contract
    12. 12. Allow for extra travel time
    13. 13. The show must go on
    14. 14. Contact MeBarbara B. Nixon, Ph.D. (ABD)Assistant Professor, Communication DepartmentSoutheastern UniversityLife Member & Past President of the International Listening Association (listen.org)• E-mail: bnixon@auburnalum.org• Twitter: barbaranixon• Skype: barbara.b.nixon• Blog: publicrelationsmatters.com