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When Celebrity Trumps Style: Can High Profile Speakers Do No Wrong?

(Note: the use of the word “trump” in the title is in no way pertaining to any political candidate!)

Sometimes you will find a speaker who is loved by audiences simply because of his or her bio, accomplishments or celebrity status. These celebrity speakers obviously have something great going for them, but I think even they could use an occasional tune-up. Here are a few examples from my career, along with five tips on how to keep it real on stage.

Even Celebrity Speakers Need a Tune-Up

Last week I was able to attend a marketing conference where an evangelist from Google was a presenter. He’s likely in the $20-$30K range for speaking and quite well known, so my expectations were high.

In front of this audience of marketers, this man was a God.  They laughed at every joke – and then laughed harder when he dropped about a dozen F-bombs.

This style worked well at this particular venue, but had that same speech been delivered at a National Speakers Association Conference, it would have been met with a different response.  We are so ingrained in political correctness that this speaker would not have been a hit. That would have been a shame too because his content was so very riveting. His presentation, loaded with references to Canadian corporations, was also perfectly customized to a Canadian audience.

These praises aside, I did notice several areas where he could tighten up the presentation. The fonts on his slides weren’t large enough to suit the size room and his rapid pace meant that several throw away lines were missed because he couldn’t be heard clearly by the entire room.  Fortunately for me, his amazing content trumped the excessive swearing and the fact that I missed 30 percent of his funny lines.  I enjoyed his presentation immensely, but my point is that he could have done better.

There is no reason to rest on your laurels, even when you are at the top of your game.

This problem is more common among celebrity speakers than you’d think, and I’ve seen this with celebrities both good and bad.  Back in the day when I represented Sugar Ray Leonard, I recommended that he really work on his presentation, and he did, and he was good!  But the fact was, a man with that level of celebrity only needs to show up.  Just his presence would draw a crowd, and as such, the crowd didn’t set very high expectations for content. This is why I recommended it, knowing that Ray’s celebrity status PLUS an amazing presentation would be a delightful surprise – one which would result in greater word of mouth and more bookings for Ray at a very hefty fee.

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5 Tips for Keeping It Real

Whether you are a rock star or celebrity in your industry or you’re just getting started in your speaking career, here are five tips for keeping it real on stage:

1.  Know Your Audience and Customize.  

Even if you are a household name, knowing what your audience’s specific pain points are is both refreshing and unexpected.

2.  Don’t Overuse Swearing. 

Gary Vaynerchuk aside, most corporate audiences won’t go for it, so limit your use of swear words.  I remember Rosita Perez saying that if she had offended even one person, that was too much.  Rely on your solid content, and if you must use swear words, use them sparingly for effect to make it more meaningful.  Also, be aware that if you get a reputation for excessive swearing, decision makers may not take a chance on you if they have a conservative audience.

3.  Know Your Room. 

Use large fonts on your slides if you are speaking in front of an audience of more than 500 people, knowing that visibility is limited for those sitting in the back of the room or in the balcony. If anyone has any good guidelines on font size, please post a comment on our blog link below!

4.  Pause for the Cause.  

If you’ve got funny lines or important lines in your speech, say them super clearly, then pause and let them land.  Don’t march over them before they have time to draw a laugh.  Study comedians; they are brilliant at this.

5.  Continuous Improvement.  

Ask people close to you (not butt-kissers or yes-men) how you can improve.  A speaker’s bureau agent will almost always tell the truth if you ask. Even my most successful client, who commands $25K per speaking engagement, schedules an annual speech review to keep sharpening the saw. Does he need to? Heck no! But he does it anyway, and I give him four or five tweaks to work on.

Whether you are just starting out and are trying to build, or are already a celebrity or rock star in your industry, these five tips on keeping it real will help you raise your game on the platform.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!

Jane Atkinson

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