when presenting, don’t be a diva!

What NOT to do! Don’t be a diva!

Speakers take note! No one likes a drama queen! 


I am friends with a number of Speakers Bureau Consultants. These are the people you can go to when you know you want to book a speaker, but you don’t know who to book. You could spend hours trawling through google searches. Or you could contact your friendly Speakers Bureau Consultant. They will take a brief from you. They’ll ask you about the theme of your event, the audience profile, who else you have speaking, the location, the budget and whole heap of other important questions to make sure they understand what you are looking for. The great news is that they generally have their finger on the pulse and know exactly who you need.


The stories I have heard about speakers who are now black-listed because they are high maintenance are hair raising.  I’m shocked at how many stories I have heard about behaviour from certain speakers that is not conducive to a long-term relationship with the bureau who books them, or their client. For example, I heard about a very drunk speaker who stripped off and danced on the tables with the delegates! What about the speaker who did a drug deal in the foyer of the conference venue in front of delegates? And from a speakers bureau point of view the speaker who upsells other work with the client directly and doesn’t tell the bureau. This is not just rude, it’s enough to have you struck off the list of future speakers very quickly!


Here are some things you should never do:


Don’t be difficult to deal with. It’s unlikely you’ll build rapport if you act like a drama queen, or you’re too uptight and fussy about things the client or audience don’t care about. Have a laugh if something is funny. Let your face do some of the talking because facial expressions are so endearing when they convey authentic emotion.  Be confident and committed without being cocky or too highly strung. It’s essential you remember you’re there to serve the audience so be present, be kind, be nice to the people around you.


Don’t ignore the people who make you look good. The staging crew who look after your sound, lighting and equipment are the ones who make you look good as a speaker. Love them.  Give them some chocolates. Tell them your name. Shake their hand. Importantly thank them for making you look good up there.


Don’t go overtime. The cardinal sin of speakers is going over time. I spoke at an event once where the keynote speaker went 40 minutes into my presentation time. The organisers could not get this guy off. They were making cutting gestures across their throats to him in the end. It was really disappointing to me because I could only deliver 40 minutes of my 80-minute planned keynote. Don’t do this to other speakers because they will tell people they know that you’re disrespectful. And don’t do this to your audience because taking minutes you were not allocated might mean they get less of a speaker they really wanted to hear, or less break time to network and check their calls.


Don’t nick off as soon as you’re finished. As exhausting as speaking can be, don’t run off the stage and disappear. In my speaking experience the audience will want to come up and talk to you at the end if you’re good. They want to share their relevant stories with you, ask private questions and generally bond with you. So do the right thing and hang around connecting with people.


Don’t forget to thank the person who booked you – ideally with a gift! Someone has chosen you to be the speaker. It might be a Speakers Bureau Consultant, your direct client, or maybe a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO). In some cases, you are booked by a whole committee of people. It’s good practice to give a gift to say thank you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just a token that means something. Speaker Brendan Hall gives a piece of 3D artwork made from 7 layers of plywood that relates to the content of his presentation. Speaker Charles Marcus gives an attractive customised bottle of Canadian maple syrup in a gorgeous wooden box to his clients. He’s Canadian so isn’t that the perfect gift for him to give his clients? Both speakers report it’s helped them to secure repeat business.


It’s pretty easy to be someone people want to work with. Be attentive to your client’s needs, remember you’re at work, you’re not at a party, and your job is to serve all the various stakeholders so they are delighted. Be confident and committed without being arrogant and cocky or too highly-strung and bossy. It’s essential you remember you’re there to serve the audience so be present, be kind, and be nice to the people around you. 

Happy Presenting!


© Michelle Bowden 2020.  Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), co-creator of the PRSI (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au 

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