The Secrets of a Top 10 ‘D” List Conference Speaker

I just got through another fall conference season and I think I’m starting to pick up a few things and understand the game a little better.

I’m definitely not an “A” Lister or “B” Lister, and hell, I’m not even on the “C” List, but I like to think I’m a Top 10 “D” List Conference Speaking selection!

As you run around the circuit speaking, those A and B Listers will definitely give you some pointers. The C’s won’t, because they’re all high and mighty about how they’re no longer on the D List, so they kind of hold stuff close to the vest.

It’s a great education that spans much more than just your ability to go on stage and “Dance Like a Monkey.” The Conference Speaker education has to do mostly with human behavior and likeability.

My Conference Speaker secrets – if you are a D Lister

Knowing I only have a few secrets, I wanted to share them with you before I get moved from the D List, either up or down, because we conference speakers only have small windows in time to share our very specific knowledge.

So, here are my D List Conference Speaker Secrets:

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  • Everything should be sunshine and rainbows! The best content you can produce is actually content that challenges how someone does their job. Think  “5 Reasons You Suck at HR and How to Get Better,” but while that content is great, it bombs on the speaking circuit. People want to come and hear speakers tell them that they made a great life decision to be in this career/position they are in, and here are  three (3) silver bullets that will change your life forever and make you prettier and thinner. By the way, that’s my 2014 Conference Season Session: “You’ve Made Great Life Decisions: 3 Things You Can Do Today To Be Prettier and Thinner.
  • There are no Silver Bullets, but you must have Silver Bullets. Let’s face it we live in a USA Today society. We want to be told quickly how to make everything better, without doing any work to make it better. That can’t happen, but as a D Lister, it’s my job to sell you on the fact that you can do that. That’s why there is a lot of Dancing on the D List circuit.
  • The difference between an B Lister and a D Lister is that the B Lister is usually a lot better looking, taller and much more polished in their Dancing ability. The knowledge content usually isn’t really that different; the B Lister is just much better at how they share that knowledge.

Why some get paid to speak

  • The difference between an A Lister and D Lister is that the A Lister is selling an “idea” and that idea is usually something they’ve trademarked and written a book about. Think: 7 Habits, Good To Great, First Break All The Rules, Who Moved My Mercedes, etc. Or, the A Lister is famous for something (business, political, sports-type celebrity) and they are sharing their own story about how they became famous. and although you’ll never become famous the same way, they try to make you feel like you could also win the fame lottery, but you can’t.
  • When being paid to speak, for all those under A List status, who gets paid and how much has a lot to do with how much someone making the pay decision likes you personally. That’s hard for a lot of speakers to take. Some have great content, but they aren’t very likeable or even approachable. Some have crap content and aren’t even that good at speaking, but are extremely likeable. Those people get paid!
  • Having a book makes you “smarter.” It really doesn’t, but on the speaking circuit it does.
  • Being a Practitioner makes you know more about a subject. It really doesn’t, but on the speaking circuit it does. This one is really funny, because conferences now say “we want practitioners” to speak. Do you realize those speaking as “consultants” were great practitioners that were so good they made a career out of selling their knowledge? They were the 1 percent best practitioners. But no, really, let’s listen to Mark from Albuquerque explain why his hiring process he just developed is so cutting edge…

That’s it, the only D List secrets I have. If I get to the C List, I’ll let you know what else I find.

My guess is it will have to do with being able to negotiate first class travel, or least I hope it does!

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

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