5 ways to get called back as a speaker

Nov 16, 2023
5 ways to get called back as a speaker

Find Your Superpower newsletter 034

Read time: 5 minutes

Topics covered: Public speaking, storytelling, communication


I’m still responding to messages from a post last week, titled “5 ways to never be called back as a speaker.” To date, it has gotten close to 200K impressions and thousands of engagements and DMs.


In it, I described the five archetypes of panel speakers that all of us hope never to encounter:

1/ The wing-it panelist 🦇

2/ The hedge-and-say-nothing panelist 🫙

3/ The low-situational-awareness panelist 💭

4/ The salesperson panelist 🤑

5/ The speak-and-run panelist 💨

And in a bonus post…

6/ The Simon Cowell panelist 📣


Besides the many comments (including from event organizers) saying that they have encountered all five archetypes of speakers I described, I also received requests for tips on how to become the speaker that is frequently called back.

[A side note worth mentioning: Those of us in senior management roles may be thinking, “Ah, this is not necessary. My comms team will ask me to speak anyway.” Bear in mind that event organizers give informal feedback to your corporate communications team. If the feedback is negative, they may decide to field another colleague instead. Unless you are the CEO, it is not necessarily true that you will be the de facto choice.]


While slightly less controversial than the post about unpopular speakers, I argue that this post is more valuable as it shows you what to do instead of what not to do.

Here’s a cheat sheet of how to keep getting called back as a speaker:


1/ Get a summa cum laude for your speaking preparation efforts

If you’re a panelist, the event organizers and moderator will typically send you a list of questions or at least the topic of the panel you will be speaking on. They’ll also provide you the names and bios of the other panelists. They almost always organize a briefing call. Please attend the briefing call and do not delegate it to a junior colleague.

Next, create 1-2 talking points for each question so that you stay succinct and on point. Do your homework and find out more about the other speakers. If they’re on the speaking circuit, they often have a complete LinkedIn profile. You could even watch them speaking in YouTube clips or podcasts.

Finally, confirm and insert on your calendar the venue and timing of the event, and arrive 30 minutes before the panel begins. Have a brief conversation with the moderator and panelists for a chemistry check.

Congrats, you get full marks for effort!


2/ Tell amazing stories that leave your audience spellbound

According to Chris Anderson, founder of TED Talks, “Many of the best talks are based on personal stories and a simple lesson to be drawn from it.”

The problem isn’t that the panelists aren't saying anything valuable or intelligent, it is that they aren’t telling stories. They are only telling facts. Being unable to tell stories is a huge career and business opportunity cost for entrepreneurs, founders and business leaders.

Often, they go on stage, hit their talking points, and the audience goes away without feeling an emotional connection. All of it ends up a little clinical and uninspiring. However, there’s always a panelist that you remember who tells an amazing story and whose passion and conviction you can hear in their voice.

What they say causes you to sit up straight and put your phone down, and hang on to every word. After the panel, you look them up on LinkedIn and provide them with glowing feedback. You return home with new ideas for your life and career.

Over the years, I have had people dropping into my LinkedIn inbox after a panel, saying, “We all talked about what you said during the conference dinner” or “I am really inspired by what you said and I will do <insert change> thanks to you.”

That’s the outcome you're looking for.


3/ Play conversational ping-pong with your panelists

I attend conferences from business to politics, media, women, fashion, marketing and technology all year round, and some of the best speakers and moderators I’ve seen can be found on the World Economic Forum circuit. When I attend those panels, I take mental notes and learn as much as I can from them.

The best speakers are the ones who consider the panel to be a team sport, instead of an individual sport where they focus on delivering their own talking points. They volley talking points across to each other and build on what other speakers say. They say things like “Juliana made a good point on <insert topic>, and another way to look at it is <insert new angle>.”

These speakers are situationally aware, media trained, empathetic about giving each other time to speak, and when a question is asked to the group, looks around for eye contact to see who wants to take the question. They’re considerate and emotionally intelligent.

Bonus: at the end of the event, the speakers themselves stay in touch, as they like each other enough to want to continue the conversation. Given that you’re on stage with other experts in your industry, this is the real win.


4/ Speak at the level that your audience is at

Steven Pinker, a cognitive psycholinguist at Harvard University, first coined the phrase “the curse of knowledge” in his book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual unknowingly assumes that those they are communicating with have the same knowledge as they have. In other words, they are unable to put themselves in the shoes of their audience. They have low empathy.

This speaker is prone to using acronyms, jargon and inside jokes, leaving the audience out in the cold and confused. And when the moderator asks them to explain, they appear surprised and say, “Oh right, yes, <insert jargon> refers to…”

An excellent speaker is someone who speaks very simply, perhaps at the level of a high schooler, uses generally understood words, and when jargon must be mentioned, they follow up with a quick but valuable explanation. Every inside joke is explained, and there is never a situation where the audience feels like they are excluded from the conversation.


5/ Make effort to promote the event in your networks

It is universally appreciated by all event organizers when the speaker makes an effort to promote the event on their social media platforms before and after the event, especially when they have a large following on LinkedIn or Twitter/X, for example.

While it is not always obvious how this will get you called back, event organizers tend to work from a very short list of preferred names, and you will immediately get on this list out of sheer gratitude from them. Watch the law of reciprocity in action here!

In many cases, as I have experienced myself, the event organizer leaves their current company and joins a new event management company, and they invite you to speak at another event. This leads to a true multiplier effect of you speaking at many different conferences.

Finally, after the panel, make an effort to stick around and engage your audience during the networking event. Let me tell you that networking after a presentation really pays off. Once, I gave a talk on media and publishing at a conference made up of editors and producers. A BBC producer invited me to be featured in a BBC Business Briefing segment and even introduced freelance writers to me for my company. Thank you Sarah Keating, I appreciate you.


My last call to you – let’s learn how to tell better stories


I am giving a live LinkedIn Storytelling Secrets workshop and Q&A session on 23 November, 11AM-12PM (GMT+8) for anyone who has purchased a masterclass course from me before.

For $99, you get:

  • an e-book

  • a 1h on-demand video course with 17 chapters

  • a 1h live storytelling workshop (which will be saved and uploaded to the course directory for those who cannot attend)


I charge high four-digits to five-digits to teach this to a corporate team.

Don’t wait. Please use NEWSLETTER10 to get a 10% off coupon for this masterclass workshop with me.

Sign up now!

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Thanks for reading issue 033 of my weekly Find Your Superpower newsletter.

For those of you who are new to my newsletter, Find Your Superpower is subscribed to by 28,000+ people, and discusses the following three goals: (1) Making a career transition, (2) Professional branding on LinkedIn, and (3) Reinventing ourselves for the future of work.


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