How to Create Value as a Speaker

by Derek Featherstone

The secret to paid speaking is mastering the concept of Value. If you want to be paid to speak, you need to have something valuable in your presentations. You need to help people save time, money, pain or just plain feel better about themselves. Here's a list of some of the things that you can focus on to create that value.

This is the fourth article in a series of articles on Getting Paid Speaking Gigs.

If you've found speaking gigs and figured out what your best combination of talents truly is, then you need to take another step forward towards getting repeatedly signed on for paid speaking gigs. And that, my friends is about creating value for the learner in the room.

Value is such a nebulous concept. Or at least it can be. Lets make value something concrete shall we? When you speak you're bringing one or more of these things to the table:

  • Help people save or create time.
  • Help people save or earn more money.
  • Help people avoid or cure pain.
  • Help people feel better.

How do you do these things though? Here's a starting point on how you might frame some of your presentations:

Teach new skills

There is nothing better than coming away from a presentation with some new, practical skills to apply on the job. It's what management is looking for when they approve the budget for someone to attend the learning event. It's what solo practitioners are looking for too—they need to justify time away from billable hours, so it had better be good!

Be sure you know your audience, and have a range of skills from beginner, to intermediate, all the way through to advanced and expert.

This helps save time and creates potential new revenue for the learner as they put those new skills to use.

Share your shortcuts

If you've been working in any industry for long enough, you have no doubt gone down a path in your work where you've said "Oh, I wish someone had told me this earlier!" For every time you've said that, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands of people out there that have said exactly the same thing. Share those shortcuts or quicker methods to get things done.

Everyone is expected to do more with less these days, so shortcuts, tips and tricks are almost always a hit because they help save time and money.

Case Studies

Case studies are always a hit, as long as they have practical take away value. These should never be done as a "hey, look at me!" kind of thing. If you want to be successful with case studies, it can't be about how awesome you are, it has to be about how awesome they can be.

This type of presentation (or part of a presentation, as the case may be) is almost universally well-received, if it has practical value. Just like the inspirational stories you tell where the learner starts to create their own story, this makes things concrete because it is a case study of real work, not contrived, made-up examples. But there HAS to be a practical takeaway for the audience here. It can't be a SELL. If it does sell, great, but not because you were trying to sell, but because the case study had practical takeaways.

These can simply help people save time, or even help them feel better about themselves as they have new inspiration from the work you presented.

Share your learning insights

In your area of expertise, you've no doubt spent a lot of time learning. Along that learning path, you've likely had several "light bulb" moments where you suddenly see how one part of the problem relates to another, or how it fits into the things you already understand. Make note of those moments. The "Aha!" experiences you've had will resonate with some of your audience members. They're struggling with the same things that you have or are.

Remembering those learning moments where things click and you just get it will be invaluable as you help others learn. Remember the struggles you had, how you got past them, and think about how that might relate to the people you're teaching. This helps them save time and better understand their craft.


Have you ever had goosebumps when you were working on a particular problem or when you were working with a client? Share those moments. The stories that you tell help people realize what is possible. If your story is compelling, they'll write themselves into your story as they envision their own. Can you get them to feel those goosebumps too?

If the learner envisions what they might do next, they can start to see the path before them. Your inspiration may just be the thing that kick starts them on the way to do their first 5km run, or to write their first line of code, or to sell their first thing online.

Big Picture Thinking

When we're down in the trenches we often need reminders of why we're doing things in the first place. Take your practical tips and tricks for doing your best work and relate them back to the big picture. Situate the every day work with the reasons we do the work in the first place.

It is all part of getting asked over and over again to speak -- wouldn't you want to hear more from someone that really helped you get your eyes up out of the muck to look around at something bigger and to help you look forward beyond the current day's work? Of course you would, and so would they.

Can you help your learners to see things in a new way? Have you created a process or a model for your thinking about certain problems? Share those things, as much as you can!

What Next?

  1. Start a learning notebook. Any time you experience some insight or something suddenly makes sense, write it down so you can consult it for material later.
  2. Be like James Burke and find the connections between the big picture and the every day life as relates to your area of expertise.
  3. Start using these things in your presentations!

Posted in: