Being a successful speaker can send out a very powerful message about your business and create momentum for your business. But many business owners are at a loss as to how to actually secure speaking gigs.

In this rare interview, Cynthia Painter from Create Action Now speaks to Tash Corbin, Business Coach and Mentor about what conference organisers look for in speakers. Tash Corbin is an organizer of the Heart- Centered Business Conference on the Sunshine Coast and here she shares intimately what qualities she looks for when selecting speakers for her conference.

Tash, how did you get into speaking?

I have always been comfortable with public speaking. Consistent practice has definitely helped. When I was at school and at university I took opportunities to be a speaker. When I started my business, speaking was a great way to grow my business whether it’s in a video or as conference speaker.

Some of the first speaking opportunities I actually created for myself. I ran my own workshop, ran free online events etc. I would go to a business event and then put my hand up to speak next time around. I have also been picked to speak by asking good questions, therefore making myself known to the audience and the conference organizers.

What do you say to people that are not comfortable with speaking?

Practice. I still get rash of despair from time to time. It used to happen when I did Facebook Lives. I also did a little bit of stage work when I wanted to sing on stage. I worked with a stage presence coach and a speaking coach as well. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about your audience, you are delivering a service.

A mind shift change from “it’s not about you, it’s about the audience” has had a powerful effect on my speaking. If you focus on the value that you can deliver to the audience instead of what you get from it yourself, it’s a much better perspective.

What have you learnt as a speaker?

Three main lessons:

  1. Respect the person who has paid to be there and who has paid you to be there. This includes the organiser and ticket holder. Treat it as a privilege. Respect the time limit. Respect the time of the audience. I want people to walk away with something to do after my presentation. I don’t want to talk about myself without making it meaningful for the audience. Otherwise it’s exhausting and it creates no value.
  2. Making sure that if I share a story that it has a purpose. When I write my content, I am aware that every word is taking someone else’s time. On stage that is even more prominent to me. It shows in the speaker ratings.
  3. Be prepared, practice and share it somewhere else before jumping on stage.

How do you navigate the fine balance of delivering your message and selling?

It is a mindset thing. It’s an opportunity to speak. An opportunity to not sell is not an opportunity lost. At the Heart -Centered Business Conference the rule is no selling from the stage. A speaker can have a freebie in the conference brochure. In saying that, people that spoke at the event converted some to paying clients.

This is because they delivered such amazing value and did not turn it into a selling opportunity. Don’t sell. It would be better to get every person in the audience to sign up to your newsletter than one person paying $15K for your service and miss out on the others receiving your message. You are better off giving free content and then when your audience sees the amazing value, they will ask for more information.

It also comes down to self-belief and confidence that this is my opportunity to serve not an opportunity to sell. When you come from that perspective you will have people lining up wanting more information.

I spoke at a conference at the Sunshine Coast and I had a line of people wanting to speak to me at the end. “Where can I find out more?” I had a brochure for a freebie and if you sign up I will send you big piece of information the following day. About 90% of people from that event signed up. It does not matter how many sign up. Take the approach of service.

It’s never about having a direct line of conversion. It’s my opportunity to connect and serve and then eventually translate the result for my business.

My advice is to make yourself stand from the crowd. Even if a conference organizer says you can sell the last five minutes, don’t. I talk about something for free. At an event I spoke to the last five minutes I spoke about the power of network and being part of a community. I asked the audience to join my Facebook group and as they joined I would yell out their name and welcome them to the Facebook community.

Conferences are a huge chunk of work so why are you organizing a conference?

It’s definitely not a sound financial decision.

Women from my Heart- Centered Soul -Drive Facebook community kept saying “we need a conference”. Every conference I went to just didn’t hit the mark. It was either all men with a token woman and no people of colour.

There was this one conference I attended that it was all women but it was all stories of down- on- my- luck and now I am making 10K per month and I am so excited. No takeaway for me. I wanted to fill a stage full of women including women of colour to encourage diversity to start a conversation about what they could do to grow their businesses. That driver kept bubbling in me and that was the catalyst for the conference.

In 2016, I made a decision to run the first conference. It was in 2017. I already knew most of the speakers and through some connections we had a few people pay for Mike Mechallewitz and Zach Buckley to come too. I had a mix of speakers including women from the community, myself and a few speakers external to the community.

The first conference made $26K loss. It was a brand new conference. I was not sure how it was going to go. I already had an established business and knew that could sustain it financially.

To get 100 people there I considered being a raging success. This year, at this point, we are breaking even. I created the Heart-Centered Business Conference for the love of my community. I wanted to create an opportunity to get together and learn from speakers that they wouldn’t normally get a chance to see and an opportunity to network. I also pluck people one year and put them on the stage the next year. Raising our community, helping people to flourish and raising them is the crux of the conference.

As part of Heart- Centered Business Conference there is the Online Business Summit. Anyone that bought the ticket got a chance to speak in front of an online audience. It had over 4k people register. Most speakers taking part had never had that big an audience and it was a great opportunity for to practice.

As a conference organizer, how do you pick a speaker? What’s important to you?

There are five points I want to share here:

  1. Alignment to my values. It needs to align to the feminine model of marketing and heart centered business model. I am able to get a vibe of how people sell by attending their webinars, reading their newsletter and see how I am treated as a customer once I sign up.
  2. I look at their YouTube videos and check out their website from a speaker perspective.
  3. Does this person see value in being in the room other than being on stage? Would this person buy a ticket? When people ask how to apply as a speaker I ask them to come to the conference. This is a test of mine, if they say yes I know this person is about community and having conversations with people in the room. If they say no you know they are in it just for themselves.
  4. I pick people who have attended the conference the previous year. I will approach them. They have usually been present and have networked in the room. A few months before each conference we have a speaker pitch fest. This is only open to ticketholders. People made little videos and attendees voted.
  5. To what extent are they an expert in this field and how often have you created content in this space?

When to turn down an event?

Two important points here:

  1. When you don’t feel like you can add value to the audience. The type of events for me is the ones that promote “set and forget” type of products or service, where you just set something up and never have to do it again. I am about connecting with people constantly and consistently.
  2. When our values that are not aligned.

What are your thoughts on speaker authenticity?

Authenticity is way deeper to the way you look. One thing that helped me on stage is wearing heels. For me it was a trigger. As long as you are comfortable in what you are wearing that’s fine with me.

If they show up with attitude of service and present themselves authentically I am great with that. It’s about behaving authentically in the sales process.

There is something to be said for looking on stage the way you look on social media.

Stay as close to yourself as possible, meaning the way you look online should closely resemble how you appear on stage. This way people can recognize you and this builds your brand.

The belief system that we have to look a certain way is very female centric and sexist. There are a lot of people who have this as a real obstacle for speaking on stage: feeling the need to lose weight or buy a new wardrobe before showing up and taking a step up. This is a false belief.

As women, we connect over our vulnerabilities and humanness.  As human beings, we want to buy from other human beings not perfect robots. Women connect over every day things, like period pain; the real things. This is the feminine energy.

What are your final take aways for people looking to speak on stage?

  1. Create opportunities for yourself. Create webinars, Facebook LIVES etc. Practice as much as possible.
  2. Go to these events. It allows you to step in the room with your peers and this makes it easier to eventually jump on stage. It allows you to get a feel for the event and the audience.

Speaking from the stage to build your business is a powerful catalyst for business growth. Developing an attitude of servitude, delivering value and connecting with your audience in your authentic self will help you to gain the confidence is spreading your message.

Here is the full interview

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