The basics for being a great guest speaker

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Being a guest speaker is a great marketing tool, as it can position you – or someone in your organisation – as an expert or specialist in your field.

Not everyone can be an outstanding guest speaker, but I firmly believe most people can be great guest speakers if they put in the time and effort to do a great job. But be warned if it’s not done well, it can be a negative marketing exercise.

Below I have put together 15 tips for being a great guest speaker

1. Be prepared

I feel like some of you think I am stating the obvious – but unfortunately I’m not!

I have been to far too many presentations where the guest speaker is clearly skilled in their area of expertise but they haven’t prepared for this specific presentation. This can result in terms or concepts not being explained properly, a fragmented delivery of content and repetitive information.

2. Dress to impress

This does not necessarily mean corporate attire in every circumstance. Ask the event organisers what the dress code is and make sure you will be appropriate. If you have a personal brand that differs to the dress code (ie you’re super casual and they’re in suits), make sure you find a middle ground. You need to be true to your personal brand, but you also need to respect your audience.

3. Present what has been promoted

Any presentation – whether it is a public presentation at a networking group or an invitation to speak to an organisation – is promoted to attendees. You will have either given them the topic or they have provided it to you. Either way, make sure you stay on topic.

There is nothing more frustrating than giving up time to attend a function and listen to a guest speaker, only for them to not cover the advertised topic.

4. Keep your pace and volume steady

When you are presenting you want to ensure that you speak at an even speed – not too fast and not too slow.

This is an area that I am constantly working on, as I often get excited by the subject matter I am delivering and start to speak quite quickly! But I am aware of this, so when it starts to happen I give myself a talking to in my head and try to slow back down again.

You also want to keep your volume of delivery so that all attendees can hear you. If you have a microphone that helps, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of it. In fact, sometimes when I attend an event the speaker obviously thinks that because they have a microphone they don’t have to project their voice – this is not true! It then means that despite the microphone I can’t hear everything they are saying.

5. Be a patient guest speaker

Take a breath after delivering a key point. That way it will have time to sink in. You can also repeat the point to really drive it home.

6. Use a visual presentation wisely

One of my favourite business videos, which still stands the test of time, is Death by PowerPoint. If you are going to have some visual elements, make sure you have them professionally designed to align to your brand, that only relevant content is included – and of course, don’t read from slides!

7. Be smart about humour

Not all of us are comedians – and that’s ok! Don’t try to be a comedian if you’re not, but on the flip side don’t be afraid of enlisting a laugh. Obviously don’t deliver a stand-up comedy routine, but read the room and if appropriate you can make some funny references.

Remember to keep it professional though and don’t be offensive.

8. Stay positive

Don’t start with an apology! The audience don’t need to know that you’ve had a terrible day, or week – that your computer fried itself, or your kids are sick, or that you’ve got a lot of deadlines.

9. Show up

This may seem obvious, but I am talking about this from two perspectives. Obviously turn up to the event itself, but you need to ‘show up’. It doesn’t matter how tired or lethargic you feel, once you get up in front of that audience you need to be ‘on’.

10. Read the audience

If you sense them getting bored, change tack or volume etc. So really pay attention to what your audience is doing.

11. Look at your audience

This should really not need to be said – but don’t read from notes! It’s ok to have notes to remind you of what you want to cover, but don’t read from them.

A tip is to prepare the full notes to organise your thoughts and read over in preparation, but do not use those as a speech notes. Instead pick out the major headings and use those as your notes.

Then it will be impossible for you to read. This way you can actually look at your audience and understand when something is resonating with them.

12. Tell a story

An anecdote or an example told via a story is a great way to draw the audience in. It needs to be relevant though, or the audience will be left feeling a bit confused.

13. Pose questions carefully

If you have read the room correctly you will know whether or not to attempt feedback and two-way interaction. You don’t want to pose a question only to be met by silence. Awkward!

14. Allow for questions

Make sure you time your presentation to allow for questions at the end. This is often expected at events and people will hold back their questions until the end.

15. Ask for feedback

The way this occurs depends on the type of guest speaker you were. Sometimes people won’t be comfortable providing constructive feedback directly to you, so you should enlist the help of someone else.

There you have it! My 15 tips for being a great guest speaker.

But further to that – if you are looking for a guest speaker for your event, please get in touch as I would be happy to have a chat about your needs and the topics I can speak on!

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Holly Martin
Holly Martin
With over 17 years of hands-on experience in marketing, our Managing Director & Chief Marketer, Holly Martin, has worked with an amazing variety of businesses. Her strengths lie in her ability to see the entire playing field for our many diverse clients.
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