I have a confession to make. Getting on a stage and giving a speech intimidates me. I worry about flubbing my lines, about losing my train of thought and rambling like a moron…no one to rescue me, left to my own devices to sweat bullets until my allotted time is up.
Despite my fears, I mustered up all of my courage and hit the stage a couple weeks ago to give a speech in Jacksonville, Florida. In front of about twenty-five fellow web designers and developers.
For you speakers, the idea of being intimidated by giving a speech, especially in front of such a small crowd, probably seems pretty silly. For me, though, most of my work life takes place in front of a computer. Interacting with a live crowd that’s looking to me for to educate and entertain them? I’m a little out of my element.
Outside of my presentation in Jacksonville and a best man’s speech at my brother’s wedding, I don’t have much experience taking the stage. When I do get the opportunity, I look for little learning opportunities. It’s a chance to kind of walk a mile in the shoes of the speakers that I serve.
My Big Takeaway: Preparation Is HUGE
Maybe this is kind of a “duh” statement. The more I prepared, the less nervous I felt.
My wife will tell you, I was awful company leading up to my speech. The night before was spent holed up in our room while I poured over my notes, plotting out pauses and inflections, and making last-minute tweaks. The next morning I got up very early and picked up where I left off, right up until mere minutes before I went on stage.
How did the speech go? My audience was moved to tears. I exited to a thunderous round of applause. Okay, the speech was rather well-received. My audience asked a lot of great questions and a few people engaged me after I took the mic off my lapel. All in all, I consider the whole thing a success. I think that the effort I put into being prepared made all the difference.
I’m not trying to imply that my experience is exactly like that of a professional speaker. I gave my speech in front of a small, friendly crowd of my peers. It’s far different from getting paid to wow the audience at a big corporate event.
I can, however, make some connections between a speech and a website.Preparation pays, whether you're giving a speech or starting a web design project.Click To Tweet
Websites, Like A Speech, Require Preparation
That preparation part I mentioned earlier? It’s a big deal for websites, too.
There’s little that being prepared won’t help you overcome. We’re prepared because we plan meticulously before designing and developing every website. We’re prepared we anticipate our clients’ needs, while also listening to their wants. We’re prepared when we stay one step ahead of trends in technology.
Is the thought of designing or redesigning your website as intimidating for you as giving a speech was for me?
It doesn’t have to be. Shoot me an email with your questions. Where are you stuck? What’s freaking you out the most? I love helping speakers come up with solutions for sites that land them more gigs!
I am a fierce and loyal WordPress advocate. It’s all I use for websites and I’ve logged time on over 200 sites. I love it so much that I not only use it for my business site, I also devote a lot of time to the WordPress community. There’s a reason this CMS and web design juggernaut powers over 26% of the web: it’s awesome.
For speakers? It’s a perfect fit.Most speakers have little to no support staff. As a solopreneur, I know what that’s like. We need a system for our websites that’s simple yet flexible. Those are the hallmark qualities of WordPress.Click To Tweet
Maybe you’re planning a website design project soon. Maybe you’ve thought about switching your current site to the platform. It’s the right call, but allow me to settle the debate for you.
WordPress Has The DIYer In Mind
When it comes to basic tasks like blogging and updating text, the entry level barrier is low. WordPress was designed explicitly for blogging. As such, the interface for adding and formatting text is very simple. For most people, a quick tutorial gets them up and running. There’s no need to rely on a webmaster for every little text update. You can get in there and do it yourself. The best part: the core software is absolutely FREE to do with however you wish.
WordPress Is Open Source
Imagine an army of millions as your support crew. WordPress is a software by the people for the people. Millions of users contribute to updating the code, creating plugins, and fielding technical questions. This means that innovation never stops.
It is a living organism that keeps growing and getting better and better. One of my favorite parts of the open source aspect is the WordPress codex. The codex is a massive forum where people from the community hang out answering technical questions. If you’ve got a problem, chances are someone else has already run into it and is ready to help.
