Wedding Speaker

The Best Way For A Speaker To Get Asked Back To A Conference

As a keynote speaker, your client is not the audience. Your client is the conference producer.

With Gretchen Culver of    Rocket Science Events    at    Oh So Inspired    in Sonoma, California. Photo by Chloe Mackintosh of    Boxwood Avenue   .

With Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events at Oh So Inspired in Sonoma, California. Photo by Chloe Mackintosh of Boxwood Avenue.

As a public speaker, my client is not the audience. My client is the conference producer.

This may seem a little counterintuitive, but it's true. Educational opportunities are a dime a dozen these days, and most wedding pros don't have the budget to attend every single one. Because of this, every conference planner worth their salt keeps an eye on the competition.

This means that what conference producers need from me is that I deliver enough value to the audience that the attendees sign up to attend their event again next year. Not someone else's. 

My number one goal when speaking is to deliver enough actionable insight combined with enough inspiration that at least 25% of the attendees go home and actually implement what they learned. 

The implementation is where the attendees will earn their conference dollars back. When people consider where they spend that money the next year, they will opt for the conference that gave them the most value for their business, measured in dollars generated by executing on what they learned, not necessarily the one that offered the most Instagrammable moments.

The days of signing up for conferences because of FOMO are coming to an end. Wedding spending is down – even among wholesalers – and people have already begun to tighten their wallets. Wedding pros will spend their time and money at events that are both enjoyable and offer them a true ROI from a business perspective.

This means that if you're a speaker, your competition will also get more intense as conference producers look for people that don't just glam up a lineup, but bring financial results by driving repeat attendees.

Fortunately, getting people to remember what you said long enough to implement it is funny business. Literally. 

If one of your goals from giving a talk is to have people learn something, it's best to make them laugh. Scientific studies have been done on this: when people laugh during a presentation, they remember more of what was said. When people remember what you said, they are more likely to implement your advice and insights once they're back in their office. When people implement your insights, they make more money.

There’s actually a proven formula you can use: you want people to laugh at least once every seven minutes. So for a 30 minute presentation, you'll tell four jokes or share four insights in a funny way — this can include videos.

I personally follow the seven minute rule for larger laughs and then, because I have a dry sense of humor, tend to sprinkle “throw away comments” in between. These tend to be less broad and some people in the room will get them and some won’t. A word of caution here: be very careful with sarcasm. Even if it's clear to you that you're being sarcastic, it doesn't always translate well in large group settings and often comes across as arrogant instead.

Laughter is also bonding. It makes the people in the room feel like they’re in something together. It gives them a sense that the conference fostered community. This is good both for them, and of course for the conference producer, as a sense of community and belonging causes people to come back.

Selfishly, it also feels good for you as a speaker. When you’re on stage, it’s motivating to hear people laughing because it shows audience interaction and helps remind you that at least some of what you’re saying is landing.

Here are two quick tips for writing humorous content:

  1. Know who is in the room. Go beyond "wedding pros." Ask for the attendee list ahead of time and do some research. Something funny to people working in the wed tech start-up scene (currently the fastest growing segment of the wedding industry) will not necessarily be funny to a group of caterers or stationery designers.

  2. Never, ever plagiarize jokes. Do not copy a joke from Twitter or Instagram. People make a living from joke writing, especially comedians who use Twitter as a way to get in front of TV showrunners and hiring managers. Stealing a joke is no different than someone stealing your photo or knocking off your design and taking credit for it. Copyright and good manners still apply, even if it's just 280 characters.

Laughter is the best medicine. It's also — assuming the rest of your content is good — one of the best ways to get hired again.

The original version of this post was published January 2015.

Meet Me at a Destination Wedding Conference in Dubai

I’m thrilled to share that I’ve been asked to give the inspirational keynote address at the Destination Wedding Congress in Dubai next month.

The Destination Wedding Congress is the largest business conference for destination wedding planners and venues in the world, and this year they are adding an element specifically for destination wedding photographers. In partnership with Dubai Tourism, the event will be held at Atlantis The Palm Hotel from March 27-29th.

