How Do You Know If Speaking Is The Career For You?

Author: Ian

Date: February 4, 2016

We had the opportunity to speak with Andy Edwards, a speaking expert, on what makes him love his job so much and how he knows it’s the right career for him.

You can become a better public speaker, but only if you feel that it is your calling and you care about your audience. It doesn’t matter how many degrees or diplomas you have, if your heart isn’t in it, you might as well choose another career.

Hi Andy. Can you please tell us about your background and role as a speaker?

With academics in Marketing, I quickly realised that, to influence people to buy, you need to understand what makes them tick.

So I also studied behavioural psychology accrediting in a number of psychometric models. Like many speakers, I started off as a trainer and found myself speaking to larger and larger audiences…. It kinda evolved!

How do you ensure that your audience takes away something of value?

This is important. Why would anyone book a speaker if that speaker didn’t provide value to the individuals in the audience?

Tangibly, I have a set of six A6 tips/reminder cards professionally designed and printed. I usually provide one or two of these (depending on the subject matter) for audiences to take away.

I am also a great fan of Acronyms to reinforce key messages – make them funny/risqué/clever, and audiences will remember the points more easily.

By the way – great tip for negotiating your fee; once you know the number of attendees, explain that you will provide more value per person than (for example) a couple of Starbucks coffees (£6) – or something similar.

With 450 in the audience, you have just negotiated a £2,700 gig!  For smaller audiences, tell them that you provide more value than the lunch being provided (£12). Get the idea?

What habits have you developed to ensure you’re the best speaker you can possibly be?

I don’t know whether it’s a habit or just part of me, but I certainly maintain my enthusiasm for the subject matter.

I always respect the audience. I ask “What do they want to see, feel, be, think, change or do once they hear me?” I also ensure I don’t OVER prepare.

Sometimes a comment from a delegate, or the previous speaker, will give me a previously unconsidered perspective, which I can weave into my own presentation.

Nothing beats “I was talking with Peter earlier – and he said something that I want to share with you…” Careful here! I still need to stay ‘on message’ – and finish on the minute, but the habit of flexibility keeps it real. Oh and I ALWAYS rehearse my ad-libs!

What feedback do you receive after a presentation?

What? Apart from the standing ovations?!  Ha! Actually, I tend not to seek formal feedback – I don’t think delegates want to fill in a “happy sheet” after each speaker (although I know some do).

I get great feedback from certain groups. I am on the Vistage (an international peer to peer MD’s and Business Owners group).

They don’t hold back, but it’s always constructive. Some large conference organisers will poll delegates for their opinions of speakers and that’s always interesting.

Not wanting to blow my own trumpet too hard here… but I’m more often than not voted ‘best in conference’… which is great, but I can always learn from other speakers (even if it’s to show me what to AVOID doing!).

How have you developed as a speaker from when you first began?

I have become more modest as you can tell! Seriously – when I look back on my early gigs – I cringe.

Of course, I wasn’t charging what I charge now, but there were a few times when I remember reading part of my talk – Speakers’ Original Sin!!!

The most obvious development must therefore be in the value I provide to an audience. Further than that, I think development has come latterly in the form of ‘Platform Mechanics’.

For instance, when I refer to the past, I will stand (or move) to the audience’s left. As I take them on a chronological journey, I transition across the stage and end up in the future – on the audience’s right.

No-one should consciously notice this – but it has a great effect on performance (thus understanding) of a story.

That and comic timing. I am NOT a comedian, but parts of my presentations can be hilarious. I think appropriate humour embeds learning.

I have learned that the same one liner (or well-rehearsed ad-lib) lands differently when timed to perfection. Finally, I am no longer scared of silence on the stage; it can really hold an audience.

Do your subject areas: Business Relationships, Understanding Others, Influence, Attitude and Teams, require regular research so you are constantly delivering new content?

I read a lot. But I also draw from life’s experiences. For many audiences I have experience as their customer (at a recent Optician’s Conference – I announced this fact as I put my glasses on in front of them all).

So, in effect, I am constantly researching new material.  Whether it’s a white van man cutting in front of me at a roundabout, or an act of kindness from a stranger in the airport – it’s all grist to the mill, and can be used to illustrate human to human contact.

Also in the very delivery of team exercises in a corporate environment, I experience predictable and ‘left-field’ behaviour – all of which I talk about!

How are you different from any other speaker claiming to influence and motivate others?

I’m not. If it’s just about influencing and motivating – then EVERY speaker should be doing this as a part of their offering.

The WAY in which this is done can vary considerably from speaker to speaker. My way is to hit all four areas of behavioural preference. Let me explain: I must be ENGAGING, MOTIVATIONAL, THOUGHT-PROVOKING and FUN; within those words I can cover every audience member’s preferences.

I said it earlier, but respecting the audience is massively important. Look – if there are 500 people in the audience – and I have their attention for an hour, that’s 500 hours worth of attention.

Based on a 40-hour working week – that’s more than 12 WEEKS worth of attention. I had better respect that – and provide commensurate value.

You hold a Diploma in Coaching. How did this qualification enable you to become a stronger speaker?

I am not a fan of collecting qualifications. No qualification in and of itself will help you to be a better speaker. If you want to get qualified – do it because you want to learn the subject matter rather than you need to impress, justify or even hide behind a qualification.

My coaching Diploma gave me a bit of structure to that which I had been doing since before coaching was cool!  A famous speaker (who is a Bachelor of Science, has a Masters and a Doctorate) starts his speech with “So I have a BS an MS and a PhD” (he pauses). “BS = Bullshit. MS = More Shit, and PhD = Piled High and Deep!”

But it’s clever how his modesty still allows him to qualify his credentials!  Each to their own!

What advice would you have for people who are struggling to find work?

Get in touch with someone who has been there, done it and is earning six figures a year.

I’m not Tony Robbins – but I do very well, thank you, from professional speaking. The turning point for me was when I invested in a mentor.

I run a programme called “From Free to Fee”. It helps new or struggling speakers identify what they SHOULD (not could) be doing in order to make it in this business.  Anyone reading this, should email me and I’ll send them details.

What is it you love about coaching and speaking, and did you always picture yourself having this career?

I originally wanted to be an accountant – but I quickly came to my senses!! My old English teacher once put in a school report “Andrew must stop talking so much if he wants to get a good job”. The signs were always there I’d be speaking for a living.

Now, I travel around the UK, Europe, Middle East and beyond – usually first or Business class, sharing ideas and positivity with thousands of people. What’s not to like!!?

This is not a job or career… it’s a calling. This is not what I do – it’s who I am. If I had won that £33 million on the lottery, I’d do MORE of this. And as for retirement; why would I want to stop being me?

What’s interesting about Andy is that he LOVES what he does, and this really resonates to his audience. The journey doesn’t stop when people have bought tickets to see you present, but that’s just the start.

Speak because you want to change people’s lives, not just because it’s a job. It won’t be easy in the beginning and it’ll take hard work, but if you want to be successful, you will be!