Sealing the Deal to Get Hired
In a past life—before creating my business as a freelance writer who helps others write books, magazine articles and blogs—I was Director of Training for a major life insurance company based in Des Moines.
One major role was to narrow down a list from potentially 200 speakers to a handful (5-10) from which we would generally hire three or four as main platform presenters. Actually, it was in that capacity that I met Angela Cox-Weston who not only became my main supplier of speakers but to my delight, also a dear friend.
I normally began the search a week immediately after one successful meeting for the following year. It was our goal to have speakers lined up a minimum of three months prior to the event but that was not always the case. Generally, about three people besides myself voted on the winners and occasionally we would have someone drag their feet or be afraid to commit so it came down to a last minute situation.
Over the eight years in that position, the process became easier because we fell into a pattern that gave us the best opportunity for being successful in hiring presenters whom we could count on for positive results:
1. We tended to hire speakers who chose to align themselves with a reputable bureau. Frankly, we wanted someone to hold accountable if things did not turn out the way we expected. And believe me—the unexpected became the order of the day. The most glaring example occurred when we hired a man whose story was about overcoming his addiction to booze and drugs. He had turned his life around, become a millionaire, and was honored in his city for this heroic new lifestyle. A slight problem occurred. He came to the hotel either stoned and/or drunk. Late night phone calls to our bureau back home helped us solve the issue by getting the fired speaker back home on a plane (hopefully for help and recovery) and a replacement speaker who got a standing ovation.

2. If the introductory video was good—it went on to the consideration pile. If not—on to the return to bureau with a ‘thanks but not thanks’ note. What the hiring organization wants to see is the speaker in a real life speaking situation with professional camera and sound work. Forget the glitz!!!! The testimonials (unless given at the end where we could choose to watch and listen or not) were irritating to say the least. A three minutes on stage presentation interrupted by some annoying junk and then another three minutes and then more junk just plain didn’t cut the mustard. We didn’t want to waste our time.
3. What is the speaker’s reputation for showing up on time, being client-friendly and truly professional? Believe me, we checked. No need for prima donnas. We had too many from which to choose to bother with a big ego and sloppy performances. The videos were crucial, but the key to sealing the deal was often getting positive feedback from others who had hired the professional.
4. Did the potential speaker truly have something unique to offer? Honestly, that’s how Angela became our primary provider. She and I worked diligently on hiring someone who did not sound like everyone else. I cannot begin to tell you how often I could be looking at the video of someone whom I had never heard before, stop the tape, finish the story or joke, turn the tape back on and find out I was dead on. Be yourself. Quit stealing each other’s material. Develop a unique hook and make it your own.
Bill Sheridan—Sheridan Writes, LLC

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