In addition to my main stage inspirational keynote talk on the topic of success, I’ll also be teaching a separate class on pricing. You’ll get to meet attendees from around the world as well as hear from speakers like Preston Bailey, Christina Holt, Ali Bakhtiar, and others from the United States, Lebanon, Morocco, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, India, South Africa, and more.

Most importantly, you will walk away with a truly global perspective on what is happening in the wedding industry and how to grow your business, rather than a primarily Western-focused perspective. With weddings becoming more “glocal,” hearing from and meeting with wedding and luxury professionals who don’t speak at or attend many of the other industry conferences will give you a competitive edge.

You can learn more about the Destination Wedding Congress on their website here and follow them on Instagram here.

What To Wear As a Public Speaker: 13 Tips for Dressing So That People Will Listen

As a public speaker, your audience will decide if you are worth listening to within the first three seconds of you taking the stage. Not the first three seconds after the first word comes out of your mouth — the first three seconds of you walking on the stage.

How you look when you're giving a presentation matters — whether you like it or not, whether you think it’s fair or not, whether you think it’s sexist or intellectually stunted or unspiritual or shallow. Your personal opinion on the subject does not change how the human brain functions.

If you want people to take the content of your presentation seriously, you need to look put together and professional. Most of the tips I'm sharing here apply to women, but a few apply to men as well:

1. Get your hair professionally blown out or learn how to do it well yourself.

2. If you’re presenting with heavy stage lights or being filmed, consider professional makeup. This isn’t vain — lighting translates skin pigment differently.

3. This is one I learned from studying music growing up: if you are sitting on stage, or are sitting on a stool for a panel, the audience can see straight up your skirt if it is not just-above-the-knee-length or longer. People may be too polite to say something about it to you, but they will talk about it.

4. Pack a back-up outfit. I unfortunately learned this the hard way: I had picked up a new dress from the dry cleaner, threw it in my suitcase while still in the plastic wrap, only to discover a few hours before my presentation the next morning that the dry cleaner had shrunk it. I put it on, stood in front of the mirror and burst into tears. I looked like a sausage. With all the stores closed and no other options, I had to wear the now-too-small dress. I was mortified the entire day.

5. If your outfit or suit gets wrinkled in your luggage, have the hotel you’re staying at professionally steam or press it for you (keep costs like this in mind when you're calculating your speaking fees) or bring along a travel steamer. Hotel room irons can be sketchy.

6. Travel in something you can also speak in if your luggage gets lost (including carry on suitcases that may get gate-checked). Always carry your makeup in your personal bag. This ensures you won't be stuck giving your presentation in athleisure wear or scrambling to create an appropriate outfit from the hotel's lobby shops. As a bonus, when you dress better for flights, you get treated better by the airlines.

7. If you wear a lavaliere or countryman (headset) microphone and you're wearing a dress, try to choose a dress that has a zipper so that the mic pack can be attached to the back of your bra strap. A quick note here: you may need to give the event planner and the AV team an advanced heads up that this is how you wear your microphone. AV pros who have worked in TV will have no problem with this as it's the professional standard. AV pros who work mainly in hotels tend to be a bit squeamish with this.

8. Respect your audience and adopt a "When in Rome" mindset. If you are speaking to a more conservative group, you may want to skip a sleeveless top in favor of one with sleeves.

9. If you tend to be nervous when you speak, consider wearing high heels instead of flats for your presentation, especially if the stage has hard flooring. The sound of your heels clicking on the stage sends a subconscious signal of power to your brain, boosting your self-confidence. This self-confidence boost translates into better stage presence and a better presentation.

10. If you are wearing heels, walk the stage beforehand to see where the tape seams are or if they’ve decorated it with a type of carpeting your shoe will catch in.

11. Unless you’re speaking outside on the beach, flip-flops are not appropriate.

12. Your clothes don't need to be expensive, but they do need to fit you. Have them tailored if necessary or consider Rent the Runway if the number on the scale and the size on the tags of the business outfits hanging in your closet are currently in a fight. (Definitely speaking from experience on this one.)

13. No chipped manicures. It doesn't matter if you DIY'd your nail polish or had it professionally done, just make sure your nails look tidy. (Sylvia Weinstock explains her take on this here, in the way only she can.)

Originally published January 2015