Technology has completely changed the way presenters can get their message out to an audience. New digital mediums such as webinars and live streaming services have opened up opportunities for speakers to broadcast thoughts and ideas to the entire world from virtually anywhere. Here, Shane’s written a detailed article on four virtual speaking platforms that you should investigate if you have a message to share.
Think back to the late 1990s. The economy was roaring, the Internet was new and the old way of doing things seemed….well, old. If you were a speaker back then, being on stage meant you were physically at the event to share your message. At that time very few people took advantage of new ways to share their message and even fewer were considering how the Internet would change what it meant to stand on stage.
Fast forward twenty years. Many aspiring speakers hold the same romantic notion of public speaking that existed 20 years ago; they dream of standing before hundreds or thousands of people to share their message. There’s no doubt, the number of live events continues to grow and opportunities to speak are legion, but what may not be as obvious is the definition of a speaking platform is changing.
Today’s workshops, events and conferences aren’t just happening in conference halls and event centers; they’re happening in online courses and virtual summits too. The very idea of the stage is being abstracted, democratized and diffused.
As a speaker, you need to understand, you aren’t in the speaking business; you’re in the idea business. You’re not a speaker, you’re an influencer and a thought leader. You’re someone who guides, leads and persuades others by sharing your ideas opinions and thoughts. As such, you need to expand the concept of what you do and where you work.
While physical stages aren’t going away, you don’t have to wait in line for your chance to be heard. New stages have emerged. Stages you can stand on this week or next if you want to. If you have a message then virtual stages are waiting for you to step up and step on them to share your ideas. In fact, there are four virtual stages that require almost no setup and can help you build an audience that is hungry for your message. Who knows, these may be the same people who pay top dollar to see you at a live event or conference later on.
The Four Stages where you can perform
What’s the biggest audience you could hope to speak to? Ten-thousand people? Fifty-Thousand? What about a colosseum filled with one-hundred thousand people? Even One-hundred thousand people doesn’t compare to the potential audience available on YouTube.
YouTube has 1.3 billion users and reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the U.S. The average user spends over 40 minutes daily watching YouTube and watch time is up 60% year over year. Yet only 9% of U.S. small businesses use YouTube.
These are impressive statistics especially when you throw in YouTube is the second largest search engine on the Internet. That means when people are searching for information related to your topic, you have the opportunity to reach an audience who is hungry to find the expertise and encouragement found in your message.
Suppose however, you aren’t swayed by those amazing statistics. Why should you still consider YouTube as a stage? YouTube is a visual medium. Posting your latest keynote (or even a portion of it) demonstrates your skills and talents in a way that reassures event planners and conference goers you’re the right person for the job. It’s proof you know your topic and you can connect with your audience.
One final point, YouTube videos don’t have to stay on YouTube. They can be shared on social media, embedded in blog posts and emailed to friends. What you post on YouTube doesn’t have to stay there. It’s an incredibly versatile medium for sharing your content.
As a speaker you’re ability to convey your ideas is at the heart of your livelihood. Aside from a live audition, can you think of a more powerful medium with a larger audience than YouTube? The best part is, you can be standing on that stage as soon as you post your next video.
If you’ve ever dreamed of hosting your own event or conference, then hosting a webinar may be for you. The main advantage of webinars is they allow you to demonstrate your subject matter expertise for 30-40 minutes, answer a few questions and make a pitch for your product or service at the end – all without leaving your home or office.
In a recent interview, speaker and coach Alysa Rushton shared with me a structure she uses to build her business. While it works for speaking from a physical stage, it’s particularly well suited for a webinar. Here are a few important ideas she shared.
- Structure your talk so you can tell your story and build your credibility.
- Teach people people something. Give them something of value they can use.
- Give people some sort of free gift as a list building tool in exchange for an email address. The free gift is something that will solve the audience’s main problem.
- You can also invite them to a program or to a one on one coaching scenario where they will have the opportunity to work with you.
- Finish with a call to action so they can move forward with achieving the result they want.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Webinars
One advantage of using a webinar as a stage is the audience is more receptive to an offer for a product or service at the end. People have been trained to sit through 30-40 minutes of valuable content in exchange for hearing an offer. This means people tend to stay at until the end. Even if they don’t buy, you’ve given them something of value and you’ve demonstrated your expertise.