WordPress Is Scalable & Customizable
One word – plugins. Plugins are the magical expansion packs that make it possible for designers, developers and even DIY users to do just about anything.
Need to collect email addresses and send out newsletters? There are plugins for that. Need to embed your podcasts? There are plugins for that. Need to integrate seamlessly with social media? You guessed it. There are literally millions of plugins available. Some plugins are free, some are paid (premium). If you can you dream it, chances are there’s a plugin to do the job.
WordPress Is Stable, It’s Not Going Anywhere
WordPress has been going strong for over ten years. A lot of web platforms have come and gone in that span. Few things are more discouraging than learning to use new software to develop a site, only to have the tools die on the vine. You’re left with a site that’s no longer supported and a software no longer receiving any updates.
Luckily, the software and the community show no signs of slowing down. If you were to plot growth on a chart, it would be an arrow pointing up. Over a quarter of the web is built with it. That is a HUGE number. If you want the best bet for a web platform that is going to be around tomorrow, bar none it’s WordPress.
WordPress Takes The Pain Out Of SEO
This is what Google engineer Matt Cutts had to say in 2013:
WordPress takes care of 80-90% of the mechanics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
That’s high praise from the company that holds the keys to the web. Even if all you did was set up WordPress with your content, it would already do a great job with SEO.
I’ll save sharing all the nuts and bolts of why WordPress is such a smart choice when it comes to SEO. Instead, I’ll leave it at this: there isn’t a web platform out there that does SEO better. Plus, you have the fantastic (and free) SEO plugin Yoast at your disposal to take it to the next level.
What do you think about WordPress?
Obviously, I’m a fanatic. I can’t help it, it’s a great platform developed and managed by an amazing community. And for speaker sites? It’s a great fit all around.
Maybe you’re on the fence about the best solution for your website needs. If so, I’d love to have a conversation with you. Call me or shoot me an email. Maybe I can make you a WordPress enthusiast.
The story about why I create websites for speakers and coaches is one I’ve been meaning to tell for a long time.
I’ve worked on websites across the board, within a lot of different industries. I’ve worked on websites for lawyers, dentists, retail, churches, authors, and restaurants. I could have chosen to focus any number of industries. A couple years ago, though, I made the decision to focus on websites for speakers and coaches.
We know from Simon Sinek that “why” we do things is really important. Here’s my “why”:
In 2012, I was struggling. I was two years removed from setting out on my own. Even though I’m good at what I do, I wasn’t attracting the right kind of clients and was making little more than enough money to pay my bills.
That’s when I came to my “get it right or get out” moment. I was either going to figure out how to turn my business around or I was going back to the corporate world. To help me sort it out, I hired a business coach who was specializing in helping tech-driven companies (By the way, it was this guy).
The difference was night and day and it was immediate. Right away I put some practices in place that turned things around for me. My rates went up. I started attracting better clients. I ditched a lot of bad habits and picked up a lot of great ones– habits that are still a major part of my business today.
I was really blown away by the impact my coach had in business and knew then that the people who make a living by helping it sounds, I just don’t care about other industries that much. I care about speakers and coaches.
My business coach went on to make speaking a big part of his business. I was able to return the favor and help him with his website and help him get more speaking gigs. I know that he went on to do some amazing things, (and is still doing amazing things) helping businesses from the stage, in small part because of the work we did on his website.
A good speaker is really someone who coaches from the stage. I like the idea of helping people that make a business out of helping others. I like to think that I’m helping speakers to extend their message beyond the stage and helping coaches extend beyond their sessions. I like to think that, by proxy, I can claim a very small part of all the breakthroughs that those in the coaching community are so great at prompting.
I’ve spent enough time around speakers to realize that they are a different breed. As a result, speakers and coaches need a different kind of website than the rest of the world. I enjoy honing in on the nuances that come with a speaker / coach website. I’m getting better and better at dealing with these nuances and I’m committed to serving “my people.”
My questions for you? What do you deal with as a speaker or coach that’s unique to your profession? What are the challenges that you’ve had to face with your website and branding?
