This is part 6 of my SOS: Starting Out Speaking for Beginner Speakers blog series. You can read part 5 by clicking here.
In the last blog series post, I shared how important your bio is. What should your bio say -and NOT include?
This is Dr. Smith, B.A., M.D, Ph.D., BHA, MSCP
I love learning new things. I believe in higher education. I graduated from high school, and then graduated from Valdosta Area Vocational Technical School with an Executive Secretarial degree. In my 20’s, I pursued a college degree in social work, and was almost a senior at the University of Kansas when I had to drop out of my classes from severe morning sickness in my pregnancy with Leah. ( I threw up ALL the time for months!) When she was a toddler, I took distance learning seminary classes and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Christian Counseling.
One day I hope to finish my secular college social work degree, mostly because I don’t like loose ends and like to finish what I start. I’ve never stopped studying, though. Since then, I graduated from CLASServices’ professional speakers’ and writers’ training. I’m a member of the National Association of Christian Women Entrepreneurs and for the last two years, I’ve had extensive online education and training in speaking, writing, entrepreneurship, business, marketing, social media, and much more. Last year I was part of a mastermind group of women with my coach. I LOVE learning!
You don’t care, right? 🙂 I’m not impressed by titles, degrees, diplomas, or other letters before or after a name and many other people aren’t, either. Sometimes these can be a turn-off; the audience can’t relate to this because they don’t have a higher education. It can actually cause them to put a wall up with you.
If I’m speaking to a group of African-American women who are poor, single mothers in the slums of Africa who just want to find clean water for their babies or to Chinese women oppressed by their government under threat of heavy fines or even prison for sharing the gospel with their neighbors, and I’m introduced by the meeting planner with her sharing about my post-secondary education, these women in the audience may respond with, “Who does this business woman think she is, with her Bible college degree and her white self in prosperous America? She doesn’t know what my hard life is like!”
(For the record, I’ve had a hard life too: childhood sexual and physical abuse, physical and/or verbal abuse in every relationship with a man I’ve ever had, my daughter and I being the victims of domestic violence in my previous one-year marriage, 3 abortions, three head-on car wrecks with whiplash, the severe financial struggles of single motherhood, both my daughters having previous severe medical problems (now healed by Jesus), financial crises one after the other, the loss of a home in the U.S. housing crisis, friends, family, and church leaders coming against and attacking me and my character, a marriage quickly unraveling on the verge of divorce, and much more. Just FYI.)
A long list of credentials may cause you a stumbling block immediately with your audience. At other times, credentials can open doors of favor and opportunity for you that someone without degrees or higher education or training wouldn’t be able to walk through. It depends on your audience. But it’s not letters before or after your name or other credentials that make you a great speaker.
Your bio is very important. It can woo your audience or turn their faces and hearts away.
You can’t make a great first impression later
You never get another chance to make a great first impression. What you want your bio to do when the event planner introduces you before you walk on stage is help the audience decide that they want to listen to you! That they have a reason to.
The bio is a mini-speech that tells the topic, why it’s important to the audience (why they should pay attention!), and who the speaker is.
Just the highlights of your life, your accomplishments and career as they relate to the audience, are all you need. If your bio is a barely scaled-down-length-version of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, they’ll be bored or turned off before you even get started. You want them hungry and eager to hear from you. You want them to anticipate you opening your mouth!
Do you own white Arabian horses or run?
If I’m in the audience, I want to know if the man or woman standing up front is married, single, divorced, or widowed, if he or she has any children, and yes, if they have 3 cats or 5 Arabian horses. I want to know where they live. Do you write children’s books or scuba dive in the Caribbeans? I want to know something personal about this person, like they paint abstract art as a hobby or they’re a runner and have done ten 5-k runs since they turned 50 years old and are training for a half-marathon now. Give me something that helps me to know you before you start speaking.
I can’t stand to have someone immediately start talking at me without me knowing a single thing about him or her and leaving me wondering, “Is she married? Never been married and she’s 55 years old? Why not? Does she hate men? Did her fiancé at 25 years old break up with her and she was too heart broken to ever marry again? What?”
My mind just goes wild. I have to know. I hate secrets. I can’t stand not being able to open Christmas presents before Christmas and always shake the box to figure out what it is, like a little kid. I try to guess what Ray or our kids got me, while they laugh.
One time I attended a women’s meeting and couldn’t concentrate on anything she said because she hadn’t even said her name when she began speaking (and the event planner hadn’t bothered to do this, either!), and if she was married or not. I wondered the entire time about these two things as she spoke; it hindered my ability to receive!
Your audience wants to know you, too. Let them know a little with your bio. Not too much. You don’t want them to feel like you are throwing up all over them. They don’t need to know your life story with your bio. Include your most important accomplishments, but just give them the highlights.
It’s like painting. You don’t want a blank, white canvas. You want to put some color on there to start. Paint broad strokes of pale white or a neutral color first. Then the background colors of blue sky and white clouds. This is your bio.
Then you begin to fill in the canvas with blue tall bellflowers and varying shades of green grass. (Your introduction) Finally, you paint the woman in a purple sundress, with her worn book under the shade of a huge oak tree, but she’s not reading it. She’s looking away in the distant, at the man walking toward her – the One she loves. (This is the rest of your content, your conclusion)
In my next SOS: Starting Out Speaking for Beginner Speakers blog series, I’ll share about ideas for content for your speaking presentation.
Are you enjoying this blog series? Share your comments below. What do you want to know about a speaker before he or she starts speaking? What don’t you want to know?
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