One disadvantage of using a webinar as a stage, is it works better if you’ve built an email list. The more people you can get to show up, the more people you have to sell to. If you don’t have a large email list, you may consider partnering with someone who does.
You don’t have to use a webinar as a sales vehicle however, you can also use it as an opportunity to educate an audience and build brand awareness. In fact, your audience may appreciate the value you offer without expectation of anything in return. Either way, a webinar is a stage you need to consider for your speaking business.
I’ve been a podcast junkie for a decade and even I’ve been surprised by the growth of this medium in the last two years. How big is podcasting? According to Social Media Influencer Jay Baer, the estimated size of the U.S. podcast audience is on par with the active Twitter audience. (about 57 million) so there’s no need to dismiss it as niche medium not worthy of your attention. Twenty-one percent of the U.S. population has listened to a podcast in the last month and that trend continues to rise.
Does that surprise you? It shouldn’t. Podcasting has been in and out of the spotlight since 2004. Although the number of listeners has steadily increased for 12 years, it’s been flying under the radar as a way to connect with and build an audience around a topic. Here’s why podcasting is a great medium and why speakers need to be using it as one of their stages.
Credibility and Authority
Credibility is the act of being believed because you consistently and reliably provide accurate information to your audience. Podcasting can create credibility for you. Over time, you become a recognized source of information for your topic. Just as a speaker builds authority because of his/her presence on a physical stage, a podcaster has authority and credibility via the recorded word.
Connection and Intimacy
Podcasting is a one to one medium. Although hundreds or thousands may download your podcast, the conversation is one to one. Because your message is often delivered in someone’s earbuds as they commute, work in the yard or exercise, people form a relationship with you. Although YOU can‘t feel the energy of your listener, your listener can feel your energy, creating a sense of connection to you and your message.
Thought Leadership and Brand Storytelling
When Michael Port released his podcast, “Steal the Show” in 2015 he released over 50 episodes in the first 3 months, overwhelming listeners with useful information for all the performances of their lives. Not coincidentally, his book Steal the Show came out at the same time. Port used the power of podcasting to promote the book, his brand and demonstrate thought leadership by flooding the market with his ideas. You too can use the power of podcasting to demonstrate how you are leading and guiding the conversation around your topic.
Like the three stages before it, a live stream demonstrates your speaking ability, subject matter expertise and credibility. Unlike the three stages mentioned before, a live stream gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your authenticity. Live-streams happen “in the moment”, they are raw. If you make a mistake, there’s no “do-over”.
When Periscope launched it seemed like everyone jumped on the bandwagon. There was something appealing about the mobile aspect of sharing video content that hooked audiences near and far.
I saw “scopes” of people walking their dogs and eating dinner. To be honest, I didn’t get it. However, as smart marketers started to see the value of educating, entertaining and inspiring their audiences via a live stage, the appeal of a live streaming became more apparent.
As the live-streaming platform wars are dying down, Facebook seems to be the apparent winner. Its massive user base of 1.3 billion users and the incredible organic reach (at least for now) of its Facebook Live videos, make it an obvious choice for a stage.
While other stages allow you to record and perfect your message, live-streams are unedited; that’s what audiences love about them, they’re real, they’re authentic, they’re in the moment. They’re as close as you can get to seeing a speaker live without actually being there. And maybe that’s why so many people love live-streams; they give us the ability to be there when we can’t physically be there.
Are You Ready?
Leveraging channels like YouTube, webinars, podcasts and live-streams gives today’s speakers an opportunity to share their ideas with a larger, more diverse audience without the overhead of travel and lodging, not to mention the investment of time and energy. Speakers don’t need to be restricted to the walled garden of a conference or event center. They have the opportunity to connect with their audience directly and build a community around their message, all from the safety of their home or office.
As speakers, it’s time to recognize a stage can be physical or virtual. It’s not the type of stage that matters, it’s the impact of the message. There will be times when standing on a physical stage is the best place to present your ideas and there will be times when a virtual stage makes more sense. Don’t think because you use “Speaker” in your social media profiles you’re limited to speaking on physical stages.
It’s time to start thinking about speaking differently. It’s time to realize the best stage is the one that gets your message to the person who needs to hear it, regardless of where he is.