Based on my experience attending the Asia Professional Speakers Convention in Singapore and the Global Speakers Summit in Auckland, New Zealand last year, here are some of the tips on how you can make the most of the upcoming Professional Speakers Summit 2019 in Chennai on January 26 & 27.
I have grouped the points into three buckets. 1) BEFORE 2) DURING and 3)AFTER the convention. Here goes.
BEFORE THE CONVENTION
Understand Your Big Goals: The time before attending a big conference is a good time to write down your big speaking goals. Your BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Why is it important? Before having clarity of the goals will help you eke out the best out of the Summit.
List Down the Questions You Seek Answers for: This is an extension of the previous point. Having clarity of your big goals will also highlight the areas where you are lacking and problems that are holding you back from achieving your speaking goals. Write down all of them. Then seek out people at the Summit who have successfully overcome the problems. For example, if your goal is to speak globally, then Fredrik Haren is your man. If your goal is to market better, then the goto person is James Taylor. If you want to learn to author a book quickly, can’t think better than Sha Nacino.
Comb Through the Schedule: With a fine comb. Going through the summit agenda will help you handpick the specific topics that will help you the most in achieving your speaking goals. Keep in mind that there are breakout sessions that run in parallel and it will help you decide the ones that really matter to you.
Google the Speakers: Understanding the profile of the speakers will greatly help you in picking the sessions. For example, one of my goals in 2019 is to improve the humour quotient in my talks. I’ve even overcome my mental barrier by signing up for Standup Open Mics. Hence, attending Chendil Kumar‘s talk on how to lace humour in your talk is high on my must-attend talks. Likewise, pick your favourites. Watch their talks on YouTube. Send out a note to them that you are eager to attend their sessions. Trust me, it’ll make them happy and it will help you make a good connect.
Follow the Speakers on Social Media: Now that you know which topics you plan to attend, its a good idea know what the speakers are like. Most speakers are on Twitter and Linkedin. Follow them.
Polish Your Elevator Pitch: This year’s Summit has already created history. It’s India’s first and has already become one of Asia’s largest events focusing on professional speaking. There will be 150+ professional speakers, CEOs and influencers. That’s a lot of people you will be meeting. Most of them will be new to you and you want to make sure you make a good first impression. When the person you meet asks you, ‘So, what do you do?’, you don’t want to ummm and errrr. You want to describe yourself with succinct clarity that makes a powerful impact. Go ahead and prepare that elevator pitch.
Get Your Speaker Cards: Design and print business cards that describes you as a speaker. This is especially important for people who wear many hats like me who is a digital entrepreneur, a professor, a podcaster and a farmer. You don’t want to give your corporate business cards. Instead, you want your business card to shine the light on you as a professional speaker. After all, you are at a speaking summit.
Offer to Volunteer: Pulling off an event like the Professional Speakers Summit is no joke. It has taken over 3 months of crazy work. The workload for the organizers can get insanely high as the convention dates near. Reach out to the organizers offering to help. They can really do with extra hands. It is an excellent way to bond with people and goes very well with the spirit of the community. Please reach out to Koushik Srinivasan, the Summit Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org
Update your Website & Social Media: Once you have met people, some of them may want to learn more about you and your speaking topics. You don’t want them to visit your website that has broken links or social media that was updated two years ago. Stay current. Summits such as this are a very good excuse to do digital spring cleaning.
Stay with a Fellow Speaker: This tip is especially for participants flying in from other countries and cities.I understand that this may not be for all. However, it is absolutely worth trying. Last year, Fredrik Haren was kind enough to host me at his home in Singapore for a couple of days. It was a defining experience for me and I thoroughly appreciated the hospitality and kind-heartedness of his wonderful family. I could never have experienced this kind of bonding and insightful conversations if I had stayed in a hotel. That said, it requires getting out of your comfort zone to reach out to the speaker community. If you are travelling from another city and want a stay at in one of our homes, please reach out to me at Kiruba@Kiruba.com. If you are living in Chennai and have an extra couch to spare for one day, please let me know.
Author a Book: This tip is especially useful for speakers. You want the people coming to your talk to leave with something valuable. At the Global Speakers Summit in New Zealand, one of the speakers, Elizabeth McCormick, gave a small but powerful book with tips on how to get speaking gigs around the world. See if you can do this, even if its a small ebook.
DURING THE CONVENTION
Arrive Early: On both the days of the convention on January 26 & 27, make it a point to come an hour early. Not only will you be able to beat the queue at the registration desk, but it will also give you a wonderful opportunity to meet people in a relaxed atmosphere. It is a networking tip that has worked brilliantly for me.
UnPlug from Work: It is a good thing that the summit takes place over a weekend. Even then, tell your clients you won’t be reachable on these two days. Inform your coworkers that you won’t be checking emails. Take your family’s permission to go incommunicado over the next two days. By unplugging from work and family, you create this fertile, focused time for insightful learning and networking. If there is one advice that I would strongly emphasize, this would be it.
You Don’t Have to Attend All the Sessions: Yes, really. The two days at the summit are going to be choc-a-block with sessions. Remember that your mind can only take in so much knowledge. Beware of the information overload. So, be picky about what sessions you want to attend. Don’t worry about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Skip a few sessions that don’t speak to you. Use that time to catch up with people or some quiet reflective time on your own.
Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep can make you groggy and impede your ability to focus and learn during the sessions. Make a conscious decision to hit the sack early. Take a hard stance to avoid late night meetups with friends. I know you will be meeting folks after a long time but this can’t happen at the cost you messing up your day.
Ask How You Can Help: When meeting people, listen intently. Ask them what their pain points are and how you can be of help. In a world where we all incessantly seek opportunities, people truly appreciate this gesture to help. Be generous with connecting and introducing people.
Don’t be a Business card Hunter: Don’t aim to meet as many people as you can. It’s natural to want to meet many but with only two days and a packed schedule, you can easily spread yourself thin. Focus on developing a deeper relationship with fewer people. Quality is better than quantity.
Jot Down Behind the Business cards: When you meet people, write down interesting things about them, the topic you discussed or any followup actions behind their business card. Don’t trust your brain to remember everything. We overestimate its memory capacity. Writing it down is a smart way to follow up.
Digitize the Business Cards: Later that evening, transfer all the contact details and the notes to Google Contacts, the best place to store contacts. You can use apps like CamCard to scan the cards quickly. Digitizing your contacts makes it easy for you to search and retrieve. Once I digitize it, I usually discard the physical business cards because having them only adds to the clutter and I realized that its cumbersome to dig through a pile of cards to pick one.
Use the Law of Two Feet: I’m a huge fan of Unconferences (authored a book on the topic too) and this is a tip I love. If you attend a breakout masterclass session and for some reason, you don’t find it useful, then use your two feet to walk to another session or head out to the foyer to meet people. The speakers are all professionals and they will not take offence at you leaving mid-way.
Divide and Share: Breakout Masterclasses mean you have to make a choice. By choosing one session, you will have to miss out two other sessions. Such is life. You can overcome this problem by creating a buddy system with a friend. While you attend one session, your friend attends the other. Both of you take notes and fill each other up in the evening. Works like a charm.
Avoid Hanging Out All the Time with Your Friends: I’ve noticed this in previous conventions where people from the same cities hang out together. You are already close to them and you have all the time to catch up when you get back to your city. Out here at the summit, it is a wonderful opportunity to connect and bond with new people.. Step out of your group once in a while to proactively meet and bond with people from other cities.
Write Down Actionable Points: When you take notes while attending sessions, make it a point to write down action-oriented points. For example, ‘Create a Video Testimonial’ or ‘Watch 50 hours of my own talks’. This will help you to follow-through. It works even better if you can put a timeline to finish those actions.
Dedicated Notebook: If you are a digital person like me, I would recommend creating a dedicated notebook on Evernote to jot down all the notes. It gets stored in the cloud and make it easy to retrieve and share. If you prefer the traditional way of handwritten notes, then get yourself a dedicated notebook just for the convention.
Give Honest Feedback: Especially areas where the speakers can improve. It’s easy for them to get praise and how awesome their talks are. But tough to get honest constructive criticism. That’s why this is valued a lot and the speakers will respect you for it.
Organize Evening Meetups: Take the initiative to create a meetup. Last year, Fredrik hosted a meetup at his home for all international speakers. In New Zealand, a few fitness folks organized early morning runs. These are excellent ways to bond. Similarly, feel free to take a lead and organize small, focused meetups and encourage folks to join you.
AFTER THE CONVENTION
Extend Your Stay in Chennai: Don’t immediately leave on the January 27th evening. It’s a wasted opportunity. By now, you would have made excellent contacts. Use the next few days to fix meetings with fellow participants. Use the extra days to fix up meetings with prospective clients. I liked how the Dutch speakers who attended GSS2018 approached the Dutch Chamber of Business in New Zealand and spoke to business people. Some like me spoke at Universities. Explore opportunities.
Write a Series of Blogs of Key Takeaways: One of the best ways to cement your learnings is to put them down in writing. This will especially be useful for other participants and other professional speakers who could not attend the convention. In addition to writing blogs, I intend to record interviews with key professional speakers for my ‘Global Speaker Podcast’.
Share Your Lessons in Your City’s Monthly Meetups: When you return to your city, take the effort to band with other folks who attended the event and share your collective learnings in your association monthly meeting.
Watch the Videos of the Sessions for Recap: Once you come back after the convention, it is easy to get caught up in the grind of everyday life. It is quite natural to forget some of the key lessons. That’s why it is a good idea to watch videos of your favourite talks as a way to brush up your knowledge.
Form an Action Mastermind: Attending conventions like the Professional Speakers Summit 2019 is of no use if you don’t put key lessons into action. Conventions are a hotbed of inspiration and it’s up to us to push ourselves to action the ideas. An effective strategy is to form a small mastermind (4 to 5 people) where you commit to each other to complete your action items. Have a weekly meetup (either online or in person) and reevaluate your progress. Push each other to raise the bar to outperform yourself.
What do you think of this list? Are there other tips that you would like to add? If so, please leave them in the comments section. I’ll add them to the list. Would love to hear your ideas. For those who don’t know me. I’m the co-founder and President-elect of the Professional Speakers Association of India. My speaking profile is at http://www.kiruba.com/speaking and I can be reached at Kiruba@Kiruba.com and 9841597744.