How To Say ‘yes’​ To Requests For Speaking Gigs More Often

Recently I sat down for a coffee catchup with one of my new 1:1 clients. We got to talking about what speaking gigs they’d done in the last few months and they explained that in fact they’ve turned down quite a few requests recently. When I asked why, they confessed it was because the topic was too broad and in addition, they didn’t have the time required to do the necessary preparation.

I think this happens all too often. We are experts in our field of work, however sometimes we feel we don’t have anything really solid to talk about, or we’re so busy we don’t even have time to prepare for it when it comes up.

I know I used to feel this way as well and turned down speaking requests for exactly this same reason, even though I had 8+ years experience in my industry and was considered a subject matter expert. I was ashamed of this at the time, because I knew I should have said yes.

If this sounds like you and you’d like to be able to say yes more often, here is my advice for you:

1. Get clarity on your point of view

To be able to talk confidently on a topic (whether it be a presentation or panel), you need to get clarity yourself on what you stand for and what you’re passionate about. This means it will be something you can get excited about and you should have examples and stories to share.

To get clarity, write out your Top 3 views on the topic you most frequently get asked to talk on.

For example…

  • If you get asked to talk about Women in Technology, what is it about Women in Technology that you’re most passionate about?
  • Is it about quotas, is it about developing a pipeline of talent, is it about the importance of having a mentor or something else entirely?

2. Flesh out the why behind your views and the story behind them

Your point of view itself is not unique, however why you feel this way and the experiences you’ve had (good or bad) are unique to you. Because no-one else will have experienced what you’ve experienced, in the way that you’ve experienced it, across your life so far.

That’s what people want to hear about. Give them examples and scenarios, because if they were learnings for you, they could be learnings for others too, or great reminders for them.

To flesh this out, for each of your view points, think about when you first recognised this was your view (if it was a defining moment) or what experiences you’ve had about that particular point of view (good or bad).

Following the same example above…

  • With quotas, do you feel strongly about them because you’ve seen what can go wrong when quotas aren’t in place? What was the situation you experienced?
  • With developing a pipeline of talent, are you passionate about this because you’ve struggled to attract the right people in the past? What did you struggle with and what was the impact of this?
  • Do you feel it’s important to have a mentor because it’s been an essential part of your own career development? What benefits have you noticed and was there a specific interaction you could talk about?

3. Prepare talking points for a mock presentation or panel

If fear or stress is another thing holding you back from saying yes, when you have some spare time, prepare talking points for a mock presentation or panel.

If you do this when you have the head space, this information can be re-used (with minor tweaks) for different audience or requests when they do come up.

Once you’re clear on your views, why you feel this way and have examples or stories you can share with talking points, you should be a lot more prepared to present or be part of a panel on a particular topic.

This should ease any associated stress or worry and help you say yes to that speaking request next time!

If you have any other suggestions on how you feel prepared and confident enough to say yes for a speaking gig, share them in the comments below.