It’s 30 minutes before bedtime, and you’re winding down for the night.
Suddenly, the phone rings.
Who could possibly be calling this late? You wonder as you answer.
“I am so sorry to be calling you at the last minute like this,” says a voice trying (unsuccessfully) to hide full-blown panic. “But our speaker for tomorrow’s event just cancelled due to a family emergency.”
You know where this is call is going. “Is there any chance you could fill in?”
How to Be Ever-Ready for a Last-Minute Speaking Gig
Your answer to this question depends on some factors outside of your control, such as whether you’re a good fit for the group and whether you’re actually available.
But there’s one factor that’s 100% within your control:
Whether or not you’re ready.
Imagine being so well-prepared that after saying “yes” to your late-night caller, you head straight to bed and get the good night’s sleep you need so you can be fully present for your audience.
How can you be this ever-ready?
I asked my speaker friends for their advice. And, here, in no particular order, are their strategies for being prepared for last-minute speaking gigs:
- Keep a file of talks ready to grab-and-go.
- Print your notes with wide margins so you can pencil in adaptations you need to make for the new group.
- Even though you may be “recycling” a previous message, add something current or especially relevant to your audience.
- Plan to keep it simple: trust in the one point God’s leading you to hit home.
- Say “yes” and then do it. Trust God that an open door is meant for you and go through it.
- Spend daily time with the Lord. Spending daily time with Him allows you to piece together what He taught you in the last couple of days or weeks. You will be ready in season and out of season to deliver a true testimony. My pastor always used to say, “I would rather deliver hot cookies, even though they may not be all the way done, then stale bread.”
- One thing I learned is that great speakers only have two to three talks. They adapt them to fit the audience and topic.
- I also have one main story that I tell and tailor it to my audience which has ranged from a group of praying moms to a room full of government officials. Once I put it down on paper, it has been easy to tweak for each unique invitation.
- Keep your “power clothes” laundered and ready to wear.
- I have my speaking “uniform” outfits hanging in the closet.
- I have a bag that I keep props in for each talk (books that I share, pictures I show, etc.) so all I have to do is grab the correct bag and go.
- Be okay with not knowing. Not knowing means trusting that He will give you a word to speak. This is where faith takes action and trust is born. Then go out and preach!
- Be yourself. Be grateful. And above all else know to the core of your being someone in the audience needs to hear what you have to say. There are no coincidences, and that is why the engagement came your way.
- I certainly believe the honorarium can be raised a bit with a last-minute booking. That’s pretty standard across all industries.
- Be happy you are asked, don’t grumble. (I learned this the hard way.)
- I like to tell myself that galvanized skin response and other such psychosomatic responses to last minute requests do not have control. Just breathe and ask God to control my nerves, fight-flight-or-freeze responses, let my words be voiced quake free, and be His for the advancement of His will and His kingdom.
- Have a contract ready to send so that all parties understand the commitment and there are no misunderstandings.
- Be sure to ask what the expected outcome is.
- Keep copies of your current bio printed so you can hand it to the person introducing you.
- Know your stuff.
Pretending aside, you really can be this prepared. This intentional. This ever-ready. Tell yourself: This is what real speakers do.
Now? Go do it!
Cheri Gregory is a teacher, speaker, author, and Certified Personality Trainer. Her passion is helping women break free from destructive expectations. She writes and speaks from the conviction that “how to” works best in partnership with “heart, too.”
Cheri is the co-author, with Kathi Lipp, of The Cure for the “Perfect” Life and Overwhelmed.
Cheri has been “wife of my youth” to Daniel, her opposite personality, for twenty-eight years and is “Mom” to Annemarie (25) and Jonathon (23), also opposite personalities.
Cheri blogs about perfectionism, people-pleasing, highly sensitive people, and hope at www.cherigregory.com.