Do you have a question to share with the Raise Your Voice community? Let me know.
Michelle, a social worker in Pennsylvania, writes:
I have been researching other options to become involved in within the [social work] field and came across your website. I was wondering if you [could] discuss how to get involved in facilitating workshops/speaking engagements. This is an area I’m very interested in pursuing and am eager to build resources and network with other professionals.
I’m always excited to hear fellow social workers eager to show their expertise in a variety of ways.
I’ve been facilitating workshops in some capacity since 2003-ish. I started co-facilitating workshops as a student, with other youth activists around the country, then as a Reproductive Justice activist and professional social worker. Because I was so new to it, I leaned a lot on my peers to guide the workshop facilitation. I also sought out people who have a delivery style you like or who speak on topics that interests you. The goal isn’t to imitate them, but observe how they engage their audience. Whenever I co-faciliate a workshop or training with someone, I focus on how they engage the audience, how they interject personal experiences that tie into their content, or how they tie in real-world examples to illustrate their content. I eventually found a facilitation style that worked for me.
First, determine what your interests are and what you want to share your expertise in. Next, brainstorm how you want to deliver your information. I’ve written a series on preparing and facilitating workshops (Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four). We tend to think of workshops as being in person, but you can also deliver great content via online formats such as GoToMeeting or Zoom. In my Blog Archives, there’s a section on workshops where I share my own experiences with workshop facilitating as well as exercises I’ve facilitated in workshops.
Secondly (and probably most important), let people know that you’re available for workshops and speaking engagements! Word of mouth has been a driving force for my business and for lots of people interested in professional speaking and workshop facilitation.
Next, find ways to show your expertise before going into a conference or workshop space. My preferred method to show my interests and expertise has been through blogging, and in using my social media platforms to promote my thoughts. Blogging has been a good way for me to show my expertise, gain clients, and have folks invite me to speak. (I view it as an online business card). Blogging has also given me a platform to share my perspective AND has allowed me to revisit my stance to either strengthen my voice or to share a new perspective. Blogging may be that for you as well. Or it may be podcasting or sharing your perspective via YouTube. You can also engage with folks via live feeds on Instagram, Facebook, or Periscope. You can curate the topics you like to talk about and it aids in developing your personal approach and what you’re known for (aka, your brand), which then helps people associate you with certain speaking topics. I recently updated my Speaking page to show what my interests are as well as what I’m most requested to speak on.
Also, seek out spaces based on your speaking interests, where you can see who is attending and what content is being presented. Conferences, webinars, and local workshops are good for this. If you have an interest in something, more than likely there’s a space willing to hear it. Even though I’ve been a professional social worker for a while, it took me some time to feel confident enough to show my expertise in a social work space as I’ve been facilitating and speaking in activists spaces for some time. I ended up attending conferences for the NASW and the American Evaluation Association, and similar spaces to get a feel for the vibe and how workshops are facilitated. Once I saw that it wasn’t as intimidating as I initially thought, I decided to jump in with submitting proposals.
As with workshop facilitation, speaking engagements require the same amount of time and energy. You can speak to an audience through a panel discussion, keynote address, as a webinar guest speaker, small group discussion, and more. But rather than utilizing group activities that workshops are known for, you’re sharing your expertise on a topic you’re being requested to speak on at length. In my experience, I’ve been asked to respond to questions based on my viewpoint, or I’ve been asked to share about myself and how it ties back into the purpose of the event. While you can infuse bits about yourself in a workshop setting, I’ve found that being given time to speak on your expertise can make you more relatable to your audience.
This may not be your focus now, but I also recommend determining your fee for facilitating and/or speaking. This can seem very hit or miss at the beginning. In fact, most people put an emphasis on gaining exposure. There are many instances I will agree to be on a panel or facilitate a workshop for free, but now that speaking and workshops are a part of my business, I determine a fee based how much time I’ll be away from my business and my clients, the amount of preparation needed, if I have to travel, and the length of time I’ll be facilitating.
There are some conference spaces that can cover a speaking fee, travel, and lodging. Some will cover a speaking fee or travel/lodging. Some won’t cover anything. If you decide to submit a workshop proposal for a conference space, for example, see if the conference will provide these accommodations or a waived conference registration fee. Many will have this outlined on the proposal site. Once you’re comfortable, you may decide to charge for a larger organization versus a school or smaller nonprofit. If you request a speaking fee or to have travel/lodging covered and the organization pushes back, you can tell them what factors go into your fee request. If they aren’t able to accommodate, you can decline OR negotiate other ways for them to give you more exposure (referrals, testimonials, etc.) There are many places, however, that provide an honorarium stipend. It never hurts to ask.
RAISE YOUR VOICE: What advice would you give for someone interested in facilitating workshops or landing speaking engagements? Share below in the comments section.