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Top Insider Tips on Speaking WELL from a Conference Founder

In this monthly column, Gianne Doherty will address different aspects of building a wellness business in her honest, direct, no-BS approach.

As the founder of the first and largest wellness consumer conference in the country, I’m often asked, “What do you look for in a speaker?” As someone who has worked with quite a few speakers as well as spoken at quite a few conferences myself, I’m sharing my top pieces of advice here:

  • Tailor your message to the conference.
    Trust me, I can spot a cut-and-paste job from a mile away. Because we get so many pitches, Conference Founders can tell when the potential speaker has not taken the time to research the conference, learn about the attendees and how they can best serve the audience, and this yields an automatic no on my part. I want to know that you have invested your time and energy in this before I invest my time and energy in you.
  • Get to know the community.
    If a conference is a great fit for you and your brand, don’t just try to a speaker there, be an active part of the community! If you are looking to grow a speaking career and have identified conferences that you would love to speak at one day, invest in your future career and start attending the conference and get to know the community. Competition is stiff. Conferences get thousands of applications, just because you didn’t get accepted the first time you applied doesn’t mean you won’t the next time. Attend the conference in the meantime. Get to know the community and network with other speakers! This not only demonstrates your commitment to the conference, it will help hone your pitch to be the most valuable it can be.
  • Conferences weigh a variety of factors when looking to hire speakers.  Here’s my personal checklist:
    • On Point Messaging Make sure your message speaks to their audience.
    • Specific Expertise If a conference team researches you, is your messaging and branding consistent? Are you an established expert in 1 to 2 areas? Be real with what you are known for, what you want to be known for and make sure your message is consistent with that. I’ve seen speakers get passed over by speaking committees when the messaging is too all over the place and not easy to understand.
    • Professional, Compelling Delivery Have a video reel on your website, so anyone looking to hire you can easily gauge: are you a clear and concise speaker? Do you read from notes a lot? What is your presentation style? Interactive? Lecture?
    • Social Presence/Mailing List Conferences need to sell tickets. So a big question conference founders I know think about and try to track when possible is, does this speaker have a built in audience? Can the conference sell tickets because of you? Or do they have to invest in a lot of education and marketing around you and your messaging?
    • Professionalism and Enthusiasm Do you seem easy to work with or do you think you are the next Oprah? Unless you are talking to a multi-million dollar company with large production teams, quite a few conferences are independently owned and have a small team. Easy to work with is SO important!
    • Hone your delivery! You have a captive audience so now what do you do with them? The best speakers know they are storytellers. They grab an audience’s attention in the first few sentences and don’t let go until their talk is over.
      Make sure you’ve practiced your talk a few times, can deliver it in the allotted time and are so engaging people forget they’re listening and are fully IN IT with you. Gather friends and family to sit in on a presentation and give you constructive critiscism. Study other speakers. Watch Gabby Bernstein, Shawn Achor, or Elizabeth Gilbert. They are masters at storytelling.
    • Be nice! This should be a simple one. But you’d be surprised how many people are nice to me as conference founder, but my business partner or team has a completely different (and unfortunately, negative) experience. So if you can’t be nice…perhaps network strategically? 🙂 Conferences will often ask their team, colleagues, other speakers or even their audience for their recommendations. So if anyone is asked, who do they want to hear from? You don’t want to be the speaker who has a great message but challenging reputation.

I hope these tips help! I’d love to hear from you if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below.

About The Author

Gianne Doherty

Gianne Doherty

Gianne Doherty is an inspirational and educational speaker, clean beauty advocate, co-founder of Organic Bath Co. and founder of The W.E.L.L. Summit.