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Here is my 500th Public Speaking Tip: Don't be a 'one-speech-wonder!'

Recent work and then that tip... 

I'm going to publish my 500th Public Speaking Tip in this post but first I will tell you about some recent talks and training. You may notice a theme developing... 

CAMEO at St Mary of Bethany Church, Woking

I had two talks in August. The first was in the hall of the St Mary Bethany of Church in Woking for their CAMEO (ie 'Come And Meet Each Other') group. I enjoyed speaking to them and my thanks for the lunch, tour of the very busy church and lift back to the station. The talk I delivered, incidentally, was a mixture of My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer and the Power of Humour in Everyday Lifejust two of the many talks I have available...

Coaching a club speaker

The following week I spent a 3.5 hour session with a speaker who had booked me for my service offering coaching for Women's Institute speaker auditions and club speakers. During the session we worked on delivery, discussed the particular types audiences that they speak to and I suggested various additional markets. I also suggested variations on their presentation for other types of audiences.

I was delighted to receive this testimonial:

"Just wanted to say a big thank you for your coaching on Tuesday. I gained so much information from the session and am filled with ideas as to how to go forward. Thanks for all the input you gave me, I really appreciate your generosity in sharing information that must have taken years to glean. I shall certainly get busy. And I'll work on my presentation, bearing in mind the points you made. I thoroughly enjoyed the session. Thanks again.".

Me too. It was good to work with such a focused speaker.

Orpington and Chislehurst National Trust Centre, Kent

Two days later, I spoke about My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer to the Orpington and Chislehurst National Trust Centre who meet at the town's Methodist Church, a booking I got on a recommendation following my talk last year to the Orpington Video and Film Makers.

I must admit that I had been a bit surprised when their President and Programme Secretary Mr Dyer told me that there might be 200 - 250 in the audience. After all, this was an August meeting and any groups that even bother to hold meetings in the summer have lower attendances - don't they?

More than 200 turned up that night! I have often mentioned about how great Kent audiences are and a large Kent audience is even better. My thanks to Robin, their sound technician, and to Mr Dyer for the lift to the station. A terrific evening and I would very much like to speak there again so before leaving I reminded them that I have further titles.

(Have you worked out that theme yet?)

Black tie dinner for the Friends of St Andrews, Hamble-le-Rice, Hampshire

I spoke on 21 September at a fundraising black tie dinner dinner for the Friends of St Andrews at Hamble-le-Rice in Hampshire. This group does amazing work maintaining the beautiful 12th century Priory Church of St Andrew, the Apostle. They also raised the funds that built the very busy Priory Centrewhere the event was being held.

The three course dinner (all cooked by the Friends) was of a professional standard and during the meal I really enjoyed speaking to Father John Travers. These events are well-supported (there were 73 tickets sold) and many supporters travel some distance to attend. They were a good audience for My Life as a freelance Comedy Writer and I received many compliments afterwards. My thanks to Grant for transport from the station and back (during the latter journey I mentioned that I have a number of additional talks to offer).

Portsmouth North Civil Service Retirement Fellowship

The following Monday afternoon I spoke about the same topic to the Portsmouth North Civil Service Retirement Fellowship in the hall of St Nicholas Church in Copnor.

There were around 17 in the audience, a very friendly group. As I was leaving, I mentioned my further talks.

Bournemouth and Beyond Discovery Group

My first October booking was about Patrick Campbell for the Bournemouth and Beyond Discovery Group at their temporary venue, Richmond Hill St Andrews Church in the centre of Bournemouth. This was my second visit to them (although they were called the Bournemouth Local Studies Group last time) and the talk went well. I made sure that the organisers were aware of my other subjects.

Elliot Lodge No. 1567 White Table Event ,Staines

I had never been the guest speaker at a masonic event before but on 6 October I spoke on My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer for Elliot Lodge in the historic Staines Masonic Hall. My talk was followed by a superb dinner, during which one member mentioned Marx Brothers films so I mentioned to him that I actually do a talk about Groucho Marx. My thanks to the members for their hospitality at this event, which raised an impressive amount for charity, and to Steve, the human sat-nav who walked me to the venue!

Wilton Wednesday Club, Wiltshire

A fortnight ago I spoke for the second time to the Wednesday Club in the Community Centre at Wilton near Salisbury, my subject being Patrick Campbell. I was immediately booked to speak next year to another group on one of my many topics.

Newbury U3A, Berkshire

The following day found me in St Nicolas Church Hall at Newbury speaking to 77 U3A members about My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer. A very good audience and I let them know that I have a number of different presentations.

The Probus Club of Parkstone

On my way to the talk at Wilton l I received a call asking if I could take a short-notice booking for the following Tuesday at Parkstone Probus. I had already spoken to them four times between 1998 and 2007 but I had enough new material to return with My Life as a Freelance Comedy Writer Part 2. By Monday I had developed a cough and a cold but decided that they had already had one speaker cancel so I couldn't as well. I got through the talk without a coughing fit, the audience were great, I enjoyed the conversation with the members (especially some great jokes from Mr George) the very good lunch demonstrated once again why Bournemouth's Riviera Hotel is so popular for club meetings. A very successful fifth visit and I still have at least one further topic that they could book me for...


Some years ago I was discussing a very good speaker with an organiser who had booked me for a club. 'The trouble is, they're a one-talk wonder', he said He had loved their presentation but could never book them again as they only offered a single title - not even a 'Part 2'. My own talks had also gone well - and he had booked me 3 times in 15 months!

The fact is that if you want a steady flow of bookings as a speaker then it pays to have an ever-increasing range of topics to offer - and let organisers know about them (the earlier part of this post demonstrates this. Note also that some of these were repeat visits - a fifth booking in one case). I speak all over the country at any time and at short notice but if you limit your speaking activities by area, time of day or season of the year, then it is even more important to have a decent list of presentations.

But there is another kind of 'one-speech wonder'. There are some people who have never really been public speakers but find themselves expected to deliver a one-off speech, perhaps at a wedding. They dread it but prepare, get through it and realise that it wasn't so bad after all. And then what...? In many cases, rather than building on the experience by taking on further speaking opportunities, improving and gaining in confidence, they will simply never do it again. Such a waste.

Public Speaking Tip #500: If you are a speaker for clubs and societies you will need to introduce further titles, either further instalments of your original presentation or entire new subjects. These organisations prefer to book speakers who are known quantities and you will need the repeat engagements from them to help fill your diary.

If you have been a reluctant speaker at a function, such as a wedding, but got through it then why stop now? Why not take on further speaking opportunities to increase your confidence and ability?

Whichever type of speaker you are, you should keep up the momentum; in other words: don't be a one-speech wonder!


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