I recently ran across a study that looked at five life skills people needed to have better physical and mental health. As I was studying the study, it occurred to me that these five desiderata were essential for a good professional speaking life as well. The life skills are conscientiousness, optimism, emotional stability, control, and determination. I’ll take each one in turn.
The first of these, conscientiousness, shows up on many lists and studies as a key factor for success in life, and as such it’s hardly a surprise that I would put it on the Successful Speaker List. What might be less well known is that the speaking industry prizes conscientiousness over pyrotechnics as a speaker. In other words, the industry is more likely to get you lots of repeat business if you are conscientious and easy to work with first, and a great speaker second, rather than the other way around. So don’t rely on your sheer brilliance to catapult you to success as a pro speaker if you’re going to feel entitled to be hard on all the support people around you. The industry remembers, and it doesn’t like prima donnas.
Speakers get invitations to speak from potentially a number of different sources, whether it’s a direct inquiry from your marketing efforts, or a speaker bureau, or a friend of a friend of your cousin. Sometimes, you are the only speaker that the event or conference or meeting is considering, but more often you are one of a half-dozen potential speakers for that time slot. That means that your odds of actually getting the gig are lower than might first appear when that invitation comes. ‘Often the bridesmaid, rarely the bride’, sums up your existence. It takes optimism and a belief in yourself to get you through the inevitable disappointments — and that’s even before you get on stage. I was talking recently with a client who reported that the sure-bet audience of 200 had magically shrunk to 25 or 30, thanks to a screw-up on the part of the organizer. It takes sublime optimism to get through that with your ego and your attitude intact.
To get through the roller-coaster ride of the adrenaline that comes and goes before, during, and after your speech, and to get through that…