Like all speakers over the past 18 months, I have seen my speaking career deflate like a helium balloon two days after a 10-year-old’s birthday party. The pandemic response has all but wiped out the live events industry, forcing resourceful groups to hack their way through creating virtual meetings and conferences, thus limiting the volume and scope of engagements for speakers.
If you would have asked me a few years ago if I would have attended all-day virtual conferences and spoken to large groups while sitting in my home office wearing workout shorts — and that this would become a cross-industry norm — I would have said ‘HELL NAW!’
Alas, this is the world we live in now. The good news is, live events are picking back up and even amidst this new Delta surge, in-person events are visible on the horizon.
I have attended and participated in a few virtual conferences and while they are lackluster compared to their in-person counterparts (Zoom fatigue is real), they are a great place to sharpen your speaking skills and practice your material. Think of how a stand-up comic will hit up an open mic or two to try out new material between tours. Even the greats stop by for random late night, unpaid bits at the Comedy Cellar.
I’ve got a few reasons why you should say YES to virtual speaking gigs until we’re back to normal.
- Keeps You Sharp – Just like how your muscles will atrophy after skipping the gym for six months, so will your speaking skills. Certainly there’s no better way to fine tune your delivery than the adrenaline-pumping experience of dominating a stage in front of hundreds of attendees, but that’s just not a reality right now. So, instead of hanging up your dancing, I mean speaking, shoes, get your practice in at virtual events. You can still create great content and honestly, it’s an even bigger challenge to keep someone’s attention online vs. in a ballroom for 45 minutes. There are just so many distractions at home.
- Keeps you consistent – Just like a job seeker, a speaker shouldn’t have huge gaps of time with no activity. Granted, event planners and content curators will completely understand this 2020-21 gap or lull that all speakers will have in their resume, but wouldn’t it be great to have a slight edge over the competition? So even if your engagements are virtual, it’s good to have that engagement listed in your timeline even if the footnote is that the event was 100% online.
- Keeps you relevant – Every pro knows that this speaking thing is a bit of a popularity contest. And the most popular speakers win. When you keep up your appearances, even when virtual, it helps to keep you top of mind and gives planners something to talk about and reference. Virtual engagements, while seemingly less impactful, can and will keep you relevant especially because many of the events that perhaps you would have spoken at in-person have now moved online.
The bottom line is this: virtual events may not be as glamorous or have a big draw, but they do offer the ability to keep up regular speaking and create an opportunity for continued exposure. So, even though they pay pennies or sometimes nothing at all, bite your tongue before you blurt out a sharp NO. Take the opportunity to do something lightweight where you can try out some new material, or venture into a business sector that you haven’t tried before. In the world of speaking, there’s always something new to learn, even if it’s virtual. So, keep an open mind and take what you can get to stay sharp, relevant and consistent.
Have a look at my recent session on how Gen Y and Gen Z are reshaping travel and work with the Oregon BTA from the comforts of my home office ?
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