I love hearing hearing from people who are in the middle of it all, so send me an email and let me know!
As a speaker, coach or consultant, your website should work like a sales representative. Out there hustling to get your next gig. If you haven’t had at least a handful of leads come in through your website, leads that you’ve converted into paying gigs, it may be time to ask the tough questions and see if your site is actually doing its job.
Consider the following reasons why your website might be letting you down:
1. You have the wrong testimonials.
Jane Atkinson tackles this in her excellent book The Wealthy Speaker. Here’s what she had to say:
What you want for testimonials is for them to answer the question: ‘What changed as a result of John Smith’s presentation?’ That’s what you need to ask your client to write about.
I couldn’t agree more. Most testimonials read like a stripped down greeting card. “So and so is a great speaker who delivered a thoroughly enjoyable presentation.” That’s nice, but it’s hardly persuasive.
Think in terms of the results that were achieved since you were booked. Did sales go up? Has morale visibly boosted? Get specific and plant the seed of ROI in your future client’s head.
You might want to seriously consider walking clients through writing the kind of testimonials that you need, maybe even providing them with a template when you request a testimonial.
You ARE requesting testimonials and not just waiting for the client to do it on their own, right?
2. You don’t have a GOOD video.
This is another point hammered home in The Wealthy Speaker. You need at least one GOOD video on your website. Notice the emphasis on good. What’s the big deal with video? Put yourself in the shoes of a meeting or event planner seeking out the best speaker for hire. They are going to look at a lot of speakers and they’re going to want to process the gist of these speakers quickly. Video is the best way for them to do so.
Amidst all of the reasons you should willingly open your wallet wide, make one of them your website (I promise I’m not just being self-serving here) and make the other one your video. Find someone who specializes in speaker videos. It’s a different animal than commercials or short films. Once you’ve got a killer video, put it in a place of prominence, front and center, on your website.
Seriously, it should smack people in the face and make them want to hire you!
3. You haven’t made it easy for people to hire you / work with you.
Larry Winget has really nailed this part of his website. The second link in his menu says ‘Hire Larry’. In case you miss that, there’s another prominent link just a bit further down on the home page. Once you click on that section, there are links to download his introduction, photos, and other press materials. There’s a hard-to-miss button in the sidebar that walks you through the next steps. Gee, I’m starting to think that this Larry guy is open to being hired for public speaking gigs!
People want to be guided through this kind of process. You’ve shown them where the answer lies, now hold their hand as you cross the bridge together. Might I suggest a big button that says “Hire [insert your name here],” or something similar? Make sure you include a resource section where your new client can download everything they need, including a speaker introduction/bio and a press kit.
Sharing these kind of resources on your site shows that you are a professional who has thought of everything (or close to it). People find this so reassuring that, when all else is equal, these resources could actually be the tie-breaker.
4. Your photography is weak.
This one is pretty obvious, right? You know you need professionally shot, up-to-date photos that reflect your personality? You know that getting your buddy to snap some iPhone pics isn’t how the pros do it? It’s such a no brainer! Hell, I feel silly for even bringing it up.
5. It’s just flat out bad!
This one is tough. It’s subjective and when things are outside of your area of expertise, it’s hard to know what you don’t know. Design is of course aesthetic; it appeals to emotions and sets up a look that says credible and professional. Design also exists to facilitate functionality, allowing for booking speakers and consultants, connecting via social media, and reading and sharing blog posts.
I’m not going to share my philosophy about what design is and isn’t. My suggestion is that you never go too long without putting your site through the wringer. If it’s been more than 18 months since your site got a serious tune-up, bring in a pro, get your site audited to see what’s missing. Bone up on WordPress and choose a nice looking theme.
Just do something! Make it a priority to have a continually improving site and keep your foot on the gas.
I would love to know what you thought about this article. What did I leave out? What changes have you made to your site that have yielded positive results?
I hate the idea of speakers settling for less gigs for less money. If there’s anything I can do to help make your site better, even if it’s just providing my two cents on what you’ve got, then hit me up!