The (not so secret) Club of Speaking in Higher Ed


Josie and Ann Marie at the 2015 AIMHO conference as keynote speakers

This post is part of a project that Dr. Ann Marie Klotz and I are offering for higher education professionals interested in sharing their speaking and expertise professionally. Student Affairs Speaker #SquadGoals aims to open doors and accessibility through building a supportive community of speakers through education and mentorship .

As our rollout shares,

At the beginning of 2016 we had an idea to pull together and feature speakers within Student Affairs and Higher Education.  We also wanted to offer our services to a small group of people who were interested in starting their own speaking journey.  Read (here) to learn more about our journeys and if you are already speaking please feel free to fill out the link to join our comprehensive list.  If you would like to be considered to work with us for the upcoming year to develop your speakers package there is a link where you can submit your interest. Click here to read more.

Part of my speaking story I shared for this project was how I stumbled into speaking, but was also firmly placed by mentors on this path. Once I began exploring I quickly realized how many others in their field of student affairs were already doing it! At first, “I felt it was like a secret society and once you were in the ‘club’ – then you had open to access and understanding on how to do it.” However I was blown away that all I had to do was, “tell people I wanted in – and to my surprise – I was supported.” I discovered #SquadGoals.

19279286_mlThis project and passion that Ann Marie and I share is to provide a medium for other higher education professional to make their declaration. Are you interested in turning the years of experience you have working with students, assessment, programming, supervision, etc into a tangible education experience? Then it’s time to get you in this “club.”

OK let me just clarify – there is no actual club, membership or t-shirts to become a professional speaker in higher education. And you can’t just send a tweet or post on Facebook that you are going to be a speaker and expect the world to start calling. I put in a full year of blogging quality content about social media, getting the attention of senior vice presidents, association leadership and grad prep program faculty, before I began to promote my speaking services.

So to ‘join the club’ you need to be willing to do the following 5 D’s – and in this order.

  1. Define your Niche. What can’t you stop talking about? What topics are you already presenting on? What do you know more about than anyone at your univeristy? This took me about six months through blogging to figure out. Don’t assume just because you think it is important – that the entire field does. Call upon your most trusted friends and mentors to flush this out.
  2. Develop Original Physical and Digital Content. What will be your cornerstone program? What is the title, description and learning outcomes? Create your outline and get developing a slidedeck. You also need digital content that is sharable that compliments this, such as a blog, vlog, podcast, Powerpoint, video, etc.
  3. Declare your Services. I did this by emailing twelve contacts at schools in the area that I knew had at least the campus political position to say yes and get me space and students to present to. My goal was to present to 12 schools in 12 months.

    1. Don’t Charge. (If you are a new speaker) Don’t expect your first three speaking engagements to be paid for your brand new program. You need to practice and what better way than this. Offer schools near your location your services for free – in exchange for honest feedback, a referral/quote, and ability to record your talk. This will also allow you to flush out the fourth D.
  4. Demand your Worth. Here is where having a speaker mentor, sponsor or coach is extremely helpful. I’ve had some tough love conversations with many mentors and sponsors about this topic. Demand your worth. This means you will need to start turning down opportunities. Start accounting for the cost of travel, time away from the office/your family, impact of taxes and more.  
  5. Discover and support other Speakers. Speaking can be competitive – however you have a choice in how you respond: hold them tight or fight/flight. The speaking professionals that pulled me into this could have brushed me off – but instead lifted me higher! As a professional speaker in higher education you are not only called to provide an amazing experience at the campuses you are hired. You will be held to a higher level to serve as a role model, coach and collaborator. I challenge you to be a speaker that can continue this supportive culture.

If you are ready to take on these 5’s – then I am ready to work with you!  Please complete this form by February 5th. If you are already a speaker and would like to be included in a list we are creating, please include your information here.

Use the hashtag #SAspeaker on Twitter to be connected to other professionals on their speaking journey.

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