How you can up your game as global speaker – from your home

At our July PSASA Johannesburg Chapter Meeting, Graeme Codrington gave us a look into the future of speaking, and a guide to how you can up your remote speaking game, and how to succeed as a global speaker. The meeting was hosted by Chapter President Arthur Goldstuck, and emceed by Lois Wagner.

Lois prepared the meeting by encouraging questions and interactions, which helped drive very interesting questions and engagement. Committee member Steve Johnson introduced our first speaker.

Grame said he’d travelled for most of the last 20 years, until the pandemic began. At first, he couldn’t wait to get back to speaking in person but, now, being in his studio is probably going to be his default future setting. He stressed that this was not a personal preference, a sentiment shared by top speakers he has contacted during his research. He ran a quick poll among attendees asking how many paid jobs the speakers in the room had done in 2021 and how their fees had changed. The result was:

Graeme said he predicts, once the vaccine rollout picks up, there will be an over-reaction back to filling up conference venues, because people have missed them – or so the organisers think. But, while people will run back to conference centres with bad coffee and mildly comfortable chairs, the old reality of having people only in a room for a conference in the room is gone, and hybrid events are here to stay. Companies are going to be sold the most over-elaborate hybrid tech system they could ever imagine, with expensive crews, but which may end up delivering a sub-par experience, despite all the investment. At the other end of the tech spectrum, someone will be holding up their smartphone and WhatsApp videos of the event to all the virtual attendees.

His recommendation is that speakers must guide companies in tools to which speakers are accustomed. That way speakers can recommend tools to stream with and not have to worry about the logistics of looking good on stage while they’re delivering their hybrid event. He also said that the onus is on speakers to know these tools well and to have a good enough understanding to provide training to their clients.

He then asked a vital question to the room: How are your speaker rates differing from in-person to online? The result (below) shows that the highest proportion are going to give a slight discount, while the next biggest segment will not change their fees at all. He said both approaches are valid, because a discount can help seal the deal while saving a speaker time with travel, preparation, and other time-intensive tasks involved with being at an event in person. Not changing the fee is also valid because the value of the talks hasn’t changed, so the pricing shouldn’t either.

He also spoke about negotiations with clients about pricing. Big clients who hire out a big venue have the money to spend. He said the bar bill for a big event at Sun City will probably cost more than what they’re paying a speaker for their talk. He also said that you must ask them to provide value in other ways, like buying your book as a gift for all attendees for after your talk, or to place your article in their company magazine. He said speakers must get creative to get the most value during and after their talks.

Key takeaways were:

  • Be an expert at helping them choose a setup
  • Be asynchronous – having pre-recorded options for when you can’t make it, or if your connection drops. This enables speakers to provide value in many more circumstances
  • Geography is irrelevant – we are all global speakers now, we have a brilliant time zone for Asia, Europe, and America, and our accents are very understandable. We need to up our game, provide extra value, and compete with the international virtual speakers coming into our space.

Bryan thanked Graeme for the insightful talk.

Lois introduced Nikki Bush, who facilitated a discussion about the last PSASA convention.

Nikki invited the speakers in the meeting to share the differences they have made from the learnings they got from the convention. Steve said that the stand-out impression was preparation and practice. He said that speakers went over and above with preparing their talks so their delivery was fluid and seamless. Nikki echoed this, saying it provided authenticity when they were relaxed while delivering talks.

Yoke Van Dam said that Leanne Hughes provided contrast by asking the audience to provide feedback live during the event instead of the audience remaining static. She said that speaking must continue off the stage, by means of a regular podcast, a newsletter, or a video. Nikki said that speakers need to solidify their purpose and to be facili-speakers – the days of the keynote speaker are gone. She said personalisation is also the key to being a good modern speaker.

Bryan pointed out that a speaker at the convention had connectivity issues on the day, but nobody noticed because he had sent a pre-recorded version of his talk to the team beforehand, and that enabled him to still be in the room. Nikki agreed that a backup presentation is vital in the case of failed connectivity or illness. She reminded speakers that pre-recorded presentations are not wasted if the connectivity holds up and they are not used – the content has been created so we can repurpose clips from it in our online presence. Arthur echoed this by saying we’ve seen a revolution in video since the pandemic, and the talks can be repurposed by a speaker’s clients after the talk, which can be a value-add for the client or a reason to keep fees where they are. Nikki reinforced this, saying practice in making content, whether it be video or writing, is how speakers sharpen their swords.

Graeme added that nobody can tell you what will go viral, but the chances of something going viral are zero unless you get your content out there. Nikki agreed, saying that speakers need to keep to a content schedule and “laying track” to keep content publishing consistent. This makes sure an audience can see the “who” behind the speaker, and this helps give clients a portfolio to peruse.

Sharon King Gabrielides spoke about actionable insights from delegates and audiences so clients can know how much value a speaker has provided during their session. She described drip feeding, or providing shorter sessions. For example, instead of doing two full day sessions, rather provide four half day sessions, because people rarely concentrate for the longer events. Eksteen de Wall elaborated, saying that when condensed sessions are requested, a speaker must keep to the same price of a standard time talk. He said the value doesn’t change when the time is changed.

Paul du Toit said that when he started writing, he felt he wasn’t very good. He recommended that there should be a time gap between writing and editing one’s work. He also recommended that speakers refine their old content and new content, because people won’t remember what you said or wrote five years ago. He said the key is patience and being self-critical.

Dorianne Weil spoke about being global speakers, saying the way we share information has drastically changed. We no longer hold our success secrets close to our chests, and collaboration in speaking is the way forward.

Nikki wrapped it up with the advice of practice, practice, practice. She then introduced Taryn-lee Kearney, the organiser for the upcoming 2022 PSASA convention.

Taryn-lee gathered feedback about which elements attendees enjoyed the most, what attendees enjoyed from the past conference venues, which dates and times will work, and what experiences attendees want to have at the conference. Valuable feedback was collected and will be implemented in the next PSASA convention.

Lois thanked Nikki and Taryn-lee for the valuable sessions and for facilitating insightful feedback.

Arthur thanked Lois for emceeing the meeting, and wrapped up with closing remarks about the upcoming August meeting about cyber-wellness and rebounding from hardships. In line with Women’s Month, our speakers are two powerful women, Rianette Liebowitz and Yael Geffen. To book for this meeting, click here.