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You’re a Booked Speaker… Now What?

Speaking submissions are nothing to sneeze at; they take time, research, and energy to complete and submit by the deadline. Whether you’ve applied to speak at a local event or a national (or international!) conference, it’s a lot of work simply to put your name in the hat. Fast forward a few weeks, you find out you’ve been selected! The excitement is real, but so is the realization that your work isn’t done yet.

If you’re new to speaking, the next steps may not be laid out clearly. Fortunately, practice makes perfect and, after a few engagements, you’ll know exactly what needs to be done. For now, stick to these tips on your journey to the stage.

Plan the logistics

The best presentation is nothing without you there to present it, so you need to make sure you secure travel and accommodations early on.

See Meghan Ely at Catersource! Registration is NOW OPEN for Catersource 2020, co-located with The Special Event! Click here for more information or to register!

“The first steps I take after getting booked are blocking out my calendar, making the travel arrangements, and working on the presentation so that I have it ready,” shares Sandy Hammer of AllSeated.

If the speaking engagement is covering your travel or accommodations, be sure to check in to see if there are any stipulations that dictate your plans.

Get to work

When all is said and done, it’s time to do the heavy lifting. Start by getting organized. This is not the time for procrastination — get a framework together early so you have time to mull it over and revise as needed.

Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros shares her process: “I typically draft out an outline soon after speaking with the organizers or getting accepted to speak at a conference. My ideas are most fresh and I like to run with that energy. Depending on the nature of the speaking engagement, I want to learn more about my audience. For smaller meetings and seminars, I may ask to survey the attendees in advance. For a larger conference, I’ll research their website to learn what topics they are posting on their blogs and social media. This helps me zero in on the needs of the audience in even greater detail.”

Practice, practice, practice

Once you have your presentation completed, practice until you feel comfortable reeling it off at a moment’s notice. Practice in front of your colleagues, your partner, your son, your cat—just keep practicing.

While practicing, set a timer and keep track of how long your talk runs. This will help you to know whether you need to bulk up your presentation with more information or if you need to speak faster to get through all of your points.

Promote wildly

Even if you shared the news when you got accepted, you need to continue promoting the event to build interest and draw people to attend.


Shannon Tarrant of shares her promotional plan: “It’s important to promote the efforts of those planning the engagement. First, I create 5-10 social media images (if not provided by the organization). Then, I schedule those to post leading up to the event including the link where people can get tickets. My weekly live series will touch on the topic and why it’s important to learn more about it.”

Come prepared

Technical difficulties are common, so do your due diligence to come prepared and prevent the most common obstacles.

Tarrant says: “Ask a lot of questions as to what the organizer would prefer most: PowerPoint or Keynote? 16:9 or 4:3 ratio? Bringing your laptop or using theirs? Flash drive or email the file?”

Loretta adds: “I have a list of things I double-check that the organizer will provide and confirm their setup, include: projector, screen, power strip, slide changer, and a monitor at a podium. I always bring a clicker and adaptors — even though some places do have these, technology changes so quickly, I want to make sure I have this stuff prepared too. I also send my presentation to myself just in case there is a laptop failure and we need to launch it on someone else’s system at the last minute.”

Upon arrival, “I like to ensure we have the correct wiring so that I can quickly and efficiently set up and be ready to go,” says Hammer. “I ensure the WiFi is working, my presentation is up and loaded, and that it’s displaying on the screens correctly. If I’m going to demo our virtual reality, I ensure that my VR headset is charged and ready to go!”

Many people think speaking is all about the moment you’re on stage with a mic, but the bulk of your success comes in the months leading up to the actual event. Prepare as much as possible but, at the end of the day, come in ready to adapt to any obstacles and continue thriving both on and offstage.

See the entire speaker list for Catersource—and The Special Event—2020 right here!

Meghan Ely

President, OFD Consulting, Richmond, VA

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. 

Photo: Melody Smith Portraits