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You can be anything you want

When I was in middle school, my church was assigned a new minister. She was my first exposure to capital-F Feminism. “You can be anything you want,” she assured me, though I had the distinct impression that “anything” meant that the doors were open for women at the theological seminary.

As she talked about this, I distinctly remember thinking that I couldn’t imagine getting to a point in life where I knew one subject so well that I could get up and talk about it on a regular basis.

(Looks at my list of speaking engagements)

Hmm. Funny how things change in the intervening years.

People often ask how to get started as a speaker, which is a lot like the old “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” joke. The answer is practice.

  • Start small. You’ll be doing this for free, or for comped conference attendance. You’ll speak in small breakout rooms for small audiences.
  • Find your voice. When you do these small speaking engagements, you’ll figure out what makes you stand out. Is it your topic? Your style of delivery? Your slides? Something has to set you apart.
  • Own your topic. Are you the only person who has ever spoken on this topic? Unlikely. What you do have is your unique take on it, based on your unique experience.
  • Self-promote. I am the worst at this. Truly. But add your speaking engagements to your website or LinkedIn profile. Demonstrate experience and competence.
  • Get yourself a hype squad. You know that person in your life who wants you to succeed? Make use of that. Have them re-share your posts, attend your sessions, ask the questions that make you sound like a genius.

It won’t happen overnight, but one day you’ll look at your schedule with surprise and realize how far you’ve come.

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